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California is the latest state to extend the statute of limitation for child sexual abuse lawsuits, providing additional time for adults to file claims for incidents that occurred when they were a minor, and opening a window for previously time-barred cases to be pursued against the perpetrator or entities that enabled the abuse.
California Governor Gave Newsom signed a bill into law on Sunday, Assembly Bill 218, which extends the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits involving sexual abuse as a child until the victim turns 40 years old. The previous limit required that cases be filed before their 26th birthday.
In addition, the law increases the period for delayed discovery from three to five years, and allows individuals a period of three years to submit past claims, which would have previously been barred under the statute of limitation laws. In situations where a child was likely victimized by a sexual predator as a result of actions that covered up prior assaults, California plaintiffs will now be able to obtain triple damages, to deter such conduct in the future.
These changes come after recent discoveries that the Catholic Church and other large organizations have engaged in widespread efforts to cover up incidents involving sexual abuse, and prevent victims from pursuing legal action.
A similar law came into effect in New York a few weeks ago, resulting in hundreds of sexual assault lawsuits being filed by individuals who were abused as a child. Another almost identical law goes into effect in New Jersey on December 1. The California law goes into effect on January 1.
The statute of limitations change in California, which goes into effect on January 1, also specifically lifts the time for filing lawsuits against a former University of Southern California gynecologist, who has been accused of abusing students for years at the university health center.
In May 2018, it was disclosed that former gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall faced allegations of sexually abusing female USC patients for decades, leading to hundreds of claims of sexual assault filed against USC, including a number of class action claims brought to pursue damages on behalf of all students treated by the former gynecologist at the student health center.
Tyndall was allowed to retire in June 2017, and was charged with 29 counts of sexual assault in June of this year.
The school has settled hundreds of claims filed against it by students. This latest law will allow claims directly against Tyndall or any physician at a student health center which occurred between January 1, 1988 and January 1, 2017. Before this law, many of the claims against Tyndall had been barred, due to statute of limitation laws that prevented such claims after 10 years.