HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THIRTIETH LEGISLATURE, 2020
STATE OF HAWAII
A BILL FOR AN ACT
RELATING TO CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1. The legislature finds that survivors of childhood sexual abuse often do not divulge the truth about their experiences until they reach adulthood. The delay may stem from fear, disbelief, anger, helplessness, anxiety, embarrassment, or other feelings that are not the survivors' fault.
For example, USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence Gerard Nassar's first public accuser, who was fifteen years old when she was assaulted, did not come forward until sixteen years later, when she was thirty-one. Although many other survivors remained silent even longer, Nassar was accused of sexually assaulting at least two hundred fifty girls and young women over a period of thirty years. He was ultimately convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault and possession of child pornography.
The legislature further finds that some studies have estimated that between sixty and eighty per cent of childhood sexual abuse survivors withhold disclosure of their abuse until adulthood. The average delay is approximately twenty years, while some survivors delay disclosure for up to fifty years.
Hawaii law currently requires that a lawsuit alleging childhood sexual abuse be filed within eight years of a survivor of childhood sexual abuse turning eighteen, or three years after discovering that an injury or illness during adulthood was caused by childhood sexual abuse. Under these limitations, many survivors of childhood sexual abuse may be barred from seeking civil redress in the courts.
Accordingly, the purpose of this Act is to:
(1) Amend statutory limitations on the time periods in which a survivor of childhood sexual abuse may file a civil action; and
SECTION 2. Section 657-1.8, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:
"§657‑1.8 Civil action
arising from sexual offenses; application; certificate of merit. (a)
Notwithstanding section 657-7 or any other law to the contrary, [
as provided under subsection (b), no] an action for recovery of damages
based on physical, psychological, or other injury or condition suffered by a
minor arising from the sexual abuse of the minor by any person [ shall] may
be commenced [ against the person who committed the act of sexual abuse more
than: (1) Eight years after the eighteenth
birthday of the minor or the person who committed the act of sexual abuse
attains the age of majority, whichever occurs later; or (2) Three years after the date the minor
discovers or reasonably should have discovered that psychological injury or
illness occurring after the minor's eighteenth birthday was caused by the
sexual abuse, whichever comes later.] within fifty years
of the eighteenth birthday of the minor.
A civil cause of action for the sexual abuse of a minor shall be based upon sexual acts that constituted or would have constituted a criminal offense under part V or VI of chapter 707.
For a period of eight years
after April 24, 2012, a victim of child sexual abuse that occurred in this
State may file a claim in a circuit court of this State against the person who
committed the act of sexual abuse if the victim is barred from filing a claim
against the victim's abuser due to the expiration of the applicable civil
statute of limitations that was in effect prior to April 24, 2012.] Monetary
relief for claims brought under this section may include punitive damages. At
its discretion, the court may order restorative justice measures, including
victim impact panels, victim impact classes, or community service.
(c) A claim may [
brought under this [ subsection] section against a legal entity
(1) The person who committed the act of sexual abuse against the victim was employed by an institution, agency, firm, business, corporation, or other public or private legal entity that owed a duty of care to the victim; or
(2) The person who committed the act of sexual abuse and the victim were engaged in an activity over which the legal entity had a degree of responsibility or control.
Damages against the legal entity shall be awarded under this subsection only if there is a finding of gross negligence on the part of the legal entity.
(c)] (d) A defendant against
whom a civil action is commenced may recover attorney's fees if the court
determines that a false accusation was made with no basis in fact and with
malicious intent. A verdict in favor of the defendant shall not be the sole
basis for a determination that an accusation had no basis in fact and was made
with malicious intent. The court shall make an independent finding of an
improper motive prior to awarding attorney's fees under this section.
(d)] (e) In any civil action
filed pursuant to subsection (a) or [ (b),] (c), a certificate of
merit shall be filed by the attorney for the plaintiff, and shall be sealed and
remain confidential. The certificate of merit shall include a notarized
statement by a:
(1) Psychologist licensed pursuant to chapter 465;
(2) Marriage and family therapist licensed pursuant to chapter 451J;
(3) Mental health counselor licensed pursuant to chapter 453D; or
(4) Clinical social worker licensed pursuant to chapter 467E;
who is knowledgeable in the relevant facts and issues involved in the action, who is not a party to the action.
The notarized statement included in the
certificate of merit shall set forth in reasonable detail the facts and
opinions relied upon to conclude that there is a reasonable basis to believe
that the plaintiff was subject to one or more acts that would result in an
injury or condition specified in [
subsection[ ]] (a)."
SECTION 3. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.
SECTION 4. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
Childhood Sexual Abuse; Civil Actions; Statute of Limitations; Remedies
Amends statutory limitations on the time period in which a survivor of childhood sexual abuse may file a civil suit. Allows punitive damages. Permits the court to order restorative justice measures, if deemed appropriate. Effective upon approval. (Proposed SD1)
The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.