Priests in Massachusetts who perpetrated sexual abuse, and any Church leader or institution guilty of enabling them, deserve to be held accountable for the extreme physical, emotional, and spiritual harm they caused. Criminal laws may punish abusers. However, survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic Church priests in Massachusetts may also have the ability to pursue civil lawsuits for damages against their abusers and others who enabled or turned a blind eye to abuse.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA are two affiliated law firms with a one core mission: to seek justice and compensation for survivors of other peoples' wrongdoing. Based in Florida, our firms represent survivors of sexual abuse by priests nationwide. We invite anyone in Massachusetts who has questions about seeking accountability from the Church for sexual abuse by a priest to contact our Massachusetts Priest Sexual Abuse Lawyers for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team.
Legal Advocates for Survivors of Massachusetts Priest Sexual Abuse
The lawyers of Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA spend their careers fighting to protect the interests and wellbeing of people who have suffered harm because of someone else's careless, reckless, or intentionally harmful actions. Over the years, Dolman Law Group attorneys have gained the respect and admiration of the legal community for their dedication to serving clients in even the most difficult cases.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA clients receive personalized, sophisticated, compassionate legal representation from experienced, knowledgeable lawyers. Our courageous clients who have survived sexual abuse by priests deserve nothing less than our full commitment to their interests. We feel humbled by the bravery it takes to step forward to reveal a history of sexual abuse by a priest, and in our clients' decision to put their trust in us to pursue their interests in and out of court.
Our attorneys have obtained millions in compensation for clients through settlements and jury trial verdicts. We have the strength and resources to stand up to powerful institutions whose actions harmed our clients. Although we can never guarantee how a case we take will turn out, all Dolman Law Group clients who have survived Massachusetts priest sexual abuse can rest assured they will have a lawyer on their side who listens to them, answers their questions, and develops the best legal strategies possible to serve their goals and needs in stepping forward to seek accountability from the Church.
Massachusetts Civil Statute of Limitations for Priest Sexual Abuse Claims
The Catholic Church sexual abuse watchdog Bishop Accountability hosts a website documenting allegations against numerous priests in Massachusetts. Although the movement to hold the Church accountable finally gained traction in the Bay State back in 2002, thanks in large part to years of tireless advocacy by survivors, that does not mean the wave has crested by any means. The reckoning against the Church continues in full-force to this day, especially in dioceses outside Boston.
For instance, the Church diocese in Springfield recently released a report detailing sexual abuse allegations against late Springfield Bishop Christopher Weldon, and in the wake of the report, agreed to report all allegations of sexual abuse against minors or vulnerable persons in its parishes to law enforcement. In the Fall River, too, the diocese suspended two retired priests recently over allegations of sexual abuse of minors decades ago.
For years, even after allegations of widespread sexual abuse within Church ranks broke into the open thanks in part to dogged reporting in the Boston Globe, survivors of sexual abuse found their path to seeking justice in the courts blocked by a strict statute of limitations laws that caused legal claims to expire long before survivors were ready to step forward.
Survivors of priest sexual abuse in Massachusetts often feel understandably wary about stepping forward with a legal claim against an abuser and the Church. Advocates for survivors routinely report that survivors hesitate to tell their stories because they doubt the legal system's ability to do justice for them. Unfortunately, in the past in Massachusetts, and still in some parts of the country, they were not entirely wrong. For years, many state laws essentially closed the doors to the courthouse for many survivors by placing unrealistic time limits on their ability to take legal action.
Fortunately, Massachusetts is no longer one of those states. Massachusetts law contains expanded time limits for taking legal action seeking accountability against the Church and abuser priests. Even if abuse occurred decades ago, survivors may still have a claim for damages.
Survivors of priest sexual abuse in Massachusetts may now take legal action against not only an abuser priest, but also against Church institutions and leadership that enabled abuse by turning a blind eye to it or covering it up.
Under Massachusetts law, anyone who a priest abused as a minor has until the latter of two time periods to bring a legal claims against both anyone who perpetrated abuse and anyone whose own conduct or negligent supervision of a priest caused or contributed to sexual abuse (with the clock for these time periods starting to run only after the minor reaches 18 years of age):
- 35 years from the date of the sexual abuse; or
- Seven years from the time when the survivor discovered or reasonably should have discovered that an emotional or psychological injury or condition was caused by the abuse.
These laws give powerful protections to survivors of priest sexual abuse in Massachusetts by keeping the window of opportunity for taking legal action open long enough for survivors to step forward in their own time. They mean that even survivors of abuse that happened decades ago often have a legal claim to pursue against abusers and Church institutions seeking accountability and compensation for the harm they suffered. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA lawyers have the resources and experience to help those Massachusetts priest sexual abuse survivors take that legal action.
