Star-Adv: Childhood Sex Abuse Window Extended to April 24, 2016

Lawmakers extend window for abuse lawsuits, add liable parties

By Derrick DePledge
Star-Advertiser, Apr 25, 2014

Giving victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to seek justice, state lawmakers agreed Thursday on a bill that would extend a unique window to file lawsuits for another two years and include the state and counties among the potentially liable.

The state had lifted the statute of limitations and had given victims a two-year window which closed Thursday to bring civil claims against their alleged abusers and churches, private organizations and businesses that were grossly negligent.

State House and Senate negotiators agreed to extend that window for an additional two years, until April 24, 2016, after concluding that many victims were not sufficiently aware of the opportunity and deserved more time.

Lawmakers also added the state and counties to the entities that could be held liable for abuse, arguing that it is not fair to shield the state from financial responsibility.

Senate Bill 2687 is scheduled for final votes next week before the session adjourns.

Over the past few weeks, attorneys for victims have filed a flurry of lawsuits, fearing that the window might be closed forever Thursday. The suits include sexual abuse claims against Marc Alexander, a former vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu, and Bryan Singer, director of the “X-Men” films.

Attorneys for both men have denied the allegations.

Victims have brought dozens of lawsuits over the past two years, many against clergy and churches.

“I think it really says that we as a state are trying to allow these victims their day in court,” said Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D, Kalaeloa-Waianae-Makaha).

Lawmakers also agreed Thursday on House Bill 2034, which would lift the statute of limitations entirely on prosecutions for first- and second-degree sexual assault and for the continuous sexual assault of a minor under 14. Lawmakers decided that the sex crimes are so heinous, they should be treated similarly to murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and murder-for-hire, the only other crimes under state law with no statute of limitations.  Continue reading