California Becomes the Latest State to Extend Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse Claims
Written by Faith Anderson on October 16, 2019
On the heels of New York’s landmark decision to extend the statute of limitations for adult survivors of child sexual abuse to pursue civil claims against their abusers, California has followed suit with its own child sexual abuse statute of limitations extension. In addition to extending the amount of time adults have to file claims for sexual abuse that occurred when they were minors, California has also opened up a three-year “lookback” window for child sexual abuse claims that were previously time-barred by the former statute of limitations to be revived. If you were the victim of sexual abuse as a minor, new child sexual abuse laws passed in many states may give you the opportunity to pursue a civil claim against your abuser or the organization or entity that enabled the abuse, no matter how long ago the alleged abuse took place. Contact our consumer advocates at Consumer Justice Foundation today to find out if you can file a claim for child sexual abuse.
Pursuing Claims for Child Sexual Abuse in CA
Under the former sexual abuse law in California, in order for a victim of childhood sexual abuse to recover damages for the abuse, a claim had to be initiated within eight years after the plaintiff attained the age of majority (before his or her 26th birthday), or within three years of the date the plaintiff discovered or reasonably should have discovered that the psychological injury or illness suffered after the age of majority was caused by sexual abuse. On October 13, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 218, which increases the time limit for filing a claim for damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse to 22 years from the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority (before his or her 40th birthday), or within five years of the date the plaintiff discovered or reasonably should have discovered that the psychological injury or illness suffered after the age of majority was caused by sexual abuse.
The new child sexual abuse law in California, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020, also gives individuals whose claims would have otherwise been time-barred by the statute of limitations a period of three years to submit a claim for past sexual abuse against their perpetrators or the entities that enabled the abuse, such as the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, or a college or university. Another section of California’s new bill allows plaintiffs who were sexually assaulted as the result of a cover up to recover treble, or triple, damages against any individual or entity found to have covered up past incidents of sexual assault against a minor.
Sexual Abuse Claims Against Former USC Gynecologist
There is one specific component of the new California child sexual abuse law that lifts the time limit for filing legal claims against a former gynecologist at the University of Southern California, Dr. George Tyndall, who was employed by the USC Health Center for nearly 30 years. Tyndall is accused of inappropriately touching students during exams, photographing students, unnecessarily instructing students to remove their clothing and making sexually abusive comments, among other offensive behavior. According to information disclosed by USC in May 2018, Tyndall was permitted to continue treating students at the university clinic for decades, despite concerns that he was sexually assaulting students under the guise of legitimate medical treatment. USC has already settled hundreds of claims filed by students who were allegedly abused by Tyndall, but this new law will allow claims to be filed directly against Tyndall or against any physician at a student health center for abuse that occurred between January 1, 1988 and January 1, 2017.
Past Sexual Abuse Covered Up by High-Profile Organizations
These important changes to the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims come after recent stunning discoveries that the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America and other high-profile organizations have engaged in widespread efforts to cover up instances of child sexual abuse and prevent minor victims from pursuing legal action against their abusers. A bill similar to the one California just passed was signed into law in New York on August 14, and by the time the courts closed that day, more than 400 sexual abuse claims had already been filed. Many of those claims named as defendants Catholic dioceses in New York, the Boys Scouts of America, universities and other entities or institutions accused of harboring sexual predators and covering up instances of sexual abuse involving minors. Another similar child sexual abuse law is set to go into effect in New Jersey on December 1, 2019.
Find Out if You Are Eligible to File a Claim
If you were the victim of sexual abuse as a minor, the changes many states are making to their child sexual abuse laws may give you the opportunity to finally hold your abuser accountable for his or her actions, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. Says Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the author of the new California bill: “The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous. More and more, we’re hearing about people who were victims years ago but were not ready to come forward to tell their story until now.”