Survivors who were sexually abused as minors now have the right to file federal civil claims against their abusers and the institutions that failed to protect them regardless of when their abuse occurred, thanks to a new bill signed last Friday by President Biden.
Known as the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act, the bill was previously passed by the House by voice vote earlier in the week and unanimously by the Senate in March. It removes the federal time limit for filing for civil sexual abuse lawsuits and provides survivors with an opportunity to seek justice and bring claims previously barred by the statute of limitations.
As a firm that has fought for survivors in high-profile sexual abuse and assault claims, our team at Grewal Law applauds lawmakers’ efforts in passing this bill and has been closely evaluating the measure to help survivors understand how it impacts their rights. In fact, an article about the bill written by our own Carlye Reynolds Gasior was recently published by The Legal Examiner. Here are some key points:
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is the maximum time allowed after an event to bring legal action. In matters of sexual abuse, it is the amount of time that survivors must bring civil lawsuits against their abuser or another liable party. When the statute of limitations expires, survivors cannot bring legal action or obtain compensation for their losses.
Prior to the Eliminating Limits to Justice Act, federal law required sexual abuse survivors to bring federal claims within 10 years of discovering that they had been abused or before turning 28, whichever is later.
What Does the Act Change?
The Act eliminates the federal statute of limitations for child sex abuse survivors to bring claims related to various sexual crimes, including sex trafficking, forced labor, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation. Its purpose is to guarantee that there is “no time limit for the filing of a complaint commencing an action” for the sexual assault of a minor.
At the federal level, the Act is a major legislative accomplishment. However, it will not directly impact how sexual assault and abuse claims are handled in state courts, where cases are still subject to the statutes of limitations proscribed by state law.
Nevertheless, at a time when many states have been introducing similar legislation, the Act could provide further momentum to expand access to justice for survivors nationwide. Michigan, for example, is one of a growing number of states to already pass legislation that extends the amount of time for bringing criminal charges and civil claims involving the sexual assault of a minor. These laws (Public Acts 180 and 181) were created in response to Larry Nassar’s abuse and give survivors in Michigan more time to report and sue abusers. Per the laws:
- Civil actions for the sexual assault of a minor may be brought before the survivor turns 28 or within three years of their discovery that they had been assaulted as a minor, whichever is later.
- Criminal indictments for the same may be filed before the survivor turns 28 or within 15 years after the offense is committed, whichever is later.
What is the Importance of the Act?
Sexual assault and abuse profoundly impact the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of survivors. And as the science of trauma shows, it often takes survivors years to understand their abuse and step forward, especially when they are abused as minors. As Carlye notes in her article:
“The Act ensures Accountability on the survivor’s terms—not by the trivial constraints of an arbitrary legislative timeline.”
Grewal Law is a nationally recognized trial practice with extensive experience representing survivors of sexual abuse and assault. We have litigated complex and high-profile cases against a variety of schools, including the University of Michigan for survivors of Robert Anderson and Michigan State University for survivors of Larry Nassar, and secured the largest sexual abuse settlement in history against a university.
If you have questions about civil sexual abuse lawsuits and your legal options, we offer FREE and confidential consultations. Call (888) 211-5798 or contact us online to speak with an attorney.