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News / Northwest

Washington moves to end child sex abuse lawsuit time limits

The Columbian
Published: March 27, 2023, 7:21pm

OLYMPIA — People who were sexually abused as children in Washington may soon be able to bring lawsuits against the state, schools or other institutions for failing to stop the abuse, no matter when it happened.

House Bill 1618 would remove time limits that have stymied lawsuits by some people who frequently do not fully confront childhood trauma until years later, The Seattle Times reported.

The bill has passed the state House on an 82-14 vote and cleared a Senate committee last week.

Washington’s current statute of limitations requires victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits within three years of when the abuse occurred, or three years from when they discovered harms it caused, such as depression, addiction or suicide.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Darya Farivar, D-Seattle, told the newspaper she’s heard story after story of survivors trying to access the justice system to hold people accountable, to be able to move on with their lives, and they can’t do that.

“This is a really meaningful way to address that,” Farivar said.

At a March 21 public hearing, supporters of the bill — including survivors, experts and plaintiff attorneys — urged lawmakers to remove the time barrier.

The move to end the civil statute of limitations follows the Legislature’s action in 2019 to eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions of child sex abuse.

While HB 1618 received overwhelming support in public testimony, some warned it could unleash a costly barrage of lawsuits.