California Governor Jerry Brown Vetoed SB 131
Read the National Center for Victims of Crime's Statement on Jerry Brown's Veto of the Child Victims Act (SB 131)
Overview of SB 131, the California Child Victims Act
In 2002, recognizing that it can take decades before victims of child sex abuse can come forward, or even recognize how they have been harmed, California amended the civil statute of limitations with a two-prong approach to give victims an opportunity for justice. Under a "delayed discovery" provision, victims could file suit within three years of when they discover that their current injury or condition was causally related to the childhood sex abuse. For victims who had previously made their causal connection or whose statute of limitations had otherwise expired, the legislature created a one-year "window" in which victims could file a civil suit without regard to the statute of limitations.
The Quarry bothers were sexually abused in the 1970's, but did they did not recognize how they were harmed by the abuse until the late 2000's. They filed suit within three years of making the causal connection. In 2012, the California Supreme Court ruled that the delayed discovery provision did not apply to the Quarrys because the language of the statute was not explicitly retroactive. Consequently, their statute of limitations expired when the civil window closed in 2003. In effect, the court ruled that the law required them to file suit before they even knew they had been harmed.
SB 131, the California Child Victims Act, will do three things:
- It will make retroactive the delayed discovery provisions of 340.1 to comply with California Supreme Court decision in the Quarry case.
- It will provide a limited, one year, civil window to provide an opportunity for justice to those victims who were previously excluded by the technical defect of 340.1.
- 340.1 requires a victim suing a third-party to allege in his or her initial pleading specific proof that the defendant had notice of the sexual abuse. The proof of this knowledge is usually documented in the defendant’s own files. SB 131 would allow the parties to conduct discovery before the court could rule on a motion to dismiss for failure to allege proof of notice.
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Key States Currently Considering the Child Victim Act
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The sexual abuse of children is a public health epidemic in the United States. Recent child sex abuse cases at Penn State University, the release of documents concerning sexual abuse and the Boy Scouts and consistent reports of abuse within California institutions such as Miramonte Elementary School are recent examples.
Research has shown that as many as one in four women and one in five men suffered abuse as a child and that almost 90% of abuse never gets reported. Those that do come forward find themselves barred by the legal technicality of a statute of limitation. Considering how long victims often take to find the courage to speak out, statutes of limitation are woefully short and act as an arbitrary barrier to justice.
Victims of Child Sex Abuse One Step Closer to Justice in Minnesota
For Immediate Release Contact: Kath Cummins
March 7, 2013 202.590.0837
Washington, D.C.-- The National Center for Victims of Crime congratulates the Minnesota House of Representatives Civil Law Committee for its support to lift the civil Statute of Limitations on child sex abuse, and its vote to create a legal “window” for past victims to bring actions.
“Child abusers and the institutions who shelter them have been able to ‘run out the clock’ and avoid justice because their victims are often adults before they are ready or able to come forward," said National Center Executive Director Mai Fernandez. “Yesterday, Minnesota House legislators affirmed that their priority is protecting children and holding negligent institutions accountable.”
This important three year window in the House version of the Child Victims Act will allow any survivor of sexual abuse to bring suits forward for three years (until 2016). In addition, the House version ends the civil Statute of Limitations for future child abuse cases, with the exception that claims based on vicarious liability will still be subject to the six-year Statute of Limitations that currently exists in Minnesota law.
The three year window to file suit is similar to legal windows passed in California, Delaware and Hawaii. In California it was this crucial legal window that led to the release of Los Angeles Archdiocese personnel files which implicated senior clergy of relocating abusers in an elaborate attempt to exploit the Statute of Limitations.
The Child Victims Act must now pass the House Judiciary Committee, a full House vote, and be voted for by the Minnesota Senate.
"We call on all Minnesota lawmakers to stand with the survivors of child abuse and to protect all children in the state of Minnesota by voting to pass the Child Victims Act," said Ms Fernandez.
The National Center for Victims of Crime, established in 1985, is the nation’s leading resource and advocacy organization for crime victims and those who serve them. For more than 25 years, the National Center has led this nation’s struggle to provide crime victims with the rights, protections, and services they need to rebuild their lives.