Lamont signs bill creating panel to study civil statute of limitations in sex-assault cases

Gov. Ned Lamont signed a sweeping sexual harassment bill Tuesday that establishes a commission to look into whether the state should extend the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits in sexual-assault cases.

The Connecticut chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and people who say they were sexually assaulted as minors by priests in the state’s Catholic dioceses and who are now barred from filing lawsuits because they are older than 48 had pushed for passage of Senate Bill 3.

The law extends the age to file a lawsuit to 51, five years less than the age of 56 called for in a previous amendment. The original bill called for a 27-month window in which victims could sue regardless of age and called for the elimination of the statute of limitations for anyone now under 48 for incidents that occur after Oct. 1, 2019.

The law also establishes a nine-member task force that will study whether the current statute of limitations should be amended and report its findings and recommendations to the legislature’s Judiciary Committee by Jan. 15, 2020, just before the start of the next legislative session.

The task force must look at the statute of limitations in Connecticut and other states and review claims that are barred from proceeding due to the current statute of limitations.

The committee members, who will be appointed by various legislative leaders, would include a sexual-assault victim; three members with “unspecified qualifications”; two who either represent an entity named as a defendant in a civil action involving sexual assault or an attorney who represented clients who were defendants in such cases; a representative from the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence; Joan Maloney, who is the executive director of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, or her designee, and a Superior Court judge or someone who has served as a judge. The latter person would be appointed by the chief court administrator.

One of those looking to be appointed to the commission is John “Tim” McGuire of New London, who testified before the Judiciary Committee in April and urged the committee to support the 27-month window and abolish the statute of limitations because many victims do not come forward until they are in their 50s or older.

McGuire, who missed filing a lawsuit by three weeks when he first consulted an attorney just after his 48th birthday, is now 60 and will miss the proposed new filing deadline by nine years. McGuire alleges he was sexually assaulted when he was an 8-year-old altar boy by the late James Curry at St. Joseph Church in Noank.

The new law also established new requirements for businesses, organizations and state government regarding sexual-harassment complaints, education and training. It also increases the statute of limitations for the criminal prosecution of sexual assault.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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