Posted on March 18, 2013 by Will Brownsberger on his website here
For many years, advocates for victims of childhood sexual abuse have sought to extend the applicable statute of limitations in Massachusetts, so that recovering adult victims have more time to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers.
The issue came to a head late last July, near the end of last year's formal legislative session. The House passed a bill liberalizing the rules with a few days to go in the session. Late in afternoon, on the very last day of the legislative session, the Senate President convened a discussion on the issue. Watertown Representative John Lawn, a strong advocate for reform, had educated me about the bill, and I spoke in favor trying to find a way to act on it. The Senate President asked me to lead a further conversation to sort out the options.
Keep up to date with efforts to reform the Statutes of Limitations on Child Sex Abuse across the nation
Visit the website of SOL-Reform to find the most comprehensive information about SOLs for child sex abuse for the public, the media, scholars, and survivors. This is an educational project for the media, advocates and legislators in every state related to Professor Marci A. Hamilton's scholarship and public advocacy for victims of child sex abuse.
How do the new and old SOL laws compare?
NEW LAW: Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse - age 53
For abuse occurring from this date on, a victim can bring suit against their abuser and the supervisor or employer of the abuser, any time before their 53rd birthday.
For abuse that occurred prior to passage of the new law, a victim who was barred under the old law can now bring suit against their abuser, any time before their 53rd birthday. They are still restricted from bringing suit against the supervisor or employer of the abuser.
OLD LAW: Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse - age 18
A victim of child sexual abuse upon reaching the age of 18 could file suit against their abuser and supervisor or employer of the abuser.
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NEW LAW: Discovery Rule - 7 years
A victim of child sexual abuse now has 7 years after they reach their 18th birthday, or 7 years from the time they discover or reasonably should have discovered the harm caused by the abuse, to file a complaint.
There is NO age limit to the 7 year discovery rule, e.g. a victim abused at age 15 who does not discover the harm done until they are significantly older may still file a complaint if it is filed within 7 years after they discover the harm done or before their 53rd birthday, whichever is LATER.
The 7 Year Discovery Rule is also retroactive for supervisors and employers, e.g. a victim of child sexual abuse who is 40 years old and discovers at that time the harm done by the abuse would have until age 47 to file a complaint against the abuser's supervisor or employer. The victim would have until age 53 to sue their abuser as the time limit is the later of the two ages that is, age 53 or 47 years – 7 years from discovery.)
OLD LAW: Discovery Rule - 3 years
A victim of child sexual abuse had 3 years after their 18th birthday, or 3 years from the time they discovered or should have discovered the harm caused by the abuse, to file a complaint. There was no retroactive provision for this Discovery Rule.
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NEW LAW: MA Tort Claims for child sexual abuse claims only
A written notice of intent to file a complaint against an abuser, supervisor or employer is no longer required.
OLD LAW: MA Tort Claims- 2 year notice & 3 Year SOL
There was a required 2-year written notice of intent to file a complaint for suits brought against towns, cities, governments, municipalities and a 3-year SOL.
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