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Statue of Edward Douglas White at Louisiana Supreme Court building in New Orleans

The Louisiana Supreme Court has sidestepped a vital case that would affect whether Louisiana sex abuse victims can file lawsuits against perpetrators and the institutions that protected them. Last month, the court remanded the case back to lower courts instead of ruling, which was a blow for survivors and victims’ rights advocates. While many consider the court’s decision disappointing, there’s still hope for survivors seeking justice. If you’ve experienced sexual abuse, it’s essential to contact a Louisiana sex abuse lawyer to discuss your legal options as soon as you can. Under the current Louisiana sex abuse lookback legislation, you still have until June 14, 2024, to file a lawsuit.

Sex Abuse Lookback Laws

In 2021, Louisiana created a “lookback window” for victims of sexual abuse. Historically, sex abuse victims could only file lawsuits until they turned 28, even though statistics show many survivors don’t share their stories until they’re much older. Dozens of states have enacted similar laws in recent years. Some survivors may not feel ready to talk about what happened to them until after the statute of limitations has passed, and allowing them to seek legal action at any age helps solve this problem. Louisiana’s law enables survivors to file sex abuse lawsuits by June 14, 2024, regardless of when the abuse took place. The legislation was quickly criticized by attorneys who defend alleged abusers, but lookback window laws have been found constitutional in other states. 

Louisiana has its fair share of institutional sex abuse, especially within the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese of New Orleans faces hundreds of claims and filed for bankruptcy in 2020. Last year, the FBI opened an investigation into the Catholic Church in New Orleans for its role in covering up abuse. The lookback window puts a financial strain on institutions already under scrutiny by allowing more survivors to file claims. Many perpetrators won’t ever face criminal charges, but civil cases still allow for justice to be served.

A Louisiana Lookback Window Case

In May, the Louisiana Supreme Court began to hear arguments in T.S. v. Congregation of Holy Cross Southern Province. The question at the center of the case was whether the rights of abusers and institutions outweigh the rights of abuse survivors. The plaintiff, identified by the court only as T.S., alleges that he was abused in the 1960s at Holy Cross School in New Orleans when he was 11. The abuser was on staff at the school. Lawyers for Holy Cross argued that allowing T.S. to file a lawsuit nearly 60 years after the abuse violates the state constitution.

T.S. said the school acted negligently when they hired the offender, and the school responded by asking for an exception of prescription, which is a motion dismissing a case because it wasn’t filed on time or didn’t follow procedure. T.S. argued that the case was constitutional under the state lookback window laws. In response, the school said that the claim violated its constitutional right to due process. A lower court dismissed the case and sustained the exception of prescription argument from Holy Cross. T.S. died after filing the claim, but his legal successors stepped in as plaintiffs and appealed to the state supreme court. 

Sex abuse survivors were eager for the ruling, which could affect the status of legal claims. On June 27, the court shared its opinion. It said T.S. wasn’t eligible to sue under the lookback rule, so it wouldn’t rule on the law’s constitutionality. The Louisiana Supreme Court sent the case back to lower courts. The ruling was disappointing for survivors and their advocates hoping that the court would find the law constitutional. It’s not known whether the court will address the issue again. 

Sex Abuse Survivors Should Consult a Louisiana Sex Abuse Lawyer

The court’s decision to avoid ruling on the constitutionality of Louisiana’s lookback window law creates uncertainty for sex abuse victims. It’s essential to know that you should consult a Louisiana sex abuse lawyer to discuss your legal options before the June 14, 2024 deadline. While abusers and the institutions that hired them may challenge claims in court, you still can file. Seeking legal action allows you to hold an abuser accountable and recover financial damages for the physical and emotional losses you’ve suffered because of the abuse. Herman Herman Katz represents abuse survivors across Louisiana and the U.S. Contact us online for a free, confidential case consultation or call our team at 844-943-7626.

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