Counties Urge Caution on Alterations to Sexual Abuse Civil Actions

On February 23, 2023, Associate Policy Director Sarah Sample submitted a Letter of Information to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee for SB 686 – Civil Actions – Child Sexual Abuse – Definition, Damages, and Statute of Limitations (The Child Victims Act of 2023). A Letter of Information allows a stakeholder to submit comments or perspective on a proposed bill without taking a formal position on its passage.

The House Judiciary Committee will consider the bill’s (non-identical) cross-file, HB 1, on March 2.

SB 686 expands the legal definition of “sexual abuse,” extends the current statute of limitations for filing qualifying lawsuits, and also extends the current statute of repose. Counties take no position on the central goals and merits of this legislation, but urge the General Assembly to consider the implications for local government. There is potential for coverage costs to increase, if the number of claims against county employees also increases due to the bill’s provisions. Moreover, SB 686 appears to eliminate the notice provisions of the Local Government Tort Claims Act for cases of child sexual abuse. This would have the prospective effect of depriving local governments of the opportunity to conduct a timely investigation into any cases under these laws.

From the MACo Testimony:

Counties believe measures should be taken to ensure that victims of child sexual abuse can seek the justice their circumstances deserve. The bill expands the opportunity for victims to do so and also increases the potential for counties to incur increased cost and liability. Counties are appreciative of the goal of this legislation and are more than willing to work with stakeholders to further the intent while maintaining effective governmental operations and budgetary obligations.

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