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House Committee Approves Extending Time Limit For Sex Abuse Suits

Apr 12, 2003 | Star Tribune

A House committee tentatively approved a bill Friday that would give victims of child sex abuse a longer period to sue their abusers.

But the bill, which was approved on a voice vote in the Civil Law Committee and faces tinkering before moving forward, differs from a Senate version slated for a vote on the floor of that chamber.

That version would allow the victims to sue their abusers as long as six years after discovering the link between the abuse and the injury it caused.

The House version, proposed by Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, would allow a victim to sue as long as five years after sexual abuse is reported to authorities but no later than nine years after the abuse occurred. If abuse is reported by a minor, a suit could be brought within 14 years after the victim turns 18.

Under current law, a suit must be filed by the time a victim turns 24.

Holberg said her amendment is an attempt to recognize the trauma victims may experience later in their lives, as well as to reconcile the liability problems facing institutions such as churches and school districts. The panel approved the measure Friday to meet a legislative deadline, but members will meet informally to fine-tune it before it goes to the full House.

The hearing Friday included testimony from people who said they were victims of sexual abuse as children and from representatives from school districts, the child care industry and churches.

"It is a victim's job to forget, to get along. It is a survivor's job to remember," said Susan Fuchs-Hoeschen, 39, of Sauk Rapids, who said she was abused by a priest in 1973.

But Bob Meeks, governmental relations director for the Minnesota School Boards Association, said extending the time limit would make it harder to defend against litigation.

"Time is of the essence," he said. "Time works against us."

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