Clergy Sexual Abuse

Michigan Clergy Sexual Abuse Attorneys

Table of Contents

Investigations into the Church

What Can be Recovered in a Civil Clergy Abuse Lawsuit?

How Much Time do I Have to File My Clergy Abuse Lawsuit?

New Legislation

In the last 20 years, we have slowly seen sexual abuse survivors come forward with allegations of sexual abuse they suffered when they were children or young adults at the hands of church clergy.  While it has been a long road exposing these many sexual predators, we now live in a world where not only are survivors finally believed, but we are able to hold their predators and the church leadership and institutions that enabled them to account.  In states all across this country, survivors have obtained justice through the civil justice system and obtained damages and other relief for the harms they suffered for so many years. 

Investigations into the Church

In particular, the Roman Catholic Church and its Dioceses across the country have been investigated for evidence of clergy sexual assault by current and former priests, bishops, cardinals and other church leadership.  The website has collected and published records of allegations against Roman Catholic clergy around the world. The website identifies parishes where priests alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct once served.

In Michigan, the Attorney General has been conducting ongoing investigations into allegations of sexual abuse against all seven of the state’s Catholic Dioceses, in addition to bringing several priests to justice.  The investigation is broad and wide-sweeping with investigations going back as far as the 1950s.  You can follow the Michigan Attorney General’s investigations here. Since the Attorney General started investigating, there have been hundreds of tips called into a dedicated hotline. 

In order to end clergy sexual abuse and bring its offenders to justice, all survivors must speak up and share their stories. Clergy abuse survivors often have questions about how the civil justice system can be used to help them obtain justice and accountability.  We understand it can be very difficult to come forward and share your stories, but we are here to listen to you, believe you, and answer all of your questions.  Contact us today to schedule a free, 100% confidential, no-obligation consultation. 

What Can be Recovered in a Civil Clergy Abuse Lawsuit?

Survivors play a critical role in the criminal prosecutions of their abusers. In addition, a civil lawsuit against individual clergy members and the church can give survivors the opportunity to investigate and shine a light on church practices that fostered clergy abuse.

Sexual assault impacts survivors not only physically, but many are left to live with the emotional, financial and spiritual scars of that trauma their entire lives.  The trauma from clergy sexual abuse can impact every aspect of their lives – relationships with friends and family, the ability to form interpersonal relationships, and the ability to obtain and maintain employment.  The wounds do not heal easily.  A civil lawsuit for monetary damages cannot take away the pain and trauma or immediately heal some of the deep wounds, but it can provide financial support for survivors to try to make up for their losses and to allow them the financial opportunity to obtain the help and services that may aid them in healing. A civil action may also help prevent clergy abuse in the future. 

Survivors of sexual abuse have filed suit individually.  Some file under their legal names, while others have used aliases to maintain their privacy.  Other survivors have joined together in group litigation, seeing more power in numbers. Whatever form a lawsuit takes, the damages recoverable are essentially the same.   

In most states, including Michigan, survivors of clergy sexual abuse have the right to sue to recover both non-economic and economic damages from their abusers and anyone who facilitated the abuse. We analyze each individual case to determine what the best course of action is for you. Our Michigan clergy sexual abuse lawyers understand that it can be difficult and frightening to come forward.  If you were sexually abused by a clergy member, let us be your voice.

How Much Time do I Have to File My Clergy Abuse Lawsuit?

Time limits for filing clergy sexual abuse claims are different from state to state.  Those time limits are called Statutes of Limitations.  Please make sure to consult an experienced clergy abuse attorney if you are considering filing a lawsuit against your abuser or the church.  New legislation was introduced in Michigan in April 2023 that would expand the ability of sexual abuse survivors to bring lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that enabled them. The new legislation would amend MCL 691.1407, MCL 600.5805, MCL 600.5851(b), MCL 600.6431, and MCL 600.6452.  Click here to see the draft bills that were introduced.  

The new legislation, if passed as drafted, would: 

1. Allow for survivors of criminal sexual conduct to bring a civil action for damages at any time before whichever of the following is later: 

  • 10 years after the time the claim accrues; 
  • Age 52; or
  • Seven years after the injury and connection of the criminal sexual conduct is discovered or should have been discovered. 

2. Allow for a short window in which sexual assaults that were previously too old to bring, could be brought in the civil courts (revival window). 

3. Eliminate governmental immunity for governmental agencies or employees if they knew or should have known that the individual who committed the criminal sexual conduct had committed a prior act of criminal sexual conduct and the government agency or employee had failed to act to intervene to prevent the subsequent assault.  This would also eliminate immunity retroactively. 

4. Eliminate the necessity of a court of claims notice to a government agency for criminal sexual conduct.