Types of Legal Accountability for Massachusetts Priest Sexual Abuse
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA attorneys keenly appreciate that survivors of priest sexual abuse have varied reasons for coming forward to reveal their histories of abuse. Some simply want justice. Others seek to put the abuse behind them. Nearly all want their actions to contribute to protecting innocent parishioners from future abuse.
Our attorneys honor the diverse motivations survivors have for seeking justice and accountability. We tailor our legal representation of Massachusetts priest sexual abuse survivors to fit their needs and goals. Frequently, that means presenting them with a range of options for how to proceed in or out of court, and giving them support and advice about how we would propose to pursue each. To the fullest extent possible under Massachusetts law, our clients always remain firmly in control of the decisions about when and how to move forward with legal action. We serve their interests, and their interests only.
Here are some options our Massachusetts priest sexual abuse clients may have for seeking justice and accountability:
Lawsuits for Monetary Damages
Priest sexual abuse inflicts severe physical, emotional, spiritual, and even financial harm on survivors that often lasts a lifetime. In our system of justice, lawyers primarily seek to remedy those harms by seeking financial compensation from the parties who did their clients harm. Money is far-from-perfect as a means of righting the horrific wrongs committed by priests and Church institutions against innocent parishioners, most of whom were children at the time of the abuse. Still, it can help survivors obtain the support they need to move forward with their lives.
How much money a survivor might obtain through a legal action can vary widely from case-to-case. Every survivor's experience of abuse is unique, as are the ways that surviving priest sexual abuse has affected a particular survivor's life. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA attorneys work closely with Massachusetts priest sexual abuse clients to understand how living with a history of abuse has impacted them, and to calculate the full-measure of money damages that those brave survivors deserve to receive from abusers and Church institutions.
Lawsuits for Injunctive Relief
Seeking money damages does have its limits, however. Many survivors want to do more than simply obtain financial compensation from the Church. Instead, they want to see significant, long-lasting changes made that will help to ensure that priests never sexually abuse parishioners ever again; changes like the commitment the Springfield diocese only recently made to report allegations of priest sexual abuse to the authorities, for example.
Lawsuits can achieve those kinds of changes, too, by asking courts to order what is known as injunctive relief, which is legal terminology for a court order directing someone to take, or not to take, specific actions. In Massachusetts priest sexual abuse cases, that injunctive relief may constitute affirmative steps to protect parishioners, such as adopting measures that make the Church's responses to priest sexual abuse allegations transparent.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA lawyers work with clients to identify and evaluate the potential for seeking this kind of outcome of a lawsuit as well, to ensure that whatever action a priest sexual abuse client authorizes us to take on their behalf, it serves that client's needs, interests, and goals.
Participating in Prosecutions
Sexual abuse is a crime in Massachusetts. Priests credibly accused of perpetrating sexual abuse against a parishioner face prosecution and potential punishment, if prosecutors can prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. In the Bay State, local district attorneys and the Office of the Attorney General decide whether and how to pursue criminal charges against accused priests. The survivor's willingness to participate as a witness for the prosecution can weigh heavily in that decision.
At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we provide legal guidance for our Massachusetts priest sexual abuse clients to help them evaluate whether and how to participate in a prosecution. It is not an either/or decision; survivors can take legal action in civil court and also help the prosecution in a criminal case. Still, the choice can affect the legal strategy we pursue on a clients' behalf, and we work hard to provide sensible, compassionate legal advice that protects our clients' legal rights and personal interests.
Clients Decide When to Take Legal Action
The decision to take legal action seeking justice and accountability for Massachusetts priest sexual abuse weighs heavily on many of our clients. We do not take it lightly, either. Before moving forward, we work to ensure our clients understand their options and that they have an emotional support system in place to strengthen them through what can sometimes feel like a long and difficult process.
As we have said, Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA lawyers commit themselves to the singular goal of serving their clients' needs and interests. In pursuing legal action on a client's behalf, that almost always means asking survivors to talk about painful, traumatic memories. As advocates and human beings, we make sure our clients always know that anything they tell us remains strictly confidential unless and until they authorize us to reveal it in the course of taking legal action. We protect our clients, first and foremost.
Attorneys for Survivors of Massachusetts Priest Sexual Abuse
Survivors of priest sexual abuse in Massachusetts decide to step forward with a legal claim for varied reasons. As lawyers for these brave survivors, the teams at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA commit their full efforts to tailor legal strategies and solutions to honor those reasons and to serve survivors' needs.
If you wish to explore your legal options for seeking justice and accountability against a priest or Church institution in Massachusetts, then the caring, skilled Massachusetts sexual abuse injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA would like to speak with you. Contact us online or by phone at 833-552-7274 for a free, 100 percent confidential, no-obligation case evaluation.