In April a new law went into effect in Hawaii that opens a two year window for people who were sexually abused as children to bring civil lawsuits against the perpetrator no matter how long ago it happened. A good summary of how the new law works can be found at website of The Sex Abuse Treatment Center of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu:
Summary of the new law:
Civil actions can be brought against alleged perpetrators in child abuse cases:
- up to 8 years after the child victim or person who committed the act of sexual abuse attains the age of majority (18 years), whichever occurs later; or
- up to 3 years after the date the minor discovers or reasonably should have discovered that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of minor's eighteenth birthday was caused by the sexual abuse, whichever comes later.
- for a period of two years after the effective date of this new law (April 24, 2012) for cases in which a victim of child sexual abuse had been barred from filing a civil claim against the alleged abuser due to the expiration of the applicable civil statute of limitations that was in effect prior to April 24, 2012.
A civil action may also be brought against public or private entities that employed the person accused of committing the abuse if that entity owed a duty of care to the victim.
The New York Times in "More Time for Justice" heralded the new law as removing one of the most difficult realities for children who were victims of sex abuse: the fact that often by the time the victim psychologically strong enough to pursue a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator, the statute of limitations (the time within which a civil lawsuit must be filed) has expired. The New York Times Editorial points to Governor Abercrombie's signature on the new law as a significant national event:
Hawaii significantly strengthened its protections against child sexual abuse last month when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a measure extending the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits filed by child victims. At least as important, it opens a one-time two-year window to allow victims to file suits against their abusers even if the time limit had expired under the old law.
Anyone who feels that they may want to file such a claim should first speak with a psychological counselor or social worker trained in field of child sex abuse. Such consultation is very important and can be done with complete confidentiality. It is important that any victim of this horrific type of assault, be supported by a group of people who understand what is involved in bringing a civil lawsuit. In addition the victim should talk to more than one attorney who handles child sex abuse cases. Speaking with more than one lawyer and evaluating what legal approach and what personality type the victim is most comfortable with in this important and emotionally difficult area. Lawyers who handle these cases will review your case – with complete confidentiality – at no cost to the victim and if you hire one of these lawyers, we all work on contingency fees where the only way the lawyer gets paid is to win the case and collect the money from the perpetrator.
The two year window to file claims began in April 2012 and so if you know someone who thinks that it is too late to file a civil lawsuit and hold the perpetrator accountable, let them know that they have a new opportunity to seek justice.
For those looking for more resources for victims of child sexual abuse, Minnestoa lawyer Mike Brynat has published some useful practical resource lists: Another Helpful Research Website for Sexual Abuse Survivors, September 15, 2012
A resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, Wayne Parson is an Injury Attorney that has dedicate his life to improving the delivery of justice to the people of his community and throughout the United States. He is driven to make sure that the wrongful, careless or negligent behavior that caused his clients' injury or loss does not happen to others.