Bill to Extend Statute of Limitations to Sue Child Molesters Clears Committee

May 07, 2013

SACRAMENTO – Legislation by Sen. Jim Beall to overhaul the statute of limitations so adult survivors of child molestation can seek justice in civil courts against their abusers was passed Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Senate Bill 131 changes California’s antiquated statute of limitations on civil claims brought forward for childhood sexual abuse,’’ said Beall, D-San Jose. “The bill gives victims more time to recognize the psychological trauma that is linked to their childhood abuse and take action to gain a measure of justice.’’

Victim rights advocate Kim Goldman told the Judiciary Committee that addictions and suicides have been linked to adults who suffered sexual abuse as children.

“The resulting harms are latent injuries that do not manifest themselves until later in life,’’ said Goldman, who argued for allowing victims more time to sue their abusers.

She also said the bill does not make it easier for victims to win their court cases because the burden of proof still rests on them to convince a judge or jury that they were harmed.

Existing law prevents victims of child sex abuse who are 26 years or older from suing their abusers. Research shows the psychological trauma from child abuse can surface well beyond the 26-year-old ceiling.

Beall’s bill calls for extending the statute of limitation to age 43 for a victim to sue the person who abused them. To sue the abuser’s employer, victims would have to file before they turn 31 years old, under the bill. In either category, victims whose ages are higher than the statute of limitations will be permitted a one-year window to seek civil damages after the bill becomes law.

SB 131 also gives victims a causal connection window of five years as opposed to the existing three-year period to file a lawsuit after the date of discovery by a mental health professional that their psychological trauma is indeed linked to their childhood sexual abuse.

Beall’s legislation grants victims who were previously barred by law from filing civil actions a one-year window to seek justice against their perpetrators. If approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor, SB 131 would go into effect on Jan. 1.

The bill now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.