Michigan legislators have been joined by sexual assault survivors and their advocates to push for updates to the state’s laws on civil sexual abuse lawsuits, including those involving child sexual abuse. State Representative Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township) recently announced the Access to Justice Plan, part of the larger Justice for Survivors Act, which would extend the statute of limitations on most sexual abuse claims filed in civil court, reduce government immunity from liability in certain situations, and create a Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. If the legislative package is passed, it would make Michigan’s laws on sexual abuse claims current with many other states that have taken similar strides in recent years.
Extended Statute of Limitations
Currently, Michigan only allows child sexual abuse cases to be filed before the survivor’s 28th birthday. This statute of limitations is one of the shortest in the country, even before other states implemented improved statutes in recent years. The proposed Access to Justice Plan would acknowledge that the average child sexual abuse survivor does not feel confident about coming forward and speaking up until age 52. If approved, the Act could greatly extend the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse claims filed in Michigan civil courts in many situations to 52, up from 28.
Furthermore, the Act would extend the civil statute of limitations on claims involving criminal sexual conduct after the time of discovery to 7 years, up from 3 years. This larger window would allow more time for investigation and case preparation before a plaintiff was compelled to take legal action. The civil statute of limitations could also be eliminated if the case involves a defendant or offender who was convicted of the related sex crime.
Lastly, the Act will create a two-year lookback or revival window for survivors who had missed their opportunity to file a civil claim before any previous statute of limitations expired. This lookback window could allow countless survivors to stand up, find hope, and take legal action that previously would have been impossible.
“State law should not dictate which survivors have access to justice. That is why our bills allow justice for all survivors,” Representative Brixie said. “When survivors do come forward, they must be given an opportunity to access justice in our legal system. Changing our statute of limitations laws will ultimately also result in predators, who are most often serial sexual predators, being caught earlier and thus harming fewer people.”
Eliminated Governmental Immunity
It is notoriously challenging to file a claim against a government agency or organization for negligence, especially when considering sexual abuse claims. If the Act is passed, then it will eliminate the immunity granted to governmental defendants in criminal sexual conduct cases if the governmental agency or individual employee knew or should have known about the sexual abuse but failed to act against it. For example, if someone is sexually abused in a state-run prison by a prison staff member, then the Act would make it more difficult for the state to dodge liability.
Established Survivors’ Bill of Rights
The sexual assault survivor nonprofit group Rise helped inspire and guide the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights for the Access to Justice Plan. This proposed bill of rights would outline the rights of a sexual abuse survivor to make it simpler for them to decide if they want to pursue civil action or not.
The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights would establish these rights and rules:
- Survivors must be notified of their right to speak with attorneys, advocates, and supporters at all stages of the sexual abuse reporting process.
- Hospitals with shower facilities must provide free showers to survivors who receive forensic exams.
- Survivors must be given the option to have a sexual assault counselor present during forensic exams.
- Forensic testers must process, review, and report forensic exam kits in an “adequate” time frame.
“Whether you know it or not, at least one of your loved ones is a survivor of sexual assault – 1 in 3 Michiganders have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime,” said Evan Bonsall, Rise Organizer for the Michigan Campaign. “As a public high school teacher, I also know that, according to the CDC, 1 in 5 of my female students have experienced sexual violence in the last year alone, and I want my state government to fight to protect and support my students. I am thrilled that a Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights is finally being introduced in my home state so that more survivors can get the justice and support they deserve.”
Contact Grewal Law for More Information
Grewal Law is one of Michigan’s premier sexual abuse law firms. We have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for sex abuse clients throughout the years, including 1/3 of the survivors in lawsuits against Michigan State University for sexual abuse involving Larry Nassar. As attorneys who proudly stand up for survivors of sexual abuse, we are encouraged by the proposed Access to Justice Plan and Justice for Survivors Act. If it passes, it could give countless people across the state renewed opportunities to demand justice through the civil justice system, and we would be honored to help them understand and utilize their rights.
Call (888) 211-5798 now to speak with an attorney with Grewal Law if you have a claim or if you believe you will have a claim should the Access to Justice Plan pass.