Bill Seeks To Raise Statute Of Limitations For Child Sex Abuse Civil Action

Feb 7, 2020

Credit Bob Beck

A bill before the Wyoming Legislature this session would extend the amount of time survivors of child sexual abuse could bring a civil suit against their perpetrator.

The statute of limitations for civil actions of this kind currently sits at 8 years beyond a survivor's 18th birthday. The proposed bill would significantly raise that statute of limitations to 35 years after a survivor's 18th birthday.

Senator Tara Nethercott of Cheyenne chairs the Judiciary Committee, which endorsed the bill. She said the statute of limitations and proposed bill apply only to civil cases, not criminal cases.

"In Wyoming, we actually do not have any statute of limitations for any crimes in this state," Nethercott said. "So, the individuals who perpetrated the crime can still be prosecuted criminally, and incarcerated."

And civil action isn't limited to the individual abuser.

"The criminal perpetrator who maybe conducted the acts may be incarcerated," Nethercott said. "But the organization that individual may be involved with may have civil liability as a result of this bill and as a result of that criminal conviction."

The bill comes after numerous and high profile allegations of child sexual abuse across the country and in Wyoming involving Roman Catholic priests. Nethercott said the bill is not motivated by those specific cases.

She has, however, heard mixed reactions to the bill.

"I think it'll be an uphill battle," Nethercott said. "I think there's general support for it, but I also think there's a healthy skepticism about, one, the need for it. And two, there is skepticism regarding the need to pursue a financial remedy."

The 2020 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature starts Monday.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Jeff Victor, at jvictor@uwyo.edu.