BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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          Date of Hearing:  June 17, 2014

                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
                                Bob Wieckowski, Chair
                     SB 924 (Beall) - As Amended:  June 11, 2014

           SENATE VOTE :  23-11
           
          SUBJECT  :  Statute of Limitations: childHOOD sexual abuse

           KEY ISSUE  :  IN ORDER TO MORE ADEQUATELY COMPENSATE VICTIMS OF  
          CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE, WHO MAY NOT, FOR YEARS TO COME, FULLY  
          COMPREHEND THEIR ABUSE AND THE DEVASTATING HARM CAUSED BY IT,  
          SHOULD THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE  
          OCCURRING AFTER JANUARY 1, 2015 BE EXTENDED UNTIL THE VICTIM  
          TURNS 40?

                                      SYNOPSIS
          
          California, like many states, has a special, extended civil  
          statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse because of the  
          uniqueness of childhood sexual abuse and the difficulty many  
          victims have in fully understanding the abuse they have  
          suffered, and its devastating, life-long consequences, coming to  
          terms with what has occurred and then coming forward in a timely  
          fashion.  California gives victims up to the age of 26 (8 years  
          after reaching majority age) to bring an action for childhood  
          sexual abuse or within three years of the date the victim  
          discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the victim's  
          psychological injury was caused by the abuse, whichever occurs  
          later.  This bill seeks to better protect victims of childhood  
          sexual abuse by increasing, up to the victim's 40th birthday,  
          the statute of limitations for abuse occurring after January 1,  
          2015.  Like the existing statute of limitations, this measure  
          applies equally to private and public schools and to all local  
          government entities. 

          This measure is supported by, among others, the California  
          Police Chiefs Association, the Santa Clara District Attorney and  
          crime victims organizations, who write that the psychological  
          injuries from sex abuse emerge later in life, well past the age  
          of 26, and that victims routinely need decades to arrive at the  
          psychological place where they can come forward.  If the statute  
          of limitations is too short, then there can be no justice and  
          more children will be abused.  The California Catholic  








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          Conference and the California Council of Nonprofit Organizations  
          oppose the bill arguing that while it applies to public school  
          and other local government entities, as well as private  
          entities, it does not apply to state entities.  These groups  
          also oppose its "unprecedented expansion" of the statute of  
          limitations.

           SUMMARY  :  Extends the statute of limitations for civil actions  
          involving childhood sexual abuse for abuse occurring on or after  
          January 1, 2015.  Specifically,  this bill  :

          1)Provides, for abuse occurring on or after January 1, 2015,  
            that the time for commencing a civil action based on injuries  
            resulting from childhood sexual abuse, as defined, is 22 years  
            after the plaintiff reaches majority (i.e., until 40 years of  
            age) or within three years of the date the plaintiff discovers  
            or reasonably should have discovered that the psychological  
            injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was  
            caused by the abuse, whichever occurs later.

          2)Exempts, from the Government Tort Claims Act, claims under  
            #1), above, against a local public entity.  

           EXISTING LAW  : 

          1)Generally provides that the time for commencing a civil action  
            for damages is within two years of the injury or death caused  
            by the wrongful act or neglect of another.  (Code of Civil  
            Procedure Section 340.  All further references are to this  
            code unless otherwise noted.)

          2)Provides that the time for commencing a civil action based on  
            injuries resulting from childhood sexual abuse, as defined, is  
            eight years after the plaintiff reaches majority (i.e., until  
            26 years of age) or within three years of the date the  
            plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that  
            the psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of  
            majority was caused by the abuse, whichever occurs later.   
            (Section 340.1.)

          3)Allows suit against the perpetrator or specified third  
            parties, but prohibits suit against third parties after the  
            plaintiff's 26th birthday, unless the person or entity knew or  
            had reason to know, or was otherwise on notice, of any  
            unlawful sexual conduct by an employee, volunteer,  








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            representative, or agent, and failed to take reasonable steps,  
            and to implement reasonable safeguards, to avoid acts of  
            unlawful sexual conduct in the future by that person, as  
            specified. (Section 340.1.)

