Deadline for Filing Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits in Kansas Extended to Age 31, And Criminal Statute of Limitations Removed

In addition to allowing a longer period of time to file child sex abuse lawsuits, the new Kansas law allows criminal prosecution of child abusers regardless of how long ago the assault occurred.

Kansas has joined a growing number of states which have now passed new laws allowing survivors of child sex abuse additional time to file civil lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that enabled the conduct, and removed any statute of limitations on criminal prosecution of child sex offenders.

Governor Laura Kelly signed a bill into law on Monday, which allows individuals to file Kansas child sexual abuse lawsuits until they are 31 years old, or three years after a criminal conviction. However, the new law does not go as far as other recent child sex abuse laws enacted in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, California and other states, which have revived previously barred claims for older adults.

The bill, S Sub HB 2127, passed both the Kansas State House and Senate with unanimous bipartisan support. In addition to giving child sex abuse survivors 13 years after their 18th birthday to file a civil lawsuit, the bill also removes the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of child sex offenders entirely.

No “Window” for Older Child Sex Abuse Victims

Unlike most child sex abuse reform laws passed by other states in recent years, the Kansas legislature did not create a “window” for the filing of lawsuits which have already passed their statute of limitations, meaning there will not be an opportunity for individuals abused decades ago as children to seek justice.

Kansas currently has a statute of repose, which prevents victims of abuse that occurred before 1984 from bringing cases forward. This new law does not change that.

While many of the first states to bring these types of child sex abuse lawsuit reforms followed a fairly standard model, allowing a two or three-year time period for cases decades old to be filed, Maryland and some other states have deviated from that format, deciding to entirely remove any civil statute of limitations on claims involving child sexual abuse.

Maryland’s Child Victims Act of 2023 was signed into law last week, allowing survivors to file claims regardless of how many years have passed since the incident of abuse. Following several years of debate, the bill passed the state legislature shortly after a detailed report on child sexual abuse in the Baltimore Archidiocese was released by the Maryland Attorney General.

An influx of lawsuits are likely to be brought later this year when the new law takes effect, as Maryland sexual abuse lawyers are now investigating claims against the Catholic Church and other organizations that have been found to cover up decades of child abuse.

Growing Trend Throughout the States

The main sponsor of the Kansas law, State Senator Cindy Holscher, indicated that one of the motivations for passing the new law was the fact that other states were passing similar legislation, and said she did not want Kansas to become a refuge for child predators who might see Kansas as a safe state in which to commit child sex abuse. The lack of a statute of limitations on criminal charges is expected to act as a strong deterrent for those types of individuals.

“This is breakthrough legislation that will keep our children and communities safer by permitting our state to get more predators off our streets, while building a foundation to allow more survivors of childhood sexual violence to pursue justice,” Holscher said in an April 17 press release.

After a two year window in the New York child sex abuse statute of limitations was opened in 2020, tens of thousands of claims were brought against the Boy Scouts, Catholic Church and other entitles throughout the state. The Buffalo Diocese alone had at least 230 Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing minors, with eight specific priests accounting for more than 1,000 lawsuits filed in that part of the state.

While statute of limitations laws have also been enacted in a number of other states, including New Jersey, California and Louisiana, other states are still debating similar bills that would allow survivors to hold abusers and entities that enabled their conduct accountable.


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