Mar 31, 2022
Michigan lawmakers have proposed new legislation in an effort to make it easier for sexual assault survivors to come forward and report crimes. A new sexual assault bill with bipartisan support aims to extend the statute of limitations for survivors to file civil claims, according to a report from local NBC WILX 10.
Michigan State Representatives Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township), John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs), and State Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) joined sexual assault survivor Sydney Bakos earlier this month at a press conference to welcome the introduction of House Bills 5962-5964. The aim of the legislation is to extend the statute of limitations towards civil recourse for survivors of sexual assault.
As the Michigan House Democrats’ website notes, “As survivors of sexual assault often do not disclose their abuse until decades after the assault, these bills would expand the opportunity for all survivors of sexual assault to file civil claims.”
Unlike California, where Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) currently allows all survivors of childhood sexual abuse a three-year window to file civil claims seeking financial compensation, Michigan’s civil statute of limitations is “among the narrowest in the country,” according to the state Democrats’ website.
Currently, Michigan only allows civil sexual assault complaints to be filed until the victim turns 28-years-old or three years after they find out that they were abused (i.e. the discovery of a psychological injury like post-traumatic stress disorder).
The newly proposed Michigan sexual assault legislation would offer the following changes:
“Those who have had their precious innocence stolen from them deserve the healing that comes with justice. That is the entire purpose of these bills. These bills are not a sweeping indictment of our great institutions, but a recognition of the sad fact that hidden amongst them have been a few terrible predators whose sins must be brought into the light. Our state must stand with the survivors of such horrific abuse,” said Representative Damoose.
The new bills – 5962-5964 – have been proposed following House Bill 4307, sponsored in 2021 by State Representative Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Township) and co-sponsored by Brixie. HB 4307 aims to remove the immunity defense for governmental entities in sexual assault cases to help keep Michiganders safe from sexual predators. We will cover House Bill 4307 in greater detail below.
As the Detroit Free Press reported, although she was anonymously referred to as Jane Doe 18 in a federal lawsuit filed against Eastern Michigan University (EMU), Sydney Bakos is now speaking out.
At last week’s news conference announcing the new legislation, Bakos said she finally felt ready to come forward about her 2016 rape.
“Sexual assault has psychological impacts that often delays a victim’s readiness to report the crime,” Bakos said at the podium. “This is what happened to me. I needed time to heal before I was able to report the assault.”
Bakos is one of 24 individuals suing EMU. The survivors allege the school “looked the other way on sexual assaults and created a dangerous atmosphere,” according to the Free Press report. Eastern Michigan University reportedly denies the allegations. The school has argued several cases in the matter are past the statute of limitations, but both parties are now in mediation, as the Free Press confirms.
The survivors are still suing the school, however, because they argue a claim of fraudulent concealment extends their time frame (despite the statute of limitations normally extending only three years).
The current law is “archaic,” Representative Brixie said to the Free Press. She was reportedly motivated to act after the abuses seen in the Larry Nassar case at Michigan State University (MSU) and seeing friends and neighbors suffer because of “Michigan laws that harbor abusers,” according to the Free Press.
According to data provided by non-profit organization Child USA, the average age for childhood survivors to report abuse is 52. That statistic is, according to the Free Press report, one of the primary reasons for why the Michigan lawmakers proposed the new legislation, as the current law only allows childhood sexual abuse survivors until age 28 to file claims.
“The Legislature should not be dictating which survivors have access to justice,” Brixie said.
Bakos told the Detroit Free Press that her assault made her feel unlovable, confused, distrustful and “the worst type of loneliness I would never want to put on anyone.”
The lawsuit filed by Bakos includes disturbing allegations, including:
Bakos called on the Michigan Legislature to pass the bills so sister survivors ready to come forward with civil claims could do so, according to the Free Press report.
Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) founder and former sex crimes prosecutor, Sam Dordulian, hailed the proposed Michigan legislation as a long-overdue opportunity at justice for countless survivors.
“We’ve seen firsthand how impactful this type of legislation can be in the lives of sexual assault survivors, particularly those abused as children. This is a matter of justice for survivors who often need a significant amount of time to process such trauma before coming forward to file claims, and for such legislation to be supported at a bipartisan level is encouraging,” Dordulian said.
DLG’s Chicago-based Of counsel, Martin Gould, also expressed support for the proposed legislation.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been proud to represent clients from the Midwest who are impacted by both individual predators and institutions such as the Boy Scouts of America and Catholic Church. This is the type of legislation that is critical in helping survivors obtain the justice they deserve. I trust it will pass unanimously, and look forward to seeing other states throughout the nation adopt similar revival windows,” Gould said.
