The new law offers survivors more time to file a lawsuit in civil court. HB 2466 extended the time limit to file civil lawsuits against abusers and opened a legal “look back window.”
During the “look back” window, any child sexual abuse survivor may file a civil lawsuit against their abuser, regardless of how much time has passed since the incident.
The Arizona “look back” window is set to close on December 31, 2020.
Arizona HB 2466
Arizona lawmakers passed HB 2466 in May 2019. Lawmakers designed HB 2466 to expand the rights of child sexual abuse survivors. There are two ways in which the bill supports this objective.
- HB 2466 expanded the statute of limitations for claims of child sexual abuse. Before the bill passed, Arizona sex abuse victims had to file a civil claim before they reached 20 years of age. Otherwise, victims would lose their legal right to sue their abuser. Under HB 2466, plaintiffs now have until the age of 30 to file a civil claim.
- HB 2466 broadens the range of those whom plaintiffs can sue. Survivors now have the right to sue institutions that knew or had notice about the abuse.
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs vary based on the jurisdiction, the crime and the intended legal action (criminal charges versus a civil claim).
Arizona Child Sexual Abuse “Look Back” Window
Arizona lawmakers implemented a “look back” window to extend the legal rights of survivors with expired cases. The retroactive window revives all expired cases. Thus, any survivor of child sexual abuse in Arizona can file a civil lawsuit until the window closes on December 31, 2020.
Several other states across the country have utilized a similar measure in recent child sexual abuse legislation.
Before the bill was passed, the “look back” window was debated heavily by Arizona lawmakers. Initially, Arizona Republicans were hesitant to pass the bill with the “look back” window.
Republicans feared the extension of victim rights could lead to false allegations and tarnished reputations and leave innocent people unable to defend themselves from false claims.
However, the Senate was able to reach a compromise on the matter. Several restrictions were put in place to appease the fears of reluctant lawmakers:
- When suing institutions, victims cannot claim punitive damages.
- The burden of proof rests on the plaintiff when accusing institutions of negligence.
- Victims must meet more stringent legal standards than required in most civil matters.
In a civil lawsuit, punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff in addition to other compensation. Punitive damages financially punish the defendant and discourage similar behavior in the future.
“Look Back” Window Deadline Approaches
For more than a year, Arizona child sexual abuse survivors have been able to file cases against the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America (BSA), USA Gymnastics, teachers, school faculty members, and other institutions that have harbored predators.
But, a critical deadline for survivors is fast approaching. Arizona survivors, whose cases would be expired under the new legal deadline, need to consider their options in the next month or so.
Many survivors will lose their opportunity to pursue legal justice come December 31, 2020.
It is vital that survivors act quickly to seek compensation for their physical, financial and emotional losses.
The Associated Press. (2019, May 27). Ducey signs bill increasing amount of time childhood sex assault victims can sue alleged attackers. ABC 15 Arizona.
Office of the Governor Doug Ducey (2019, May 28). Arizona Strengthens Protections For Victims Of Child Sexual Abuse.
Victims’ rights, HB 2466, Chapter 259 (Arizona 2019).
(2019, May 28). The Latest: Lawmakers pass $11.8 billion Arizona budget. The Associated Press.