How Will the California Assembly Bill 218 Impact Victims of Childhood Sexual Assault
The California legislature has acknowledged the devastating impact and unique injury caused by childhood sexual abuse with the enactment of Assembly Bill 218.
AB 218 was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 13, 2019 and will take effect on January 1, 2020.
Below Natalie Weatherford and Sonya Ostovar of Taylor & Ring, explain how this new bill will impact victims of childhood sexual abuse and it will spearhead change moving forward.
For years, medical professionals, sexual abuse survivors and their families have advocated for an extended statute of limitations in civil childhood sexual abuse cases due to the long delays in disclosure of abuse by survivors. Delayed disclosure is very common and relates to the shame, fear and self-blame that childhood sexual abuse survivors experience following their abuse. Many survivors of childhood abuse do not disclose the abuse to anyone for years and some repress the abuse memories altogether.
Prior to the enactment of AB 218, victims who did not disclose their abuse right away were precluding from pursuing civil lawsuits against their abuser, and the institutions or persons that had a duty to protect them from their abuser. Beginning on January 1, 2020, these victims will have a second chance to bring their claims.
AB 218 provides several, complex changes to the existing requirements for pursuing civil childhood sexual abuse claims, a brief summary of the new law’s most impactful changes is below.
1. Definition of Childhood Sexual Abuse Expanded
The definition of childhood sexual abuse will be expanded to include “childhood sexual assault” which is inclusive of crimes not previously recognized as sexual abuse.
2. Statute of Limitations Extended
The statute of limitation for adult survivors of childhood sexual assault will be lengthened to 22 years after the age of majority, up until the survivor reaches the age of 40, or 5 years after the survivor discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) the psychological injury caused from the childhood sexual assault, whichever date is later.
3. “Notice” Requirements Broadened
The requirements for filing a childhood sexual assault claim pursuant to CCP 340.1 will be broadened by AB 218. A plaintiff over the age of 40 can pursue a civil lawsuit if: “(a) the person or entity knew or had reason to know, or was otherwise on notice, of any misconduct that creates a risk of childhood sexual assault by an employee, volunteer, representative, or agent, or (b) the person or entity failed to take reasonable steps or to implement safeguards to avoid acts of childhood sexual assault.”
4. Exemption from Government Tort Claims Act
Childhood sexual assault survivors will be exempted from the Government Tort Claims presentation requirements for sexual assault claims against public entities made pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1
5. Revival of Previously Barred Claims
Claims for childhood sexual assault will be revived for a period of 3 years after January 1, 2020, where the claim has not been litigated to finality, and would have otherwise been barred as of January 1, 2020 because the applicable statute of limitations, government claims presentation requirement, or any other timeline expired.
6. Treble Damages
And finally, AB 218 allows for recovery of treble damages against defendants who are found to have covered up the sexual assault of a minor.
The accountability created by AB 218 is a meaningful step towards allowing justice to survivors who had been previously barred from confronting their abusers in civil court. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.