Pennsylvania Superior Court Assigns PA Sexual Violence Law 6-Year Statute of Limitations
According to Law.com, on January 30, a unanimous three-judge panel of the appellate court upheld a protection order issued under the Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation Act (PVSVIA) by a Clarion County Court of Common Pleas judge in the case of K.N.B. v. M.D.
According to the court’s ruling, the plaintiff, known as K.N.B. and represented by Eric Hackenberg, of Laurel Legal Services, in Clarion, sought the sexual violence protection order against defendant, known as M.D. and represented by Blair Hindman, of the Hindman Law Firm, in Clarion, following an alleged sexual assault that took place while they were both students at Clarion University.
The defendant then sought to vacate the order, arguing the plaintiff’s action was time-barred because it was filed more than two years after the alleged assault.
The defendant pointed to subsection 5524(1) of the PVSVIA, which establishes a two-year statute of limitations for “an action for assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution or malicious abuse of process,” to support his argument and said the subsection applied because the plaintiff alleged she was the victim of sexual battery.
However, Judge Maria McLaughlin disagreed.
“The PVSVIA does not provide victims of sexual violence with a cause of action for tortious conduct,” McLaughlin stated.
“It requires merely the assertion of tortious conduct. Further, unlike the actions mentioned in Section 5524(1), in which a plaintiff seeks compensation for past harm, the intent of the PVSVIA is to protect the petitioner from future harm.”
McLaughlin, along with Judge Victor Stabile and President Judge Jack Panella, also rejected the defendant’s reliance on subsections 5524(2), which mandates a two-year statute of limitations for “an action to recover damages for injuries to the person or for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another,” and 5524(7), which applies to actions sounding in trespass.
According to McLaughlin, those subsections both apply only to actions seeking damages, and do not apply in this case.
“The PVSVIA does not provide for any recovery of damages to person or property. Rather, the PVSVIA provides ‘the victim with a civil remedy requiring the offender to stay away from the victim, as well as other appropriate relief.'” McLaughlin stated.
McLaughlin also noted that while the plaintiff did put in a request for damages in the petition, the court lacked the power to award damages, and her request did not convert the petition for a Sexual Violence Protection Order (SVPO) into a civil complaint seeking damages.
The defendant’s additional argument that 5524(5) should apply because it deals with “an action for a civil penalty” and he was assessed a $100.00 surcharge also failed.
The surcharge is not a penalty. It is explicitly labelled as a “surcharge,” and Section 62A05(c.1) provides that it will be paid to various governmental units for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the PVSVIA, according to McLaughlin.
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