          4)Exempts, from the Government Tort Claims Act, claims for  
            childhood sexual abuse against a local public entity, arising  
            out of conduct occurring on or after January 1, 2009.   
            (Government Code Section 905.)

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  As currently in print this bill is keyed  
          non-fiscal.

           COMMENTS  :  This bill extends, prospectively only, the time for  
          commencing lawsuits concerning childhood sexual abuse.   
          Currently these actions must be brought before the victim turns  
          26 or within three years of the date the victim discovers or  
          reasonably should have discovered that the psychological injury  
          or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by the  
          abuse, whichever occurs later.  Under this bill, these deadlines  
          will still apply for any act of abuse that occurs prior to  
          January 1, 1015.  However, for any act of abuse that occurs on  
          or after January 1, 2015, this bill extends the statute of  
          limitations until the victim turns 40, while maintaining the  
          additional three-year period when the victim discovers or  
          reasonably should have discovered that the psychological injury  
          or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by the  
          abuse.  This proposal applies equally to abuse occurring at  
          public and private schools and applies to all local public  
          entities.

          In support of the bill, the author writes:

               Over the last 27 years the California Legislature has come  
               to have a better understanding of the insidious and latent  
               nature of the injuries suffered by a child who has been  
               sexually abused and the reasons why victims of childhood  
               sexual abuse ("CSA") often wait years before reporting the  
               abuse to law enforcement or otherwise.  California Code of  
               Civil Procedure, Sec. 340.1, a remedial statute intended to  
               provide redress to CSA victims, has been amended no less  
               than five times since its original enactment in 1986,  
               consistent with this evolving knowledge of the latent  
               effects of the original abuse. 









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               SB 924 is a modest proposal that would provide victims of  
               CSA more time than the current age of 26 and 3 years  
               delayed discovery to come forward and report their abuse.  
               This additional time is necessary to allow victims of CSA  
               to seek justice and expose their abusers and the third  
               parties that aided and abetted these heinous acts.

           It Often Takes Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse Years to Come  
          Forward and Face Their Abusers  :  All too often, victims of  
          childhood sexual abuse fail to report their abuse timely or  
          sometimes even fail to report it at all.  The author has  
          provided information to show that while the victims almost  
          always know their abusers, they often fail to come forward  
          timely because of threats of harm, being ashamed, blaming  
          themselves, fear of not being believed, failing to fully  
          appreciate the wrongfulness of the conduct, or suppressing very  
          painful memories.  The author states:

               Numerous studies have documented both the immediate and  
               long term physical and psychological injuries and harm that  
               results from the abuse of a child.  This includes  
               biochemical changes in the brain, anxiety and distress,  
               sleep disorders, pregnancy, hypersexual behavior, low  
               self-esteem, sexual identity issues, a variety of  
               interpersonal relationship problems, lack of trust in  
               authority figures, substance abuse, criminal acting out,  
               under achievement, and more.  Many of these injuries  
               contribute to a lack of awareness of the wrongfulness or  
               the connection between the abuse and the adult onset of  
               psychological injuries.  (Footnotes omitted.)

          Supporters, including the Santa Clara District Attorney and the  
          California Police Chiefs Association, add:

               Well documented medical literature, which has developed  
               since the time the statute of limitations for civil claims  
               was last extended, demonstrates that psychological injuries  
               stemming from sex abuse emerge later in life, well past the  
               age of 26.  Therefore, there is a real medical need to have  
               the statute extended.  Victims routinely need decades to  
               arrive at the psychological place where they can come  
               forward.  Abbreviated statues of limitations mean there  
               will be no justice at all.  Moreover, perpetrators and  
               their enablers remain cloaked in secrecy, which leads to  
               perpetuated cycles of abuse; as the years pass,  








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               perpetrators and enablers remain unidentified, and more and  
               more children fall prey.
           
