Arizona's Legal Options for Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors

Arizona childhood sex abuse survivors now have more time to bring civil lawsuits against those responsible for committing and enabling the abuse.

In 2019, Arizona joined a host of other states that have changed their laws to enhance the rights of childhood sexual abuse survivors. House Bill 2466 (HB 2466) gives prospective plaintiffs more time to sue their abusers and those who failed to prevent or stop the abuse. Arizona also expanded the scope of who survivors could sue in civil court.

The Statute of Limitations and Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

A statute of limitations is a law that places a deadline on how much time is allowed to pass before a legal action (civil or criminal) must be initiated. The main rationale for these laws is to preserve fairness in the legal system. When too much time elapses between an alleged wrong and a court case seeking a corresponding legal remedy for that wrong, it can make it difficult for both sides to gather evidence and mount an effective case. Memories fade, witnesses die, and evidence gets destroyed or lost.

It can take years (even decades) for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to process their trauma, and more and more state legislatures are now realizing that any statute of limitations that applies to cases like these needs to take this kind of extended timeline into account. Learn more about filing a lawsuit over abuse that happened a long time ago.

What Was Arizona's Statute of Limitations Before HB 2466?

If a minor was the victim of sexual abuse, Arizona's old statute of limitations gave them until the age of 20 to file a civil suit. In practice, this was only a two-year statute of limitations, since an individual who was under 18 couldn't usually sue another person or entity.

What Is Arizona's New Civil Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse Lawsuits?

Childhood survivors of sexual abuse have an extra 10 years to file a civil suit, thanks to HB 2466. Specifically, they have until they turn 30 to file a lawsuit over childhood sexual abuse. Also, if a mandatory reporter fails to report childhood sexual abuse, they could be civilly liable under HB 2466.

Does HB 2466 Include a Lookback Window?

Yes, but it's now closed. After Governor Ducey signed HB 2466, it went into effect immediately. Individuals who were still prevented from filing a child sex abuse lawsuit (even under the expanded statute of limitations) were able to take advantage of a one-time "lookback window" to file their lawsuits. But this window closed on December 31, 2020.

Can Plaintiffs Sue Individuals and Institutions?

Yes. The new time limits apply to cases brought against abusers as well as any relevant organizations that knew or should have known the sexual abuse took place. This includes churches and youth organizations. However, lawsuits brought under the lookback window had limits on the damages plaintiffs could recover and raised the burden of proof plaintiffs had to meet.

For lawsuits brought during the lookback window and against a person or entity that was not the alleged abuser, plaintiffs could not recover punitive damages. Additionally, instead of having to meet the "preponderance of the evidence" burden of proof, plaintiffs had to meet the higher, "clear and convincing evidence" burden of proof.

This change in the burden of proof and recoverable damages was the result of a legislative compromise to protect institutions from false accusations, or from allegations that were based on decades-old actions, making it difficult for these institutions to mount an effective defense.

Does HB 2466 Affect the Criminal Statute of Limitations?

HB 2466 does not affect the criminal statute of limitations for sex abuse of minors in Arizona. Depending on the age of the survivor when the abuse takes place, the relationship between the survivor and the abuser, and the severity of the sexual abuse, the criminal statute limitations in Arizona could be as short as seven years. But more serious sex crimes have no time limit to bring criminal charges. Learn more about pressing charges over childhood sexual abuse.

Resources for Arizona Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

For more information on available assistance for survivors of sexual abuse, see our article, Survivor Resources: Taking Action After Sexual Abuse. You can also utilize state-specific resources like Southern Arizona Against Sexual Assault and the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

And if you're ready to discuss your legal options, you can utilize the chat tools on this page to connect with an attorney in your area, or learn more about finding the right attorney for you and how a lawyer can help.

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