Sexual Assault & California Law

California made several important statue of limitation changes in regards to sexual assault this year.

On January 1, 2019, California law AB1619 went into effect. This new law extended the timeframe for adult victims of sexual assault. Before this law, adult victims of sexual assault had a two-year statue of limitations to file a civil lawsuit. This limitation meant filing had to occur within two years from either the assault itself or the reasonable discovery of injury caused by the assault. With this law in place, adult victims now have:

  • Ten years to file a lawsuit from the date of the last sexual assault act or attempted act or
  • Within three years of reasonable discovery that an injury resulted from the act

Then in October, 2019, Assembly Bill 218 passed which further extended the timeframe to report abuse and file a lawsuit. The changes this new law has made on the statute of limitations include:

  • Expanding the definition of childhood sexual abuse to include ALL instances of childhood sexual assault so that those victims of past abuse who had claims that expired due to the statute of limitations now have a three-year window to pursue reparations. 
  • Creating a three-year window in which ALL claims of sexual assault can be brought in. 
  • Expanding the deadline for filing childhood sexual abuse and assault case from 26 years of age to 40 and from three years to five years of when the survivor should discover or reasonably should have discovered that they suffered damages.
  • Allowing survivors to recover up to treble (or triple) damages in situations where there was an attempt to cover up their assault. 

At Booth Law we specialize in institutional abuse and thus generally take on cases in which perpetrators take advantage of a lax or negligent institution in order to inflict abuse on trusting children. But while children are most often the victims of institutional abuse, there are adult outliers. Recently, we won a $1.3 million settlement on behalf of a confidential client who was molested by a hospital employee while she was in their care and incapacitated by a brain injury. Thanks to this new law, we can take on similar cases in which compromised adults were betrayed by the institutions they trusted and assaulted or otherwise neglected on account of it. 

The second big change made this year happened in October with the passing of AB218 which will go into effect on January 1, 2020. Where the previous law focused on making changes to the statute of limitations as it pertained to sexual assault victims who were pass the age of majority at the time of their assault, this latest law pertains to children and to victims who were children at the time of their assault. Once this law goes into effect, it will offer:

  • An expansion of the legal definition of childhood sexual abuse to include all instances of childhood sexual assault. This aspect of the law change is important because it allows all victims to take advantage of the following law change:
  • A new and unique three-year window in which ALL claims of childhood sexual assault can be brought in. This is a one-time only move and it’s important for victims of abuse that happened long ago to take advantage of this window.
  • A change to the statute of limitations for filing from 26 years of age to 40 and from three years of ‘reasonable discovery’ to five years.
  • A change to allow plaintiffs to recover as much as triple damages in situations where it can be shown the defense attempted to cover up the sexual assault.

Both these law changes mean that cases that before were dead in the water because of legal limitations can now be re-examined and potentially brought forward. If you or someone you loved was the victim of a sexual assault or ongoing abuse in which an instiution was involved, then no matter when that abuse happened, we want to hear about it and see if we can’t work to bring a civil case against that instituiton.