          Childhood Sexual Abuse Claims Often Have Extended Statutes of  
          Limitation  :  As a result of the uniqueness of childhood sexual  
          abuse and the difficulty younger victims may have fully  
          understanding the abuse, coming to terms with what has occurred,  
          and then coming forward in a timely fashion, many states have  
          special, extended statutes of limitations for childhood sexual  
          abuse.  Six jurisdictions - Alaska, Delaware, Florida,  
          Connecticut, Maine, and Guam - have gone as far as to eliminate  
          the civil statute of limitations with respect to some or all  
          claims based on childhood sexual abuse.  Other states allow for  
          very lengthy discovery periods in adulthood, including Oregon,  
          which permits claims to be filed until the victim is 40 years  
          old or within five years of discovery, and Illinois, which  
          allows a victim to bring suit until 38 or within 20 years of  
          discovery.  

          California law, as amended in 1990, requires that such actions  
          be brought within 8 years of the age of majority (generally up  
          to 26 years old) or within 3 years of the date the plaintiff  
          discovers or reasonably should have discovered that  
          psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of  
          majority was caused by the sexual abuse, whichever period  
          expires later.  (SB 108 (Lockyer), Chap. 1578, Stats. 1990.)   
          The latter condition - within 3 years of making the relevant  
          connection - is called a "delayed discovery" rule.

          This statute of limitations has been amended repeatedly as it  
          applies to third parties.  Prior to 1998, actions against third  
          parties who were the legal cause of the abuse had to be  
          commenced within a year of the plaintiff's 18th birthday.  In  
          1998, the law was amended to allow the same time limits against  
          third parties as against the abuser, provided that the suits  
          were commenced before the plaintiff's 26th birthday.  (AB 1651  
          (Ortiz), Chap. 1032, Stats. 1998.)  In 2002, the law was amended  
          again to allow, among other things, delayed-discovery suits  
          against such third parties after the plaintiff's 26th birthday  
          under limited conditions.  (SB 1779 (Burton), Chap. 149, Stats.  
          2002.)  This bill does not change the unique application of the  
          law with respect to third parties.  It simply extends the  
          statute of limitations against all defendants, including the  
          direct perpetrator.









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           The Legislature Has the Power to Create, Extend and Change  
          Statutes of Limitations as it Deems Appropriate  :  The policy  
          behind statutes of limitations provides that they "are designed  
          to promote justice by preventing surprises through the revival  
          of claims that have been allowed to slumber until evidence has  
          been lost, memories have faded, and witnesses have disappeared.   
          The theory is that even if one has a just claim it is unjust not  
          to put the adversary on notice to defend within the period of  
          limitation and the right to be free of stale claims in time  
          comes to prevail over the right to prosecute them."  (3 Witkin,  
          California Procedure Section 433, 4th Ed.)
           
          Nonetheless, courts have acknowledged that "the need for repose  
          is not so overarching that the Legislature cannot by express  
          legislative provision allow certain actions to be brought at any  
          time, and it has occasionally done so."  (Duty v. Abex Corp  
          (1989) 214 Cal.App.3rd 742, 749, citations omitted.)  The United  
          States Supreme Court has long held that:
           
               Statutes of limitation find their justification in  
               necessity and convenience rather than in logic.  They  
               represent expedients, rather than principles.  . . .  
               They are by definition arbitrary, and their operation  
               does not discriminate against the just and the unjust  
               claim, or the avoidable or unavoidable delay . . . .   
               Their shelter has never been regarded as what now is  
               called a "fundamental right" . . . . [T]he history of  
               pleas of limitation shows them to be good only by  
               legislative grace and to be subject to a relatively  
               large degree of legislative control.  (Chase  
               Securities Corp. v. Donaldson (1945) 325 U.S. 304,  
               314.)

