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Bill would remove limit on abuse suits

Monday, Apr 29, 2013

* From the Senate Democrats

Victims of childhood sexual abuse would no longer face legal deadlines regarding how long they have to seek damages from their abusers, under legislation state Sen. Terry Link passed out of the Illinois Senate this week.

“I don’t know how you put an expiration date on being scarred for life,” Link said after his legislation, Senate Bill 1399, was approved 48-4. It now advances to the Illinois House for further consideration.

Current state law imposes a 20-year deadline for a sexual abuse victim to file a lawsuit against the abuser. More specifically, the victim has 20 years from the date that he or she knew of the abuse to go to court.

Link’s plan simply eliminates that deadline so a victim could sue for damages at any time.

The bill is here.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

25 Comments
  1. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 3:21 pm:

    I would love to hear the 4 Senators who voted No explain their votes. What did Bivens, McCarter, Oberweis and Van Pelt have an issue with?


  2. - Anon - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 3:28 pm:

    Isn’t the purpose of the 20 year limitation to preserve the prosecution process because after a long period, witnesses could have a tougher time giving accurate testimony?


  3. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 3:35 pm:

    I think this should be narrowed.

    Lengthen the timeline for specific situations that call for a longer timeline.


  4. - Sonic Infidel - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 3:36 pm:

    I think this is probably the right way to go, but it would probably be a lot more meaningful to eliminate the statute of limitations on criminal charges for child sexual abuse. Currently, charges can be filed for 20 years after the victim’s 18th birthday.


  5. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 3:37 pm:

    Does the extended statutes of limitations also apply to employers who may be responsible for not supervising their employees? Otherwise, those employers would be put in a situation where they couldn’t possibly defend themselves against a charge due to the passage of time.


  6. - Adam Smith - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 3:41 pm:

    Typical legislation written for simplistic self-congratulatory purposes.

    The legal problems that will arise from this are limitless. The real purpose is to continue to make plaintiffs’ lawyers richer when they pursue easy settlements because defendants can’t defend against claims made against dead people.

    In specific, a small group of trial lawyers who make a career of suing the Catholic Church in particular, can now bombard the Church with lawsuits against dead priests in the hope that lawyers will recommend quiet settlements rather than trying to defend a case from 60 years ago.

    And what about the victim’s children? Can they sue the Church in 100 years because their dad was abused and it made him into a monster? Use your imagination, because the trial lawyers sure will.

    We like to pride ourselves on fairness in our legal system, whether it is a terrorist bomber caught on film leaving an explosive at the Boston Marathon, or a long-dead priest who may or may not have committed a heinous act, there are fundamental legal principles that need to apply if we hope to preserve a functioning legal system.

    Not surprising that Link would eagerly do the bidding of the trial lawyers.


  7. - reformer - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 3:49 pm:

    Has no one heard of the recovered memory phenomenon? Under treatment or hypnosis, patients suddenly “remember” abuse they supposedly had repressed all these years.

    During the early 1990s a school official in my district was confronted by a woman and her psychologist claiming she recently remembered he had raped her in the school gym more than a decade before. There had never been accusations or suspicions about this accused before, so the school board didn’t take it seriously. I wonder how supporters of the Link bill would appreciate being sued for a horrendous crime they supposedly committed a quarter century ago? Even if no liability were found, how do you clear your name after going to court on this charge?


  8. - so... - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 3:49 pm:

    Statutes of limitations are there for a reason. Over time evidence gets lost, memories get hazy, people die. The older the alleged offense is, the harder it can be for a defendant to defend himself.

    If you have a claim, you are supposed to pursue it with diligence.

    Granted, sexual abuse is accompanied by profound feelings of shame and embarrassment that can take years to overcome, but a 20 year window is already a very long window for pursue a claim.


  9. - HenryVK - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:03 pm:

    “What did Bivens, McCarter, Oberweis and Van Pelt have an issue with”?

    The first three I suspect opposed it because they oppose the plaintiffs’ bar. The fourth is more interesting.

    She’s made something of a career of standing up for the bad guys. When she ran for mayor, she wanted to bar employers from asking if applicants had felony convictions. She made the news last week because she wants to give tax incentives to companies to hire former felons.

    She sure seems to be intent on being the elected official who puts the interests of felons ahead of the interests of the rest of us.


  10. - shore - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:08 pm:

    I would extend to 30 years and leave it there. You make it indefinite, what are you doing, suing an 88 year old man in a nursing home? I feel like 5 year olds are the youngest people to know if someone was abusing them and by 35 you should be old enough to come to terms with whether or not you want to want to take further action.

    It’s nice to see senator link can do things other than gambling legislation. If only we could discover whether lou lang does anything other than legislation on pot and gambling.


  11. - Wensicia - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:09 pm:

    I think it’s fair because it wasn’t until recently that many of the formerly abused could expect justice in many cases. This could be why some have stayed silent for so long.


  12. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:09 pm:

    “The older the alleged offense is, the harder it can be for a defendant to defend himself.”

    Inverse is also true - the older a case, the harder to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

    P.S. - Lawyers are not making a living off of suing the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church is some innocent victim here. A small number of lawyers may be making good money off this, but the criminal activity of various “employees” of the Church along with its leadership that engaged in a deliberate cover-up both many years past along with more recent criminal activity, brought this upon themselves.


  13. - titan - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:13 pm:

    I’m one of the more “throw the book at them” and “let them rot in prison forever (before rotting in hell forever)” sorts regarding molesters and rapists.

