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August 3rd, 2015

Georgia Opens 2 Year Window Survivors of Child Sex Abuse May File Civil Lawsuits Against Perpetrators

Earlier this year, Georgia’s legislature passed a law aimed at helping survivors of child sex abuse proceed with civil lawsuits. The Hidden Predator Act was signed by Georgia’s governor in May 2015. It is one of the most expansive child sex abuse statute of limitations laws in the United States. Not only does the Act broaden the statute of limitations for all survivors of child sexual abuse, the law opens a special window for those whose cases were previously time-barred.

Related: Pennsylvania Child Molestation-Abuse Lawsuits: What is the Statute of Limitations?

Civil Window for Survivors Whose Cases Were Too Old

Effective July 1, 2015, survivors of child sexual assault and abuse whose cases were previously time barred by the statute of limitations now have a special 2 year window or revival period. Section 2 (d)(1) provides:

For a period of two years following July 1, 2015, plaintiffs of any age who were time barred from filing a civil action for injuries resulting from childhood sexual abuse due to the expiration of the statute of limitations in effect on June 30, 2015, shall be permitted to file such actions against the individual alleged to have committed such abuse before July 1, 2017, thereby reviving those civil actions which had lapsed or technically expired under the law in effect on June 30, 2015.

Under this section, individuals who experienced child molestation, sex abuse or assault and whose cases were time barred can now file a civil lawsuit for child molestation, abuse or assault in Georgia. There is a limit though—the case must be filed by July1, 2017. Here are some examples of this civil window in play:

  • an individual sexually abused by a teacher in 1990 at age 12 may use this law to file a civil lawsuit,
  • an individual sexually assaulted by a priest or clergy member in 2000 at age 15 may use this law to file a civil lawsuit,
  • an individual molested by a medical professional in 1985 at age 10 may use this law to file a civil lawsuit.

Extension of the Statute of Limitations for Civil Child Sex Abuse/Assault Lawsuits

In addition to the civil window, the Hidden Predator Act broadens the statute of limitations for child molestation lawsuits. Prior to the amendment, survivors only had until their 23rd birthday to file suit; that’s a mere 5 years after turning 18. The amended law gives a child sex abuse/assault survivor an option: either the 23rd birthday deadline applies, or the individual has2 years from the date they knew or had reason to know about the abuse and that it resulted in injury, as established by medical or psychological evidence. Section (b)(2)(a) provides:

Notwithstanding Code Section 9-3-33, any civil action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse committed on or after July 1, 2015, shall be commenced:

(i) On or before the date the plaintiff attains the age of 23 years; or

(ii) Within two years from the date that the plaintiff knew or had reason to know of such abuse and that such abuse resulted in injury to the plaintiff as established by competent medical or psychological evidence.

Basically, this section creates a breathable, flexible statute of limitations period for survivors of child molestation. If you were abused as a child, you have two years from the date you knew or should have known that you were injured by the abuse, and that knowledge must be established by credible medical/psychological evidence.

This recent law marks a slow but growing trend across the U.S. Unfortunately, only a few states have acted. Legislatures in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have considered but failed to pass a civil window. Now is the time for Pennsylvania and New Jersey legislators to act.

More: Punitive Damages in Pennsylvania Sex Abuse-Assault Lawsuits

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