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Calif. Suspends Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations

Churches, Boy Scouts braced for lawsuits
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 14, 2019 12:48 AM CDT
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

(Newser) – California is giving childhood victims of sexual abuse more time to decide whether to file lawsuits, joining several states in expanding the statute of limitations for victims over warnings from school districts that the new rules could bankrupt them. The law signed Sunday by Gov. Gavin Newsom gives victims of childhood sexual abuse until age 40, or five years from discovery of the abuse, to file civil lawsuits. The previous limit had been 26, or within three years from discovery of the abuse. It also suspends the statute of limitations for three years—beginning Jan. 1—giving victims of all ages time to bring lawsuits if they wish, the AP reports.

"The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous," says Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the author of the bill. California is at least the third state this year to take this step. Earlier this year, New York and New Jersey raised their statutes of limitations to age 55. New York also suspended its statute of limitations for one year, leading to hundreds of lawsuits against hospitals, schools, the Roman Catholic Church, and Jeffrey Epstein. Similar lawsuits could follow in California. Attorney Michael Pfau says his firm represents about 100 childhood sexual abuse victims across the state who plan to file lawsuits against the Boy Scouts, foster homes, schools, and "almost every Catholic Diocese in the state. The breadth of it is staggering."

(Read more California stories.)

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