Bill would remove statute of limitations for civil suits stemming from sex offenses against minors

Book's bill will serve as a companion measure to legislation filed by state Rep. Michael Gottlieb earlier this year.

A measure from state Sen. Lauren Book would completely remove the statute of limitations for civil suits stemming from sexual abuse of a child.

The bill — like a similar measure approved by New York in early 2019 — would also allow a one-year window for older lawsuits, previously barred by the statute of limitations, to be filed.

“Fear, guilt, confusion and shame often keep victims of child sexual abuse silent for years — and the scars last a lifetime,” Book said in a release on the legislation.

“When these survivors find their voices, they deserve to be heard — whatever the timeline.”

Book’s bill (SB 1184) will serve as a companion measure to legislation filed by state Rep. Michael Gottlieb earlier this year (HB 277). That bill is a revised version of a now-withdrawn measure Gottlieb had filed in September.

But the overall goal is the same: allow victims who suffered from abuse when they were younger than 16 years of age to sue in civil court years or decades after the incident.

Gottlieb’s measure, however, lacks the one-year “look back” window contained in Book’s version.

When New York approved a similar provision, it prompted a barrage of suits against organizations such as the Archdiocese of New York and the Boy Scouts. At least one lawsuit was also filed against the estate of the now-deceased Jeffrey Epstein.

Book, who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, has been an outspoken critic of Epstein’s previous legal case in South Florida. She also pushed for an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into how that sentence was handled. That investigation is ongoing.

New York’s measure also only allows victims to file a civil suit up until the age of 55. The measures from Gottlieb and Book have no such limit. They allow lawsuits by victims “at any time.”

Should the measures be approved, they would take effect on July 1, 2020. And if Book’s one-year “look back” window is included in the final version, that window would be opened from Dec. 31, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2022.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]

One comment

  • Christy

    December 10, 2019 at 11:27 am

    This is a step in the right direction. However, the statute of limitations should be banned all together for child sexual abuse. The victims suffer for a lifetime so the consequence and accountability should be valid for a lifetime. As a survivor, mother of a survivor, and victim advocate who works with victims of child sexual abuse and sexual assault, I know all too well, the devastation caused.

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