Hawaii Opens a 2-Year Window for Sexual Abuse Lawsuits to Be Filed

by Adam Horowitz   Attorneys and advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse continue to applaud the wisdom of the Hawaii legislature in passing a groundbreaking law enacting a two-year window in which survivors of child sex abuse may bring their claims without having to overcome the statute of limitations defense.

 Hawaii sexual abuse statue of limitations

Who can be sued under the new law in Hawaii?

Another aspect of the new Hawaii law that has been overlooked by some legal commentators is that not only does the law repeal the statute of limitations during the two-year filing window through April 2016 for lawsuits against perpetrators and private employers, but it applies equally to civil lawsuits against the State and Federal government, local school boards, and all political divisions of the state. Under the prior “window” legislation in Hawaii passed in 2012 which was set to expire in April 2014, lawsuits against the State of Hawaii and its political subdivisions (such as school boards, counties, and other state agencies) were exempt from the “window.” The new legislation corrects that obvious deficiency and expands the opportunity for abuse survivors to obtain justice in Hawaii.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu is responsible for the interests of the Roman Catholic Churches in the entire state of Hawaii and the unincorporated Hawaiian islands. This includes all the parishes, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and others missions of the Roman Catholic Church. In addition to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, a large number of religious orders have also historically had a large presence in Hawaii. Further, due to a large military presence, the Archdiocese for the Military Services has also had numerous clergymen stationed in Hawaii at military installations and hospitals. Child sexual abuse by anyone, including clergymen, employees and other officials of the Diocese of Honolulu and other religious organizations, will not be subject to statute of limitations defense for any lawsuit filed before April 2016.

In addition to the Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii has historically been home to a large number of religious orders, including the Fathers of the Sacred Heart, Capuchins, and Irish Christian Brothers. Some of the most allegedly prolific perpetrators of clergy sexual abuse have served in Hawaii, including Mark Matson, Roberto Batoon, Eugene Blazek, George DeCosta, Roberto de Otero, Maurice McNeely, and Henry Sabog. In a well-publicized criminal case, Rev. Mark Matson was convicted in Hawaii in 2000 for sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy.

Finally, anyone wishing to avail themselves of the new law in Hawaii should be mindful not to wait until the last minute. Although the window will remain open until April 2016, any action filed pursuant to the new law in Hawaii must be accompanied by a notarized certificate of merit signed by a psychologist, therapist, mental health counselor, or social worked licensed in Hawaii. Therefore, clients and their attorneys must arrange for the client to meet in person with the professional well in advance of the April 2016 deadline in order to obtain the necessary certificate of merit with sufficient time.

Our attorneys are experienced in representing survivors of child sexual abuse in civil lawsuits filed in Hawaii. If you or someone you know was a victim of child sexual abuse in Hawaii, please contact our law firm at (954) 524-2820 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected].