New Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations Passes Both House and Senate in Massachusetts

New Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Passes Both House and Senate in MassachusettsThe Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate have passed a bill that will provide more time for sexual abuse survivors to hold their abusers accountable in a civil court of law. The bill is expected to be signed by the Governor.

Under the new law, any child 18 or younger who is abused after the law goes into effect will have up to the age of 53 to file a civil lawsuit against the abuser – or against the abuser’s employer, like a church, school, or other youth-serving organization. The current law only gives victims until age 21 to file a lawsuit, or three years after they realized they were harmed by the abuse. Under the new law, that limited “discovery period” will be extended to seven years.

Under the new Massachusetts law, those who were prevented by the previous statute of limitations from pursuing justice in a civil court will now have until their 53rd birthdays to file a claim against their abusers.

While the bill is good news for many survivors of sexual abuse in Massachusetts, the new deadlines do not all retroactively apply to the institutions or organizations that allowed the sexual predator access to the children or otherwise allowed the abuse to happen. For abuse that happens after the new law goes into effect, victims will have until they are 53 to sue an institution like the Boy Scouts or a coaching organization.

But for abuse that has already happened, only the seven year Massachusetts “delayed discovery” rule will apply retroactively, meaning that people who were abused before the new law must sue any responsible institution by their 21st birthday or within seven years of making the connection between their childhood molestation and adult injuries.

While Massachusetts has made an important step forward by reforming its statute of limitations, these loopholes in the new law will allow institutions to continue to avoid accountability in many sexual abuse cases.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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