In its current form, the League of Municipalities must oppose S-477, which would extend the statute of limitations on civil actions for sexual abuse, including claims against public bodies, and expand the categories of people who are potentially liable for such actions.
The League understands and applauds the sponsors’ intent. Sexual abuse of a child is an odious crime that can have repercussions for years. We also agree that the recent investigations have clearly demonstrated the current statute of limitations of two years on all claims is too short a time.
We cannot, however, support S-477, in its current form. If this bill passes, any claim of sexual abuse can be revived and may go forward if commenced within 37 years after a minor reaches the age of majority or on or before the age of 55 or within seven years from the date of reasonable discovery of the injury and its causal relationship. The bill would also allow the court to find that the statute of limitations was tolled which could effectively extend claims in perpetuity. The bill would also strip municipalities of immunity from civil claims for the long past actions of previous employees.
Under this bill, local governments could be faced with the near-impossible task of defending a claim of sexual abuse that may be decades old. Permitting these types of claims against the municipality itself would only punish current taxpayers. This is because neither a mayor, nor an administrator, nor a supervisor in place at the time of the abuse will pay a successful claim against a municipality. Indeed, the current officials do not pay these claims. Municipal residents pay these claims through increased taxes or reduced services.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where we hope for amendments that would allow us to support appropriate changes to the statute of limitations. But for now, we must oppose S-477, in its current form.
Contact: Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481 x121.