California Law Opens 3-Year Window for Child Sexual Assault Lawsuits

CA passes 3-year window for child sexual assault claims

California just passed a new law opening a three-year window for child sexual assault lawsuits. Starting January 1, 2020, child sexual assault survivors have three years to sue their abusers or organizations that allowed the abuse. This “lookback window” is part of a new statute of limitations for child abuse.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 218 into law on October 13, 2019. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez sponsored the bill in the 2019 legislative session. The statute will be found at Section 340.1 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. The new law changes the statute of limitations for child sexual assault going forward and provides a three-year “lookback window” for older claims. Two prior attempts to change the law passed the California Assembly only to be vetoed by then-Governor Jerry Brown.

California’s New SOL for Child Sexual Assault

Under this new law, adult survivors of child sexual assault in California may file claims that were barred by prior statutes of limitations. The three-year window will allow these adults to bring claims regardless of their current age. The window opens on January 1, 2020 and will close on December 31, 2022.

Going forward, the new law extends the current statute of limitations for civil claims for child sexual assault from age 26 to age 40. Victims over 40 also may bring claims as long as they file a civil lawsuit within five years of when they make, or should make, the connection between their adult “psychological injury or illness” and their child sexual assault. Many victims of child sexual assault, abuse, or exploitation do not tell anyone about it at the time or even for decades. Extended deadlines like this give survivors the time they need to understand the effect of the abuse and decide what they want to do.

Who can Victims Bring a Claim Against?

AB 218 allows child sexual assault survivors to sue the person who committed the assault, called the perpetrator. Victims may also sue third parties responsible for the assault or abuse. The new law defines these third parties broadly as:

any person or entity who owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, if a wrongful or negligent act by that person or entity was a legal cause of the childhood sexual assault that resulted in the injury to the plaintiff.

This means that victims could bring claims against private schools, churches, sports groups, and other youth serving organizations if they were responsible for the abuse. Victims must prove that the organization “owed a duty of care” to them and did something wrong that led to the abuse.

Many organizations have already faced claims in California for child sexual assault. Survivors have brought claims against the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons), the Seventh-day Adventists, Boy Scouts of America, USA Gymnastics, and many others. When the new window opens in January, other child sexual assault survivors will have an opportunity to come forward with their claims.

The law also allows claims against individuals responsible for the abuse, such as a parent who knew but did not stop another parent. The law excludes claims against public schools and government agencies.

What Claims can a Child Sexual Assault Survivor File?

The new law extends the deadline and opens a window for child sexual assault lawsuits. These are civil lawsuits, not criminal cases – no one will go to prison as the outcome of a civil case brought under the new law. In a civil lawsuit brought under AB 218, a child sexual assault survivor can seek only money damages to compensate for the psychological injuries or illness caused by the child sexual assault.

The law does not limit what types of claims or legal theories a victim might assert. That is, victims may allege negligence, infliction of emotional distress, fraud, or other legal theories, as long as California law supports those theories.

In addition, the new law allows victims to seek penalties against institutions that covered up childhood sexual abuse. In cover up cases, victims may recover treble damages. The law defines cover up as “a concerted effort to hide evidence relating to childhood sexual assault.” Here at Dumas & Vaughn, we have brought fraud and other claims alleging cover up of child sexual abuse against the Boy Scouts, the LDS Church, the Catholic Church, and other organizations for hiding their problems of child sexual assault.

What Should California Survivors Do Now?

If you are a survivor of child sexual assault in California, you now have options for child sexual assault lawsuits that were not open to you before. If you have friends of family who were abused as children, they have options. The window for bringing civil claims will open January 1, 2020.

We can answer your questions about California’s new law and what it means for child sexual assault survivors. Contact us through our confidential contact form or by email at


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

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