SACRAMENTO – Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill that opens a three-year window to allow sexual abuse victims of any age in the state to sue on previously expired claims.
Assembly Bill 218, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), is set to take effect Jan. 1, and California will be joining several states in expanding the statute of limitations for victims. Some groups, however, say the new law could lead to a big bump in civil litigation and the bankruptcy of some small school districts.
“CSBA absolutely supports redress for victims of sexual misconduct that appears on campus. That’s a traumatic experience and absolutely a victim should receive compensation,” said Troy Flint, senior director of communications for the California School Boards Association (CSBA). “Our concern arises from the specific mechanism of this bill and some of the unintended consequences related to that. Specifically, we fear that this law as written presents an existential threat to school districts throughout the state.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) | Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez's website
Flint also noted the potential financial burden that the bill poses to the future of public education.
“We understand that insurers are either going to leave the state or withdraw from participation in this segment of the market, which leaves our members exposed and at risk of bankruptcy,” Flint said. “And so what we would like to see is a law or system that provides redress for victims of yesteryear without imperiling our ability to provide for today’s students and the students in years to come.”
Gonzalez released a statement following Newsom’s signing of the bill:
“The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous. More and more, we’re hearing about people who were victims years ago but were not ready to come forward to tell their story until now," the statement said. "We shouldn’t be telling victims their time is up when in reality we need them to come forward to protect the community from future abuse.”