BY: Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller | IN: Sexual Assault, Clergy Abuse
Statutes of limitations establish a timeframe in which people harmed by sexual assault, among other wrongdoing, can file a civil lawsuit against their attackers. In the U.S., Michigan has one of the worst and least forgiving statutes of limitations for sexual abuse claims. But that could soon change.
On April 27, 2023, Michigan State Representatives Julie Brixie (D), John Damoose (R), and Kelly Breen (D) introduced the Justice for Survivors Package of bills (House Bills 5962-5964) in Lansing. The proposed legislation would fix Michigan’s broken statute of limitation laws and give all sexual abuse survivors equal access to justice.
If enacted, the new laws would allow Michigan to follow in New York’s and California’s recent footsteps; both states established revival windows for sexual abuse survivors to bring civil claims against their alleged attackers. Without this window in Michigan, such claims would be time-barred.
The draft bills, if passed, would:
Before the limited reforms precipitated by lawsuits against Larry Nassar and Michigan State University, the state’s statute of limitations for sexual assault was just three years. In 2018, the Michigan legislature passed a narrow revival window, giving Nassar sexual abuse survivors exclusively a 90-day window to file their claims if they previously would have been time-barred. This limited window did not apply to any other sexual assault survivors.
Other bills were introduced to eliminate governmental immunity in sexual abuse cases if the government agency was given prior notice of the misconduct and took no action to address it.
One of the largest groups of survivors that may benefit from the new legislation are men, women, and children victimized by clergy sexual abuse as far back as 1950. Only within the last few decades have predator priests been exposed, the result of investigations into the Roman Catholic Church’s efforts to keep their names and misconduct secret.
Survivors of sexual assault often find it difficult to disclose their abuse, if they ever do. Studies show the average age for childhood sexual abuse survivors to come forward is age 52, a fact common to those claiming to have been abused by Dr. Robert Anderson in their lawsuits against the University of Michigan. Sommers Schwartz represented several individuals in that litigation, and the average age of our clients was well over 50 years old.
If you or a loved one survived sexual abuse, including clergy sexual abuse, please contact Sommers Schwartz attorney Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller. Lisa has successfully represented many survivors against some of the largest institutions in Michigan. The consultation is free and completely confidential, and there are no obligations.
View all posts byLisa Esser-Weidenfeller
Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller focuses her practice on medical malpractice, automobile negligence, and general negligence litigation on behalf injured plaintiffs.
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