On September 16, 2022, President Biden signed a bill that eliminated the existing statute of limitations on certain civil cases.
While this law is a step in the right direction, its application will unfortunately be limited. The two major limitations of the new law are that it is not retroactive and it only applies to federal claims.
Prior to passage of the new law, survivors of certain sex crimes against minors such as forced labor, sex trafficking, and sexual exploitation had until their 28th birthday to file a lawsuit. If the survivor did not bring a claim prior to their 28th birthday, the new law will not revive their claim. However, if a victim was under 28 years of age on September 16, 2022, they can now bring a claim at any time.
Certainly this law is welcomed by the survivor community because it increases the period of time that victims have to come forward to pursue these federal claims. Notwithstanding, survivors will still need to pursue these cases in a timely manner so their lawyers are able to obtain evidentiary support for their claim before it is unavailable. If victims wait too long to pursue a civil sexual abuse case, key documents are often lost or destroyed, and critical witnesses can die or be impossible to locate.
Most sexual abuse cases that are brought against organizations like a church, school, Boy Scouts, health care provider, or other businesses providing services to youth are based on state tort law. The types of cases generally allege negligent hiring, retention, and supervision, or failure to adopt and implement appropriate policies and procedures to protect children. These state tort cases are not impacted by the new law.
However, if a case involves a federal sex crime against a minor, like forced labor, trafficking, and exploitation, the case may be able to fit within the criteria of the new law.
The statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse cases varies widely, state by state. Many states only allow survivors a few years after their 18th birthday to pursue justice. In those states, survivors should carefully consider whether they might be able to pursue a federal claim because the statute of limitations is longer.
If you are considering bringing a claim for child sexual abuse against an organization, you can confidentially reach out to Andreozzi & Foote.
We will promptly get back to you and help you understand your options. We pride ourselves on finding creative solutions to our clients cases, like navigating the statute of limitations and utilizing creative legal theories.