An attorney representing the Landskroner Foundation for Children, a child-advocacy organization, today said a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision will make it easier for victims of sexual abuse to obtain justice.
The Ohio Supreme Court on May 14 ruled that the 12-year statute of limitations applies to claims alleging childhood sexual abuse committed by parties in both the public and private sector.
Previously, the law held that victims molested by state employees in state institutions had until only 20 years old to file lawsuits against the state in the Court of Claims.
“This is a victory for all victims who were sexually abused as children,” said attorney Drew Legando of Landskroner Grieco Merriman, LLC, who urged the court to reverse an appeals court decision so the 12-year statute of limitations applies in both cases.
“The court showed an understanding that the law must protect all victims of childhood sexual abuse – whether they’re sexually molested by a coach or member of the clergy or by a prison guard or detention center employee,” Legando said. “Regardless of who the abuser is, the child who is victimized suffers deep psychological trauma. It’s not unusual for a victim to suffer in silence for many years. It’s critical to ensue the 12-year statute of limitations applies in such cases.”
Legando filed an amicus curiae “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Landskroner Foundation for Children, a nonprofit organization committed to child advocacy and promoting positive and safe childhood development.
The Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, ruled the 12-year statutory deadline that previously applied only in cases against private parties takes precedence over a two-year time period for initiating civil actions against the state.
The Supreme Court’s ruling effectively reversed a decision by the Tenth District Court of Appeals, which means the case involving a woman who was allegedly sexually abused as a teenager by two employees of the Department of Youth Services returns to the trial court.
The alleged victim filed a lawsuit with the Ohio Court of Claims against the DYS a day before her 26th birthday. However, the court ruled the lawsuit was filed too late. She appealed the decision, but the Tenth District Court agreed with the lower court. The case then went to the Ohio Supreme Court.
In 2006, lawmakers approved a law that places a 12-year statute of limitations for filing lawsuits related to childhood sexual abuse. A separate law, however, included a 2-year statute of limitations for damage claims against the state.
The case is Watkins v. Dept. of Youth Servs., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-1776
Link to Supreme Court Decision can be found here.