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Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse in Florida

Earlier in December 2014, many Floridians took notice of a lottery winner in the Orlando area who won the $3 million jackpot from the Florida Lottery. The reason: the winner was convicted in 1999 for attempted sexual battery. His victims also took notice of his win, and have begun proceedings against the man in hopes of receiving damages for pain and suffering as a result of the abuse.

Many believe that this is karmic justice. The man may have won significant amount of money, but now his victims may be able to finally receive damages for the abuse. Even though it has been 15 years since the man was convicted of attempted sexual battery (the defendant pleaded out for sexual battery), the two victims were able to come after the man so many years later due to a recent amendment made by the Florida legislature to the statute of limitations.

What is the Statute of Limitation for Sexual Abuse in Florida?

Generally in Florida, many causes of action must be brought within a four-year statute of limitations period. However, in 2010, the Legislature removed the four-year statute of limitations in the cases of where the sex abuse occurred in minors younger than 16 years of age. The reasoning is that it is in society’s best interest to protect children from sexual abuse and to ensure that offenders are caught, no matter if the abuse occurred months ago, or years.

Statute of Limitations in Cases of Institutional Sexual Abuse

In an article published by the Florida Bar Journal, the writer reviews the changes in the statute of limitations law with regards to institutional childhood sex abuse. “Institutional” refers to causes of action where the defendant is an employer who hired someone who is known to them (or should have known) as having dangerous propensities and did nothing to protect the plaintiff from this abuse. Situations like this could refer to patients who are held in a mental institute or hospital who are abused by a caretaker, or children in a school with a teacher who has a record of abuse.

Reasoning behind Tolling the Statute of Limitations and the Counter Arguments

There are many ways in which plaintiffs have been able to get around the statute of limitations with regards to institutional childhood abuse.

Repressed Memory as a Tolling Reason

First, plaintiffs have put forward evidence of repressed memory to get around the statute of limitations. In many patients who have suffered from childhood abuse, they have some form of traumatic amnesia or other memory defects. Because of these defects, it may take the child many years to uncover the memory. The “delayed discovery” doctrine may extend the statute of limitations so that the time does not start to run until the memory has been recovered and discovered.

Defendants have been able to get Florida Courts to reject this argument due to case law which shows that delayed discovery may only be valid in cases of institutional sexual abuse where the defendant was not negligent or vicariously liable. In other words, delayed discovery may only be used for when sexual abuse is brought as an intentional tort against the actual abuser.

Inability to Connect Abuse to Mental or Psychological Damages

Another way plaintiffs are able to toll the statute of limitations is where they are asserting that they were not immediately able to connect his/her abuse to the mental or psychological damages that he/she is currently suffering. The idea behind this is that sexual abuse may take years before a plaintiff may finally understand the extent in which the abuse has affected him/her. The court has found, however, that in cases of institutional sexual abuse, a plaintiff’s failure to realize the injury as a result of the abuse does not toll the statute of limitations.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Facing sex crime charges can put your future in jeopardy. If you have been arrested based on charges of sexual abuse or other crimes, it is important to be defended by an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact the Law Offices of Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation.

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