More than 450 people filed claims of child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy case ahead of a critical deadline in the litigation.

Survivors have until Friday to file a proof of claim, or an Official Form 410. People can but do not have to submit a sexual abuse claim supplement by that date.

“It’s important that you fill it out and get it in the queue,” said Paul Jan Zdunek, chair of the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which represents the interests of survivors in the case. “You can always go back to amend it.”

The Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for bankruptcy just before a new state law, the Child Victims Act of 2023, was set to take effect. It eliminated the statute of limitations for survivors to file lawsuits and enabled more people to sue institutions that enabled their victimization.

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U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michelle M. Harner set the deadline, which is 245 days from the date when the archdiocese filed a petition for Chapter 11 reorganization.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 485 people have filed a claim, said Andy Freeman, Zdunek’s attorney, who’s a partner at Brown, Goldstein & Levy in Baltimore.

Freeman predicted that there will be between 500 and 1,000 claims filed in the case. The final number will not immediately be known.

“We’re doing everything we can just to get word out to survivors,” Freeman said. “Even if you’re not completely comfortable, you can file these claims confidentially. No one else has to know. But you have to file your claim by Friday if you were abused by a priest or someone associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”

In an email, Christian Kendzierski, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said it remains committed to the process and working with survivors to “achieve an agreed-upon resolution of these reorganization proceedings.”

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”Though this is an important deadline within the reorganization process, this does not end the moral obligation of the Archdiocese and it will continue to respond compassionately to those harmed,” Kendzierski said.

In a bankruptcy case, anyone who has a claim as of the date of the petition is entitled to participate as a creditor in the process. But they have to file a proof of claim before the deadline, said Marie Reilly, a professor at Penn State Law who’s an expert in bankruptcy and commercial law.

A plan of reorganization, she said, would likely include a provision that has the effect of permanently enjoining people from suing for sexual abuse that happened in the past.

Nathaniel Foote, a partner at Andreozzi + Foote in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, noted that lawmakers abolished the statute of limitations for survivors to file lawsuits in Maryland.

But because the Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for bankruptcy, he said, people have a deadline to file a claim — even if they’re not ready to tell their story. That’s not the case with other institutions, Foote said.

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“It imposes this artificial timeline on people to disclose and confront something that might be extremely painful for them,” said Foote, whose law firm is filing 30 claims in the case.

The Maryland Supreme Court has agreed to take up the constitutionality of the law. Oral argument is scheduled for Sept. 10.

Survivors can file a claim online here. The creditors’ committee also maintains a website with information about the case and resources.