Illinois Legislature Reforms Statute of Limitations

The Illinois legislature today passed SB1399, which aims to substantially reform the statute of limitations in Illinois for civil claims based on childhood sexual abuse.

Although it must still be signed into law by Governor Patt Quinn, the bill would allow a lawsuit based on childhood sexual abuse to be commenced at any time so long as the claim would not have been barred under prior statutes of limitations or statutes of repose.

The bill was passed the same day that five new lawsuits were filed against the Diocese of Joliet on behalf of men who allege they were sexually abused in the 1970s and 1980s when they were between 8 and 16 years old.  Each of the priests identified in the complaints, Myles White of St. Boniface, Michael Gibbney of St. Francis of Assisi, Frederick Lenczycki of St. Charles Borremeo Seminary and James Nowak of St. Dominic, were removed from ministry between 1992 and 2012.  The plaintiffs allege the Diocese of Joliet knew or should have known that the priests posed a danger to them and other children, but did nothing to protect them.

According to Mark McKenna, a Chicago attorney who represents the five plaintiffs, the new law will benefit both abuse survivors and the State of Illinois:  “This law recognizes not only that our clients and others have endured a lifetime of pain and suffering, but that there are major societal costs associated with child sexual abuse.  If signed into law by Governor Quinn, this new law will shift those costs onto the entities responsible for them, rather than our clients, their families, and society as a whole.  It is a major step in the right direction for Illinois.”