          Thus, the appropriate inquiry is whether the Legislature  
          believes that there are sufficient public policy reasons to  
          extend the statute of limitations, and whether such an extension  
          would maintain the protections afforded by the statute of  
          limitations, that is, balancing the interests of the victims  
          with the defendants' right to defend against the claim.

          The author argues that public policy favors extension of the  
          statute of limitations because of the heinousness of the act and  
          difficulty that victims of childhood sexual abuse have in coming  
          forward timely and believes that the Legislature should,  
          prospectively only, extend that timeframe in order to better  








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          protect victims of this most horrendous abuse.

           Bill Seeks to Address Concerns Raised by the Governor Last Year  :  
           Last year, the Legislature passed the author's AB 131, which  
          would have made prior extension of the statute of limitations  
          against third parties retroactive and, under specified  
          conditions, would have revived for one year certain causes of  
          action that would otherwise be barred solely by the statute of  
          limitations.  That bill applied only to private institutions.   
          While that bill passed the Legislature, it was vetoed by the  
          Governor.  The Governor, in a very lengthy veto message, stated,  
          among other things:

               There comes a time when an individual or organization  
               should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past  
               acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further  
               lawsuits.  With the passage of time, evidence may be lost  
               or disposed of, memories fade and witnesses move away or  
               die. . . .

               In 2008, the Legislature addressed this unfair distinction  
               between victims of public as opposed to private  
               institutions.  Note, however, that the bill enacted, SB  
               640, did not restore equity between these two sets of  
               victims.  Instead of subjecting public/governmental  
               entities to all of the provisions of the 2002 law, the  
               Legislature only allowed victims of public institutions to  
               sue under the new rules prospectively-from 2009 forward-and  
               provided no "one year revival" period. 

               In passing this 2008 law, I can't believe the [L]egislature  
               decided that victims of abuse by a public entity are  
               somehow less deserving than those who suffered abuse by a  
               private entity.  The children assaulted by Jerry Sandusky  
               at Penn State or the teachers at Miramonte Elementary  
               School in Los Angeles are no less worthy because of the  
               nature of the institution they attended.  Rather, I believe  
               that legislators, in good faith, weighed the merits of such  
               claims against the equities of allowing claims to be  
               brought against third parties years after the abuse  
               occurred.  The Legislature concluded that fairness required  
               that certain claims should be allowed, but only going  
               forward. 

               This brings us to the bill now before me, SB 131.  This  








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               bill does not change a victim's ability to sue a  
               perpetrator.  This bill also does not change the  
               significant inequity that exists between private and public  
               entities.  What this bill does do is go back to the only  
               group, i.e. private institutions, that have already been  
               subjected to the unusual "one year revival period" and  
               makes them, and them alone, subject to suit indefinitely.   
               This extraordinary extension of the statute of limitations,  
               which legislators chose not to apply to public  
               institutions, is simply too open-ended and unfair. 

          This bill seeks to address the Governor's concerns in several  
          important ways.  First, this bill applies the extended statute  
          of limitations to all parties, including, particularly, the  
          perpetrator of the abuse.  Second, this applies only to new  
          unlawful acts and does not extend the statute of limitations for  
          abuse that has already occurred.  Thus, all parties are on  
          notice that any new act of childhood sexual abuse is subject to  
          the extra-long statute of limitations.

          Finally, this bill, as recently amended, applies the extension  
          of the statute of limitations to all local public entities.  As  
          the Governor noted in his veto, the Legislature previously  
          exempted, from the Government Tort Claims Act (GTCA), claims for  
          childhood sexual abuse against a local public entity, arising  
          out of conduct occurring on or after January 1, 2009.  This  
          bill, as discussed more thoroughly below, extends that exemption  
          to all acts of childhood sexual abuse occurring on or after  
          January 1, 2015.  Thus, children abused in a public school or a  
          private school will be able to seek the exact same relief.  

