On Friday September 16, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sexual Abuse Victims Act, which eliminates the statute of limitations (SOL) for civil personal injury claims arising from acts in violation of certain federal laws. While the legislation increases access to civil justice for some survivors of child sexual abuse, the act does not allow all survivors to file claims. While each survivor’s case is unique and would need to be determined on a case-by-case basis, we answer some common questions about the law below:
*The information provided here is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice. The information provided here is for informational purposes only and may not include the most up to date information. This information should not be understood as informing whether you have a claim. There may be a statute of limitations that applies to your claim(s). If so, your claim(s) may be lost or waived if you do not file suit before the expiration of that statute of limitations. CEASE has not advised you as to whether any statute of limitations applies to your case. Please consult with independent legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice or counsel related to your situation.
1. How does the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sexual Abuse Victims Act change what federal law said before?
Federal civil law previously set a statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases of either ten years after the discovery of the abuse or injury, or until a victim turns 28 years old, but no later than the age of 28.
The Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act removes this statute of limitations for cases that have not yet been brought and had not previously been barred by the passing of the statute of limitations. This Act does not apply retroactively meaning it does not revive claims that couldn’t be brought when the Act was signed.
For example, if a survivor was 26 years old on September 15, 2022 and it had not yet been 10 years since they realized that the abuse they suffered caused their physical and psychological injuries, there would no longer be a statute of limitations for their claim and they could file at any time. If, however, a survivor was 29 years old on September 15, 2022 and their claim had already been barred as of their 28th birthday under the old law, then the new law would not allow them to file a claim.
2. What is a Statute of Limitations (SOL)?
A Statute of Limitations is the amount of time someone has to file a legal claim or lawsuit. For example, if a law states that someone has 2 years after they are hit by a car to file a lawsuit against the driver, and you were hit by a car on February 1, 2019, then you would have until January 31, 2021 to file the lawsuit. Once the statute of limitations runs, you may no longer be able to file the lawsuit, unless you meet criteria for an extension of time under state or federal laws.
3. Does the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sexual Abuse Victims Act eliminate the SOL for all civil claims for child sexual abuse?
No. Only civil claims arising from violations of certain federal laws listed in the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sexual Abuse Victims Act may be brought under the law. Also, claims that had already been barred under the previous SOL may not be brought under the new SOL.
4. Is the SOL now eliminated for state civil claims for child sexual abuse?
No. The Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sexual Abuse Victims Act only applies to claims arising from violation of certain federal laws. This means that if you have a claim of child sexual abuse based on state law, then the state SOL would apply, not the federal SOL under the new Act.
5. What does it mean that the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act is not retroactive?
At present, the new law is only prospective. This means that the Act only applies to claims which are not yet barred by the statute of limitations as of September 15, 2022, or which have not yet occurred. It does not revive claims which have already expired as of September 15, 2022.
6. The Act includes a long list of statutes, but doesn’t explain what each one means. What types of claims are included?
The federal claims included in the Act are Forced labor; Trafficking with respect to peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor; Sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion; Aggravated sexual abuse; Sexual Abuse; Sexual abuse of a minor, a ward, or an individual in Federal custody; Sexual Exploitation of Children; Selling or buying of children; Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors; Certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography; Production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation into the United States; Transportation generally; Coercion and enticement; and Transportation of minors.
For a summary of each statute listed within the Act, see the chart below.
7. What is the difference between a state claim and a federal claim for child sexual abuse?
There are several differences between state claims and federal claims for child sexual abuse, from differences in definitions and types of abuse included to requirements of where the abuse took place. Generally, whether you can bring a state or a federal claim will be determined by where the child sexual abuse occurred, and therefore where jurisdiction exists.
In general, state jurisdiction may exist when the act took place in one state and did not occur on federal land or property. Conversely, federal jurisdiction may exist when the act took place on land that the United States government owns or controls (for example, national parks, Tribal land, federal prisons, military bases, or land owned or controlled by a federal agency) or territories of the United States (for example a boat or airplane owned by the United States or a citizen of the United States). Federal jurisdiction also may exist if people cross state lines or leave the United States to commit or while committing the act. Lastly, federal jurisdiction may exist when interstate or foreign commerce is involved. This means that the act somehow impacted international trade or trade between states (for example: if something is mailed, if a computer is used to access or send something, if something is sent over the internet, or if something is sold across state lines). If you have questions about whether or not your possible claim falls under federal jurisdiction, contact an attorney.
8. I don’t think I have a federal claim for child sexual abuse under the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act, but may under Georgia law as my abuse occurred in Georgia and/or my abuser lives in Georgia. What is Georgia’s SOL for civil state child sexual abuse claims?
Civil claims for child sexual abuse under Georgia law must generally be filed before a survivor turns 23 years of age (by the day before their 23rd birthday). If the abuse occurred on or after July 1, 2015, a survivor may be able to file within 2 years of discovering that the abuse caused their injuries, even if they are over the age of 23. The claim would also have to meet other statutory and jurisdictional requirements under Georgia law. If you have questions about whether or not you have a state civil claim for child sexual abuse in Georgia, contact an attorney.
9. How do I know if I can file a civil claim for child sexual abuse?
You can file a civil claim where you meet the statutory and jurisdictional requirements for child sexual abuse claims. These requirements are contained within state and federal law.
If you have questions about whether you may have a civil claim for child sexual abuse or exploitation under the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act or Georgia law, you can contact the CEASE Clinic at 706-227-5421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contacting the CEASE Clinic does not create an attorney-client relationship between CEASE, an attorney at CEASE, or the University of Georgia School of Law and the user or browser. There may be a statute of limitations that applies to your claim(s). If so, your claim(s) may be lost or waived if you do not file suit before the expiration of that statute of limitations. CEASE has not advised you as to whether any statute of limitations applies to your case. CEASE has not agreed to assist you and has not agreed to provide you with legal representation or advice with respect to any legal matter. CEASE strives to respond to all inquiries within a reasonable amount of time.