February 2, 2023

Bill to eliminate statute of limitations in civil cases for child sexual abuse clears first committee

Joe Gratz


A bill that will, if enacted, eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in child sexual abuse incidences passed a Senate committee unanimously.

SB 126, Child Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations, is sponsored by state Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque. She said the current law gives the victim until their 24th birthday or three years after they disclose during treatment to file a civil case against the perpetrator.

“This allows folks to get to the courthouse door. We know from extensive studies, trauma can last a long time. For too long, trauma has had the ability to outlive justice,” she said.

State Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, asked if Duhigg would “be amenable to six, seven, eight, nine or 10 years?”

“We want to eliminate it, not extend it,” Duhigg said.

There was some concern expressed during the hearing of how eliminating the statute of limitations on civil cases might impact state agencies but Duhigg’s expert witness, Mike Hart, an Albuquerque attorney, said anyone suing a state agency or public school would have to do so under New Mexico Tort Act.

Duhigg, in an emailed message to NM Political Report before the hearing, said “the psychological injuries associated with childhood sexual abuse are unique and debilitating.”

“They create severe barriers to understanding and disclosure of injury. Studies have shown this and experts and survivors can testify to it. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse should be able to bring their claims whenever (or if ever) they find the courage to do so, and perpetrators should no longer be able to hide behind the psychological barriers that their abuse creates in survivors of abuse,” she said.

The bill heads next to the Senate Judiciary Committee.