           This Measure Now Applies Equally to Public Schools and Other  
          Local Entities, But Not State Entities  :  The California Catholic  
          Conference and the California Council of Nonprofit  
          Organizations, a group that chiefly represents Catholic and  
          other religious organizations, oppose the bill, as they did  
          prior bills to extend the statute of limitations in childhood  
          sexual abuse cases.  They argue that this bill, while applying  
          equally to local government entities including schools, does not  
          yet apply equally to state governmental entities, such as the  
          Department of Mental Health, the Youth Authority and the  
          Department of Social Services.  

          This argument stems from the GTCA, which generally governs  
          damage claims brought against public entities.  The GTCA  








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          requires that a claim relating to a cause of action for death or  
          for injury to a person be presented in writing to the public  
          entity not later than six months after the date upon which the  
          cause of action would be deemed to have accrued within the  
          meaning of the applicable statute of limitations.  In Shirk v.  
          Vista Unified School District (2007) 42 Cal.4th 201, the  
          California Supreme Court held that, notwithstanding the  
          childhood sexual abuse statute of limitations timeframes in CCP  
          Section 340.1 and its delayed discovery provisions, an abuse  
          victim must follow the six-month presentation rule in the GTCA  
          and cannot, without having done so, take advantage of the  
          delayed-discovery rule otherwise applicable to abuse victims.  

          However, the Legislature in 2008 waived, going forward, the  
          local government six-month notice of claim limitation  
          requirement that applies to all other tort claims for victims of  
          child sexual abuse.  (SB 640 (Simitian), Chap. 383, Stats.  
          2008.)  Thus, victims have the same time period to file a claim  
          against local public entities as against private institutions.   
          This bill now extends that GTCA exemption to cases filed under  
          the extended statute of limitations in the bill.  As a result,  
          public schools are included just like private schools in the  
          extended statute.  State government entities, however, are not.   


          In response to the opposition about the exclusion of state  
          entities, the author argues:  

               SB 924 is prospective-only applying to incidents that occur  
               on or after January 1, 2015.  This means the age extension  
               in the bill from age 26 to 40 does apply to local public  
               entities, i.e. public schools.  With the retroactivity  
               removed and public schools included the opposition has  
               shifted their arguments towards state agencies. 

               They provide no evidence of why the 6 month filing period  
               should be waived for state agencies, as they did for public  
               schools.  This is simply a way for the opposition to oppose  
               the bill without having to say they are fundamentally  
               opposed to any extension in CCP 340.1.  

           ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION  :  In addition to concerns about the  
          exemption of state entities, discussed above, the California  
          Catholic Conference and the California Council of Nonprofit  
          Organizations oppose the bill more generally, arguing that its  








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          "unprecedented expansion" of the statute of limitations ignores  
          the Governor's veto message about the need for a cap on the  
          statute of limitations.  Writes the California Catholic  
          Conference:
                                                                              
               Childhood sexual abuse is undeniably a heinous crime, and  
                all  third parties (including state government entities) who  
               bear legal responsibility for the harm done to such victims  
               should be subject to the same potential civil liability.   
               The current limitation period for childhood sexual abuse  
               claims, however, already far exceeds that applicable to  
               other torts, and there is no justification for almost  
               tripling the current limitation period - or for continuing  
               to deny justice to victims abused by employees of state  
               government.  The limitation proposed in this bill carries  
               too great a risk that a future defendant will be denied Due  
               Process by having to defend claims from long ago, after  
               witnesses have died or moved away, and documents are gone.   


           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :

           Support  

          American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy -  
          California Division
          California Coalition Against Sexual Assault
          California Police Chiefs Association
          California Protective Parents Association
          Child Abuse Listening Mediation, Inc.
          Child Abuse Prevention Center
          Consumer Attorneys of California
          Crime Victims United
          Incest Survivors' Speakers Bureau of California
          Restorative Justice International
          Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office
          The Safe Child Coalition
           
            Opposition 
           
          California Association of Joint Powers Authorities
          California Catholic Conference Inc.
          California Council of Nonprofit Organizations

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Leora Gershenzon / JUD. / (916)  








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          319-2334