The Me Too movement and high profile sexual abuse cases such as Larry Nassar, have encouraged legislators to extend the timeline for victims of sexual abuse to sue institutions for wrongdoings that may have occurred decades ago. Are you ready?
California often leads the way in legislation – on October 13, 2019, CA passed AB218, which significantly extends the statute of limitations period for claims of childhood sxl assault. Similar laws have been passed in New York and New Jersey, and other states are likely to follow. The three-year lookback window created by AB218 opens on January 1, 2020. During this time, survivors of childhood sexual assault can bring civil suits against their predators and their institutions, regardless of how long ago the crime occurred.
What does this mean for school districts?
You may see an increase in civil claims filed starting in January, 2020. Be prepared to allocate staff time to handle claims and inquiries, review and access personnel files, identify and locate supporting witnesses, and locate copies of insurance policies. Ensuring your school district is following the laws and best practices for prevention and responding to sexual misconduct is ever more important.
Key changes to the law
Under existing CA law, the statute of limitations period for filing a civil lawsuit seeking recovery for damages suffered as the result of childhood sexual abuse against a person or entity is the later of (1) age 26, or (2) within three years of the date the individual discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the psychological injury was caused by the sexual abuse. Key changes to the law include:
Provides a three-year “look-back window” for previously lapsed claims. For any claims for damages in which the statute of limitations would otherwise be barred as of January 1, 2020, the time limit is now extended and may be commenced within the later of (1) three years from January 1, 2020; or (2) the statute of limitations period established by the new law.
Increases the time limit for an individual to bring a civil lawsuit initiating an action to recover damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual assault until the later of (1) the age of 40, or (2) five years after the date the individual discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the psychological injury or illness was caused by the childhood sexual assault.
Increases damages for institutions that covered up the sexual assault. Allows courts to compel a defendant to pay up to three times the amount of actual damages to a plaintiff if an attempted cover up (a concerted effort to hide evidence) for the childhood sexual assault was involved.
Expands the definition of childhood sexual “abuse” to a more broader term, childhood sexual “assault.”
Learn more about our McGrath Curriculum and how you can effectively train your employees so they can properly identify, intervene, and investigate complaints.