California Statute of Limitations
California now joins a host of states that have revised their statutes of limitations for filing civil lawsuits for sexual abuse claims. The California Governor recently approved legislation that raises the age to initiate lawsuits and provides an extended one-time window for bringing claims regardless of how old the claims are. California’s law mirrors legislation passed in New York and New Jersey that provides a revival period for claims that might have arisen from abuse that occurred years or decades ago.
Comparison of California’s Old and New Law
Under California’s old law, survivors of sexual abuse could file a lawsuit until the age of 26 or three years from discovering that the psychological injury was linked to sexual abuse that occurred in childhood. Under the new law, the maximum age to bring a claim is 40 years of age or up to five years after discovery. In addition, the law provides victims with a three-year window to bring all claims that had been previously barred. The revival period goes into effect on January 1, 2020.
Other Aspects of New Legislation
The bill permits lawsuits against city and county agencies and all private entities. The legislation also contains more stringent language, referring to sexual abuse in childhood as sexual assault. Recognizing the detrimental actions of the institutions and perpetrators who attempted to conceal sexual abuse, the California law also provides that plaintiffs may be entitled to treble damages in such cases. Compared to sexual abuse legislation in other states, California’s provisions are among the most rigorous in the country.
Response to California’s New Statute of Limitations
California’s amended law recognizes that all survivors should have the opportunity to hold their abusers accountable regardless of how much time has passed. Many of the most notorious perpetrators of sexual abuse, such as the Catholic Church and school districts, have opposed the bill since it imposes a potentially insurmountable financial burden on them. The San Diego Catholic diocese, along with five others dioceses, has decided to give survivors the option to accept a confidential settlement as part of the Victims Compensation Fund in lieu of the right to sue.
Organizations such as the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America have voiced concerns that the flood of litigation could force them into bankruptcy. When California suspended the statute of limitations for one year back in 2003, approximately 1,000 lawsuits, mostly against the Catholic Church, were filed. With the threat of liability reaching triple damages for institutions that protected pedophiles under the new law, litigation against powerful organizations are expected to substantially increase.
Levy Konigsberg is a nationally recognized law firm that has recovered millions of dollars for victims of sexual abuse. If you or a member of your family has been the victim of sexual misconduct either recently or decades ago, please contact our lawyers for a free consultation by calling 1-800-225-9825 or submit an email inquiry on this page.