The Associated Press has estimated 5,000 new lawsuits related to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church could be filed soon with a potential payout surpassing $4 billion.
The estimate comes after 15 states extended their statutes of limitations for sexual abuse, meaning lawsuits can now be filed decades after abuse occurs.
Nancy Holling-Lonnecker, 71, alleges to have been sexually abused by a priest when she was seven years old, originally making her case too old for California's former statutes of limitations. Now she will be taking advantage of the new California laws.
"It's like a whole new beginning for me," Holling-Lonnecker said. "The survivors coming forward now have been holding on to this horrific experience all of their lives. They bottled up those emotions all of these years because there was no place to take it."
Dioceses facing large compensatory fines have the option to file for bankruptcy, which would suspend all fines and payments from the diocese while a federal judge determines how much will be paid out. This option allows the diocese to operate while still benefiting victims.