Feb 1, 2022
It’s been over two years since California Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. The landmark legislation allowing any survivor of childhood sexual abuse the opportunity to pursue justice via a civil lawsuit – regardless of how long ago the crime occurred – has positively impacted countless lives. But as the final year of the bill’s ‘lookback window’ clause commences, any survivor who has yet to take action is encouraged to file a claim as soon as possible to ensure his or her chance at justice is not jeopardized.
For those who aren’t familiar, AB 218 provides survivors of childhood sexual abuse additional rights beyond the three-year lookback window which effectively pauses the statute of limitations on all civil claims through the end of this year.
Such rights include:
– Eligibility until 40th birthday – as of January 1, 2020, childhood sexual abuse survivors have until their 40th birthday to file civil claims in pursuit of financial compensation (prior to AB 218, the age limit was 26). However, those survivors who turned 40 prior to 2020 are still eligible to file claims under the lookback window clause which expires on January 1, 2023.
– Five-year statute of limitations on a psychological injury: AB 218 allows survivors to file civil lawsuits up to five years after the discovery of an adult psychological injury like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that is due to childhoods sexual abuse trauma. Prior to AB 218, survivors were bound to a three-year statute of limitations on adulthood psychological injuries.
– Treble damages clause: In an effort to deter sex crimes involving systematic cover-ups, AB 218 provides the courts with latitude to issue triple damages when such malfeasance is proven. As an example, if a survivor plaintiff were awarded a $1 million damages award and a cover-up by either an individual or institution were proven, said survivor could actually receive $3 million in total compensation.
As an attorney who has handled numerous sexual abuse cases as both a prosecutor and private litigator, I can attest that AB 218 is indeed unprecedented in terms of its scope and potential to grant justice that is, in many cases, long overdue. In fact, when explaining the legislation to prospective clients, I’ll typically use the metaphor of a time machine – with AB 218 allowing, for a limited time, survivors an opportunity to go back in time (as far back as is necessary) and finally obtain justice for what are often decades-old crimes.
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If you have ever been impacted by childhood sexual abuse, California AB 218 may provide an opportunity at justice as well as the potential to move forward on your own terms through financial compensation obtained via a civil lawsuit. For many survivors, however, the deadline to seize said opportunity is quickly approaching. Accordingly, I encourage every survivor of childhood sexual abuse to file a claim before the lookback window deadline of December 31, 2022.
Samuel Dordulian is a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County with more than 25 years of experience helping survivors of sexual abuse and assault obtain justice.
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