February 10, 2020

Bill to change civil statute of limitations on child sexual abuse passes House committee

Joe Gratz

Flickr/cc

A House panel unanimously approved legislation that makes changes to the civil statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases.

House Bill 302 — legislation meant to allow more time to file lawsuits against sexual abusers when the perpetrator was in a position of authority over children — will now move on to the full House floor.

A survivor of childhood sexual assault currently has three years after disclosing the incident to a health care provider to file a lawsuit. The legislation would change that and instead grant three years after the survivor “knew or had reason to know” that he or she was abused.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said the legislation is meant to clear up a 2017 change to the law that inadvertently may have made it harder to stop systemic issues of childhood sexual assault.

Rep. Marian Matthews, D-Albuquerque, is the bill’s co-sponsor.

The legislation would allow for claims with no time limitation in cases in which the abuser had “substantial power or authority over the lives of livelihood of minor children” and had “a routine practice of negligently hiring or supervising its agents,” according to an analysis of the bill.

In such cases, “we are going to hold them accountable at any time,” Ivey-Soto said. 

Former teacher Gary Gregor was convicted in 2018 on more than a dozen charges of raping and molesting two fourth-grade girls he taught at Fairview Elementary.  He was sentenced to another six years in prison earlier this month after he was found guilty of molesting a second-grader at the school in 2007.

He also is expected to stand trial later this year on charges of molesting two of his students at Agua Fría Elementary School in Santa Fe during the 2003-04 school year. Several of his former students have a civil case pending against Gregor in federal court, in which they accuse him of sexually abusing them in 2004.

House Bill 302 would still allow people to file lawsuits relating to childhood sexual assault before their 24th birthday, as is currently the case.