Louisiana had been known as one of the worst states in the country concerning the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. However, the Governor recently signed into law a bill that provides survivors of sexual abuse an opportunity to seek justice in the civil courts.
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill Monday that passed both houses of the Louisiana Legislature unanimously last week. Going forward, it eliminates any deadline, previously set at age 28, for victims of child sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits against their abusers or those who allowed the abuse to occur.
The new law also provides a “revival window,” a period of three years for victims to file new lawsuits making claims that would have already expired.
This means that someone who was sexually abused by a Catholic priest may hold the Catholic Church accountable for the actions of the offending priest. The only place where the law won't apply is the Archdiocese of New Orleans because the Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy last year. However, there are a number of other Catholic dioceses in Louisiana that we know have experienced a high rate of sexual abuse in the ranks of the priesthood. Dioceses such as Lafayette, Houma-Thibidaux, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, and Shreveport have all had problems with priests who sexually abused children.
The new law will allow survivors to come forward and hold these priests and their dioceses accountable for their actions, regardless of when the abuse occurred.
It was in Louisiana that the tragic saga of priest sexual abuse was brought to the public's attention (at least it's latest manifestation) when Fr. Gilbert Gauthe was exposed as a serial abuser in the Diocese of Lafayette. The revelations shocked the community and the country. Gauthe was a priest in the Diocese of Lafayette from 1972 until 1983. Gauthe became the first Catholic priest in the United States to face a widely publicized criminal trial for child sexual abuse. He admitted to abusing 37 children and accepted a plea bargain for which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was released after serving 10 years of his sentence then moved to Texas where he was charged with abusing a 3 year old boy. He received probation in 1997 after pleading guilty to injuring the child and was later jailed in Galveston County between 2008 and 2010 for violating the Texas sex registry requirements.
In the last two decades, many courageous survivors have come forward to pursue justice and protect children from these predatory priests. Some were successful in pursuing their claims such as in New York, California, and New Jersey. However, such was not the case in Louisiana. The arcane laws prevented sexual abuse survivors from pursuing justice, exposing the bad priests, and holding the Catholic Church accountable for the inaction and cover-up. Now, that has all changed.
If you or a loved one were abused in Louisiana as a child by a Catholic priest, call priest abuse Attorney Dyril Flanagan or email him through this website. Your information will be handled in a compassionate and confidential manner.