New Law Would Re-Open Statute of Limitations for Assault Victims

On April 27, 2023, a bipartisan team of Michigan legislators announced plans to reintroduce a package of bills to overhaul sexual assault statute of limitations, enact a “Survivor Bill of Rights,” and dismantle other laws that protect abusers and their enablers.

Currently, an adult survivor of sexual assault must file a civil lawsuit within 2 years of the assault. A minor who is the victim of sexual assault has 3 years to file a civil suit, or until they reach the age of 28, whichever time period is longer.  But for many adult survivors, it can take years to confront the trauma before talking to a lawyer or even thinking about coming forward. 

The proposed law would close the loophole by allowing any survivor (minor or adult) to pursue a civil case until they are 52 years of age. In cases where there is a criminal conviction for sexual assault, the new law would eliminate the civil statute of limitations entirely. Importantly, the package opens a “two-year lookback window” for any person to file a civil claim against an institution or person – regardless of the passage of time since the sexual assault.

Another important component of the proposed law changes is eliminating governmental immunity for universities and other government agencies if the institution or its employees knew or should have known about the sexual abuse but failed to prevent it. Currently, governmental immunity prevents state actors from being sued for reasons related to sexual assault.

The infamous settlement between Michigan State University and survivors who were assaulted by the disgraced doctor Larry Nassar could only move forward because lawmakers passed an extremely narrow, case-specific statute. The 2018 law opened a 90-day window for survivors to file suit if they have been assaulted by a doctor working for a public university or public entity. MSU settled for $500 million with the approximately 500 survivors – most of whom had been assaulted as children by Nassar. While providing justice to a small subset of survivors, the law did nothing to assist the vast majority of sexual assault survivors seeking accountability and justice in the state.

State Representative Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.) led the announcement and expected for the bills to be introduced on the House floor within two months.

Do not wait to connect with an experienced law firm if you or someone you know has survived a sexual assault, even if the statute of limitations has passed. Survivors looking for justice and accountability should contact a Michigan attorney today to discuss their options.

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