February 22, 2016
The Tennessee legislature is now considering a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits against persons who commit sexual crimes against a child. Currently, victims of child sexual abuse only have one year from the date the cause of action accrued to file a civil claim. This is among the shortest statutes of limtation in the country for sexual abuse cases.
The bill (HB 2593/ SB 2484), as proposed by Representative Daren Jernigan, would extend the statute of limitations for civil actions against the accused child rapist or person who committed sexual crimes against a child to three years from the date of discovery of the abuse by the victim. Under this bill, the knowledge of a parent or guardian will not be imputed to a minor. This bill also creates a statute of repose whereby in no event may an action under this bill be brought against the alleged perpetrator of the child sexual abuse or against the estate of such alleged perpetrator after the perpetrator’s death later than 25 years from the date the child becomes 18 years of age. If the action is brought more than one year from the date the injured person attains the age of majority, the injured person must offer admissible and credible evidence corroborating the claim of abuse by the alleged perpetrator.
HB 2593 / SB2484 states:
Statutes of Limitations and Repose – As introduced, extends the statute of limitations for civil actions based on injury or illness resulting from child sexual abuse that occurred when the person was a minor but was not discovered until after the person became an adult to three years from the discovery of the abuse. – Amends TCA Title 28, Chapter 3, Part 1.
The policy reasons underlying an extension of the statute of limitations are plentiful and far too many for a single blog. But plain and simple it is exceptionally difficult for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to process what occurred and file a lawsuit in the short amount of time required by the statute of limitations in most states. For a child, sexual abuse is often confusing, embarrassing, private, and hurtful to disclose, particularly if the perpetrator was in a position of trust or authority. In some other cases, the trauma of the abuse causes the child to entirely repress his or her memory of the abuse. Given these multitude of factors, it is often not until late in life that survivors are able to process their abuse, disclose what occurred, and “connect the dots” between their childhood abuse and the horrific injuries that ensued. As such, the current statute of limitations in Tennessee favors perpetrators and their enablers to the detriment of the abuse survivors. For these reasons and many others, legislation such as the one being considered in Tennessee is necessary to (1) protect the right of survivors of the most heinous acts of abuse; and (2) expose the predators and hold them accountable.
Our attorneys are experienced in representing survivors of child sexual abuse in civil lawsuits filed in Tennessee. If you or someone you know was a victim of child sexual abuse in Tennessee please contact our law firm at (954) 524-2820 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected].