Massachusetts

 
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A statute of limitation (“SOL”) is a legal deadline for pressing criminal charges or filing civil claims.  Once an SOL has expired, a claim or charge cannot be brought. The length of time during which different actions can be brought varies from state to state.  There is no SOL for certain crimes, so actions can be brought at any time. An SOL for a civil lawsuit about a contract may be different from a lawsuit about a personal injury and both may be of varying durations between different states. SOLs can begin running at different times.

Many SOLs begin to run at the time of an offense. An SOL can be “tolled”, or suspended, and won’t begin running until a triggering event. In cases of childhood sexual abuse, an SOL will often be tolled until a minor turns 18 (i.e. majority tolling). Certain discoveries, such as a realization that a person’s suffering is the result of childhood sexual abuse, can toll an SOL (i.e. discovery tolling). Also, DNA evidence newly connecting a perpetrator to a crime can sometimes be used to prosecute a criminal defendant even after the SOL has already expired.

Some states have passed laws to increase access to justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse by temporarily reviving time-barred civil claims, allowing victims to recover against perpetrators and responsible institutions.  

Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitation and Related Laws

Current Civil SOL

In Massachusetts, the civil SOL for child sex abuse claims is capped at age 53 (age of majority, 18, plus 35 years). There is also a discovery rule, which allows victims up to 7 years to file claim after discovering an injury caused by the abuse.

SOL vs. perp: + 35 years from age of majority = Age 53 (even if previously expired)
SOL vs. employer: Discovery, + 7 years.
Majority Tolling: Age 18
Discovery Tolling: Liberal (+7 years) .


Massachusetts State Law Provides:

Sexual abuse of minors

Actions of tort alleging the defendant sexually abused a minor shall be commenced within 35 years of the acts alleged to have caused an injury or condition or within 7 years of the time the victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered that an emotional or psychological injury or condition was caused by said act, whichever period expires later; provided, however, that the time limit for commencement of an action under this section is tolled for a child until the child reaches eighteen years of age.

For purposes of this section, “sexual abuse” shall mean the commission of any act against a minor as set forth in section thirteen B, 13B 1⁄2, 13B 3⁄4, thirteen H, twenty-two, twenty-two A, 22B, 22C, twenty-three, 23A, 23B, twenty-four, 24B or subsection (b) of section 50 of chapter two hundred and sixty-five or section two, three, four, four A, four B, seven, eight, thirteen, seventeen, twenty-nine A, thirty-four, thirty-five or thirty-five A of chapter two hundred and seventy-two.

Retroactive: sections 4 to 6, inclusive, of this act shall apply regardless of when any such action or claim shall have accrued or been filed and regardless of whether it may have lapsed or otherwise be barred by time under the law of the commonwealth.
2014 Mass. ALS 145, 2014 Mass. Ch. 145, 2013 Mass. H.B. 4126

Negligence. Negligent supervision or conduct causing or contributing to the sexual abuse of minor by another person. An action of tort alleging that the defendant negligently supervised a person who sexually abused a minor or that the defendant’s conduct caused or contributed to the sexual abuse of a minor by another person shall be commenced within the later to expire of: (i) 35 years of the acts alleged to have caused an injury or condition to such minor; or (ii) 7 years of the time the victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered that an emotional or psychological injury or condition was caused by such act; provided, however, that the time limit for commencement of such an action under this section shall be tolled for a child until the child reaches 18 years of age. For purposes of this section, “sexual abuse” shall have the same meaning as in section 4C.
Negligence: Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4C(1/2)

SECTION 8. Clause (i) of section 4C1/2 of chapter 260 of the General Laws shall be limited to all claims arising out of or based upon acts alleged to have caused an injury or condition to a minor which first occurred after the effective date of this act. Clause (ii) of said section 4C1/2 of said chapter 260 and sections 4 to 6, inclusive, of this act shall apply regardless of when any such action or claim shall have accrued or been filed and regardless of whether it may have lapsed or otherwise be barred by time under the law of the commonwealth.
2014 Mass. ALS 145, 2014 Mass. Ch. 145, 2013 Mass. H.B. 4126

By enacting ALM GL c 260 § 4C, which contains discovery rule for actions brought against perpetrator of sexual abuse of child, Legislature did not intend that judicially crafted discovery rule for actions brought against non perpetrators of such abuse should be precluded under ALM GL ch. 260, § 2A).
Phinney v. Morgan, 39 Mass. App. Ct. 202, 654 N.E.2d 77 (Mass. App. Ct. 1995)

Applying discovery provision of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4C to all plaintiff’s claims against “boy scout council alleging claims for negligence, negligent supervision, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and assault and battery” stemming out of abuse by boy scout troop leaders.
Martin v. Boston Minuteman Council, Inc., 20 Mass. L. Rep. 569, 2006 Mass. Super. LEXIS 89 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2006)

TOLLING:

Majority, yes.

The time limit for commencement of an action under this section is tolled for a child until the child reaches eighteen years of age.
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4C

Current Criminal SOL

In Massachusetts, there is no criminal SOL for victims under the age of 16. However, if more than 27 years passes from the date of the offense, the SOL is capped at age 45 (age of majority, 18, plus 27 years) unless there is corroborating or DNA evidence.

NONE, for any felony related to sex abuse of a victim under the age of 16.
However, if more than 27 years passes from the date of the offense, the SOL is capped at age 45 unless there is corroborating or DNA evidence.


Massachusetts State Law Provides:

Section 63: Limitation of criminal prosecutions

Section 63. An indictment for murder may be found at any time after the death of the person alleged to have been murdered. An indictment or complaint for an offense set forth in section 13B, 13B1/2, 13B3/4, 13F, 13L, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23, 23A, 23B, 24B or subsection (b) of section 50 of chapter 265, for conspiracy to commit any of these offenses, as an accessory thereto, or any 1 or more of them may be found and filed at any time after the date of the commission of such offense; but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the date of commission of such offense shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation. Such independent evidence shall be admissible during trial and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals. An indictment for an offense set forth in sections 22, 24 or subsection (a) of section 50 of chapter 265, or for conspiracy to commit either of these offenses or as an accessory thereto or any 1 or more of them may be found and filed within 15 years of the date of commission of such offense. An indictment for an offense set forth in sections 17, 18, 19 and 21 of said chapter 265 or section 17 of chapter 272, for conspiracy to commit any such crime, as an accessory thereto, or any 1 or more of them may be found and filed within 10 years after the date of commission of such offense. An indictment for any other crime shall be found and filed within 6 years after such crime has been committed. Any period during which the defendant is not usually and publicly a resident within the commonwealth shall be excluded in determining the time limited.

Notwithstanding the first paragraph, if a victim of a crime set forth in section 13B, 13F, 13H, 22, 22A, 23, 24B, 26A or 50 of chapter 265, or section 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 26, 28, 29A, 29B, 33, 34, 35 or 35A of chapter 272 is under the age of 16 at the time the crime is committed, the period of limitation for prosecution shall not commence until the victim has reached the age of 16 or the violation is reported to a law enforcement agency, whichever occurs earlier.
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63

Age of Majority: 18. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 85P.
Age of Consent: 16. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, § 23.

Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: Under 18.
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: 18.
See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 207, § 25.


DNA Provision

Current DNA Provision

*As of December 2018

N/A


Medical Neglect Statute

CIVIL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE

There is no religious exemption to civil liability for parents failing to provide medical care based on faith.

Massachusetts Civil Statute:
None

CRIMINAL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE

There is no religious exemption to criminal liability for parents failing to provide medical care based on faith.

Massachusetts Criminal Statute:
None


Religous Liberty Statute

Religious liberty statute that could put children at risk

No law as of January 2014


The information provided is solely for informational purposes and is not legal advice. To determine the SOL in a particular case, contact a lawyer in the state.