Following the investigations into Dr. Robert Anderson’s decades of abuse at the University of Michigan (for which a $490 million settlement was reached earlier this year), House Bill 4306 was re-introduced in the Michigan Legislature in 2021. This statute of limitations reform bill would create a new one-year window for physician sex abuse of minors and adults and remove the one-year notice of claim requirement for suits against the government. It would be similar to the 90-day window previously allowed by state law for Michigan State’s Nassar survivors. When that happens (and we at Dordulian Law Group are confident it will), the legislation will provide survivors the opportunity to pursue justice through personal injury civil lawsuits.
The aforementioned House Bill 4307 introduced by State Representative Ryan Berman is an effort to revise the laws in Michigan surrounding governmental liability for negligence. Under HB 4307, government entities couldn’t use an immunity defense if they knew or should have known that an individual committed a prior act of criminal sexual conduct. They would lose immunity if they didn’t intervene to prevent any further sexual misconduct. Again, this is a Michigan bill that the team at DLG expects will eventually become law.
However, if you are a Michigan sexual assault or abuse survivor, you don’t have to wait for any of the above proposed laws to officially take effect before filing your claim with an experienced, proven, and dedicated sex crime lawyer from DLG.
By contacting DLG’s Sex Crimes Division, we can begin the process of obtaining justice for your Michigan sexual abuse claim now – including conducting our own investigation and preparing your claim so that when the new legislation does take effect, your opportunity at justice will be expedited.
The two most notorious sexual abuse scandals which have impacted Michigan residents include the crimes committed by Larry Nassar and Robert Anderson.
Anderson was a former University of Michigan sports doctor who worked with thousands of student-athletes between 1966 and 2003. He died in 2008, and a 2021 independent report commissioned by the university concluded that he had sexually abused student patients on “countless occasions.” The report estimated that approximately 90% of the survivors were men.
The university stated that more than 1,050 people will be included in the recent $490 million settlement, which was reached in January of this year through mediation following more than 15 months of negotiations. The allegations against Anderson date back to the 1960s, according to a report from the BBC.
In December 2021, Larry Nassar survivors reached a $380 million settlement with U.S.A, Gymnastics (USAG), the U.S. Paralympic Committee (USOPC), and their respective insurers. Nassar was sentenced to over 300 years in prison in 2018 after hundreds of women came forward to report instances of sexual abuse occurring over the course of three decades.
The historic settlement marked the conclusion to a five-year legal battle between survivors and U.S.A. Gymnastics. As part of the settlement, both USAG and the USOPC must implement reforms aimed at preventing future abuse.
Although such historic settlements may seem like justice to an outside observer, as DLG’s founder and former sex crimes prosecutor, Sam Dordulian, noted after the Nassar verdict, even a historic multi-million dollar figure may not offer true healing for many survivors.
“Although the Nassar settlement is historic in its overall amount, it should be viewed in appropriate context given the number of claims and the extent of the abuse. It is absolutely an important victory for the survivors – one that will help ensure they get the resources and care needed now and into the future. But these were young women and girls who were victimized, and the healing process will be lifelong,” Dordulian said.
Led by former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian, DLG offers survivors of sexual assault and abuse an unparalleled level of experience as well as proven results which provide peace of mind knowing that your claim is in the best possible hands. As a sex crimes prosecutor, Dordulian helped obtain life sentences against some of the community’s most dangerous sexual predators. With more than 100 jury trial victories, Dordulian offers Dr. Michigan-area sexual abuse survivors the knowledge, dedication, and skill that’s required to ensure a maximum financial damages award is recovered.
Whether you live in Michigan or around the country, DLG’s Sex Crimes Division can begin handling your sexual assault or abuse claim today. Our experienced team includes Chicago-based Of Counsel, Martin Gould, as well as in-house Chief Investigator – retired LAPD sex crimes detective, Moses Castillo. Our team has a national footprint, investigating and representing survivors of sexual abuse in some of the most high-profile cases across the country.
Whether it’s the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, or an educational institution like the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, or Eastern Michigan University, DLG has vast experience successfully taking on major institutions in sexual abuse cases under California AB 218 (legislation similar to what is being proposed in Michigan and offers survivors of childhood sexual abuse a newfound opportunity at justice). With our experience and past success, we’re ready to help survivors in the state of Michigan secure the financial compensation they deserve through aggressive civil litigation.
At DLG, we’ve helped clients recover more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts, maintaining a 98% success record in the process.
Some of our recent sexual assault civil lawsuit victories include:
For a free and confidential consultation regarding your Michigan sexual assault or abuse civil claim, contact a member of DLG’s SAJE Team today at 818-322-4056. We’re dedicated to fighting as your legal advocates and ensuring you obtain the justice you deserve through a maximum financial damages award.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.