On Friday, May 17, 2013, the Minnesota Senate and House approved a new law regarding civil actions involving child sexual abuse, generally referred to as the Child Victims Act. Governor Mark Dayton is expected to approve the Act and the new law will become effective the day following final enactment.
The Child Victims Act is a drastic change in the statute of limitations period for civil actions involving child sexual abuse. Previously, individuals sexually abused as children had until age 24 to file a civil suit. After turning 24 years old, the claims were past the six year statute of limitations and time-barred.
Under the new law, if someone under the age of 18 is sexually abused and their claims were not time-barred before the Child Victims Act effective date, then the individual may initiate a civil suit at any time. The limited exception is if the alleged abuser was under age 14 at the time of the abuse. In that case, the plaintiff must still bring their civil action by age 24. This means that unless the alleged abuser was under 14 at the time of the abuse, the Child Victims Act essentially abolishes the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse civil claims going forward.
The Child Victims Act also makes a far-reaching change in law regarding those whose child sexual abuse claims were previously time-barred. The Act will provide these individuals with an opportunity to bring civil actions within a three year period after the Act’s effective date. These actions may be for damages against a natural person, corporation, limited liability company, partnership, organization, association, or other entity. This applies to all civil suits except for vicarious liability or respondeat superior claims. Child sexual abuse claims based on vicarious liability or respondeat superior must still be commenced by the time the individual is 24 years old.
What this means is that for the three years following the enactment of the Child Victims Act, there is likely to be an increase of child sexual abuse civil suit filings, as many individuals whose claims were previously time-barred may now commence a law suit within the three year window of opportunity provided by the Act.