    But statutes of limitation serve a significant practical purpose - and a 20 years after one turns 18 (which in these cases could run out 30 or more years) seems to be long enough. It is already one of the longer S/L’s out there.

    Companies/agencies would be burdened with longer record retention needs (which would cost everyone) and at such long lengths of time, witnesses die, memories fade , etc. - all of which make sucessful prosecution (and proper defeense for those innocent people falsely accused) all the more challenging.

    If a person isn’t inclined to pursue by the time they are 38 years old (for childhood wrongs), then that seems to be long enough.


  14. - Adam Smith - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:16 pm:

    Anonymous and others-

    Dust off your law degrees. This pertains to civil damages, not criminal cases. Civil cases do not require “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    And, just like the asbestos plaintiff lawyers (see daytime tv), lawyers sue (arch)dioceses because they have set aside assets to settle claims and they want to get the cash before it runs out. So they throw claims with very tenuous evidence in the hopes that they can get a settlement without going to court because the bishops want to keep out of the courtroom.

    This does not excuse the abhorrent behavior of some priests, nor does it relieve the Church of the responsibility to compensate and provide for those who suffered, but if we know anything here in Illinois, it is that any tragedy can be compounded by lawyers salivating for a payday.


  15. - so... - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:18 pm:

    ==“The older the alleged offense is, the harder it can be for a defendant to defend himself.”

    Inverse is also true - the older a case, the harder to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

    P.S. - Lawyers are not making a living off of suing the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church is some innocent victim here. A small number of lawyers may be making good money off this, but the criminal activity of various “employees” of the Church along with its leadership that engaged in a deliberate cover-up both many years past along with more recent criminal activity, brought this upon themselves. ==

    The standard in civil cases is not “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”. It is “proof based on the preponderance of evidence”. It is a much lower standard. That’s why OJ was acquitted on the criminal charges, but Ron Goldman sold his Heisman trophy.


  16. - so... - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:19 pm:

    Sorry, Fred Goldman


  17. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:34 pm:

    @Henry:

    Thanks for the insight.


  18. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:39 pm:

    take “beyond a reasonable doubt” out, and my statement still stands - harder to prove with a preponderance on old cases. And, no, the Catholic Church has not universally put aside money to pay claims, only some Diocese have done so (not sure about Chicago).

    So, are you suggesting the victims of the Catholic Churches employees’ abuses of kids and the subsequent cover up should be represented by the next available DUI lawyer hanging outside the DUI call courtrooms at Markham? The Catholic Church and the Priests / Abusers / Enablers who covered it up should pay dearly from their criminal behavior and civil liability, and if a few lawyers make a lot of money because of that, so be it.


  19. - so... - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 4:49 pm:

    ==take “beyond a reasonable doubt” out, and my statement still stands - harder to prove with a preponderance on old cases. And, no, the Catholic Church has not universally put aside money to pay claims, only some Diocese have done so (not sure about Chicago).

    So, are you suggesting the victims of the Catholic Churches employees’ abuses of kids and the subsequent cover up should be represented by the next available DUI lawyer hanging outside the DUI call courtrooms at Markham? The Catholic Church and the Priests / Abusers / Enablers who covered it up should pay dearly from their criminal behavior and civil liability, and if a few lawyers make a lot of money because of that, so be it. ==

    I agree that people who perpetrate sexual abuse or cover it up should pay and pay dearly.

    But I also think people who commit tax fraud should go to jail. But if the government waits too long then they can’t bring the charges. The sames goes for armed robbery, assault, even rape. Traditionally the only offense where there is not some sort of time limit is murder.

    As I said before, statutes of limitations are there for a reason and they serve an important purpose. Abolishing them isn’t something we should do lightly.


  20. - Ivory-billed Woodpecker - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 5:00 pm:

    Twenty years past the age of 18 is a long statute of limitations. Maybe it should be longer; but not much. Pouncing with an incendiary claim against a person who cannot defend himself because of the years could be extraordinarily unfair. It would be helpful to know what facts might have been the trigger for the bill.

    Also, I am pretty sure that extending a statute of limitations after it already has run to completion is unconstitutional. The bill seems to recognize this reality: “. . . would not have been time barred under any statute of limitations or statute of repose prior to the effective date of this amendatory Act.” So whatever else this is about, it is not trial lawyers’ trying to revive claims of people now older than 38.


  21. - Amalia - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 7:27 pm:

    I want to throw the book at those who abuse children. even if the book was taken out many years ago.

    but the blame for frivolous lawsuits is more than the fault of the plaintiff’s trial bar. talk for a while with your average citizen and the culture of Ubi Est Mea is alive and well in the non lawyer crowd.

    after all, they make the call to a lawyer in most cases. if they don’t have a client, they can’t make a case. certainly there are bad lawyers, but watch tv the next time a CTA bus crashes and before the lawyers get there, people are vying for the next Oscars. it’s pitiful that they think it’s a way to cash in.


  22. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 9:00 pm:

    =Inverse is also true - the older a case, the harder to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.=

    Are these civil or criminal cases? I believe the standards of proof are different.


  23. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 9:01 pm:

    There you go. Thanks, Adam Smith.


  24. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 9:13 pm:

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone have any numbers re: cases dismissed because they were filed late? Or an idea as to how many more might have been filed if time hadn’t run out?

    Wondering only because I hadn’t heard or read anything regarding a need.


  25. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 29, 13 @ 9:21 pm:

    =It would be helpful to know what facts might have been the trigger for the bill…. So whatever else this is about, it is not trial lawyers’ trying to revive claims of people now older than 38.”

    Exactly. I’m curious, too.


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