More states are changing their laws to extend the deadlines for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse to bring civil lawsuits against the organizations that allowed their abuse. Some states, like New York, have recently passed new laws with “look-back” provisions. These are “windows” that give victims a short period of time – usually one year – to file civil claims no matter how old the victims are or when they were abused. California is considering a similar law with a three-year window.
These new laws are one reason we have teamed up to prosecute sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America. The lawyers here at www.AbusedinBoyScouts.com are partners at two different law firms – Chasan & Walton in Boise, Idaho, and the Dumas Law Group in Portland, Oregon. Andy Chasan, Tim Walton, Gilion Dumas, and Ashley Vaughn together have decades of experience representing people who were sexually abused and exploited when they were youth members of Boy Scouts of America.
EVERY STATE HAS DIFFERENT DEADLINES
Some states, like Oregon and Montana, already allow adult survivors of childhood sexual assault to bring claims many years later. For example, in Oregon, a child abuse victim can file a civil lawsuit any time before his 40th birthday, against his abuser or the organization that knowingly allowed or permitted the abuse. Even after victims turn 40, they can still bring a civil lawsuit in Oregon, as long as they file the case within five years of when they know or should have known of the connection between their child abuse and their adult injuries caused by the abuse. Montana and other states have similar laws, but with different age and time limits. We can talk to you about what those time limits are.
Other states are changing their laws. Recent changes, such as New York’s Child Victims Act, give victims more time to file civil lawsuits against their abusers and against institutions of trust like the Boy Scouts. New York’s new deadlines only apply going forward. But the new law gives New York victims a one-year “window” to file a lawsuit even if the old deadline for bringing a claim has already passed. Once this window closes, those old claims will be barred forever.
New York’s new law goes into effect today, on February 14, 2019. Under the new law, victims of childhood sexual abuse have until age 55 to bring claims against their abuser or the organization where the perpetrator worked or volunteered. The one-year window to bring old claims opens six months from today and stays open for one year.
Other states are considering reforms like New York’s. The California Assembly is considering Bill 218, which would extend the deadline for civil claims to age 40 or five years from when victims “discover or should have discovered” the damage caused by their abuse. It would also create a three-year window to file claims regardless of age, even if the claims were barred by earlier deadlines. If that bill gets “fast tracked” and passed, it will go into effect by April this year. If it passes in the regular course, it will go into effect by September.
Other states, including Utah, Massachusetts, and Michigan are considering similar legislation. Check back here for updates or contact us for more information.
SEXUAL ABUSE TAKES TIME TO PROCESS
Oregon, New York, and other states changing their statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse claims recognize how difficult it is for many victims to process what happened to them as kids. Most children who were sexually assaulted, abused, or exploited do not come to terms with the abuse until years, even decades, later. Studies consistently show that most child victims of sexual abuse do not even disclose the abuse, if they disclose it at all, until their late 40s or early 50s. Even those who disclose that they were abused may never begin to realize how the abuse affected them until decades after it happened.
State reforms may allow adults who were sexually abused and exploited when they were children to bring claims, even claims that were barred by earlier deadlines. The law in each state is different. Please ask about the law and the deadlines that may apply to your claims. Once a statute of limitations deadline has passed, it is too late to file a lawsuit.