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 Vermont, the SOL for civil child sex abuse claims is capped at age 24 (age of majority, 18, plus six years). There is also a discovery rule, which allows victims up to six years to file a claim after discovering an injury caused by the abuse.
SOL vs. perp: +6 years from liberal discovery or Majority
SOL vs. employer: Same
Majority Tolling: Age 18
Discovery Tolling: Type
SOL: + 6 years from Majority or liberal (causal) discovery.
Vermont State Law Provides:
Actions based on childhood sexual abuse
(a)A civil action brought by any person for recovery of damages for injury suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse shall be commenced within six years of the act alleged to have caused the injury or condition, or six years of the time the victim discovered that the injury or condition was caused by that act, whichever period expires later. The victim need not establish which act in a series of continuing sexual abuse or exploitation incidents caused the injury.
Vt. Stat. Ann tit. 12, § 522(a)
Provided that section 2 of the act, which added this section, shall apply to all causes of action commenced on or after July 1, 1990, as long as either the act of sexual abuse or the discovery that the injury or condition was caused by the act of sexual abuse occurred on or after July 1, 1984, to which extent section 2 applies retroactively.
No. 292 (Adj. Sess.), § 4(b)
Nothing in statutory language of section suggests that Legislature intended to exclude non-perpetrators from the reach of statute. This section applies to civil actions brought by any person for recovery of damages for injury suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse.
Sabia v. State , 164 Vt. 293, 669 A.2d 1187 (Vt. 1995)
Plaintiff’s claim against state agency, for failing to prevent foster child from sexually abusing him, fell within category of cases intended to be covered by statute of limitations governing actions based on childhood sexual abuse.
Earle v. State, 170 Vt. 183, 743 A.2d 1101 (Vt. 1999)
Majority, yes 18.
Minority, incapacity, or imprisonment
(a) When a person entitled to bring an action specified in this chapter is a minor, lacks capacity to protect his or her interests due to a mental condition or psychiatric disability, or is imprisoned at the time the cause of action accrues, such person may bring such action within the times in this chapter respectively limited, after the disability is removed.
Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 551
Discovery, yes, liberal.
Actions based on childhood sexual abuse
(a) A civil action brought by any person for recovery of damages for injury suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse shall be commenced within six years of the act alleged to have caused the injury or condition, or six years of the time the victim discovered that the injury or condition was caused by that act, whichever period expires later. The victim need not establish which act in a series of continuing sexual abuse or exploitation incidents caused the injury.
(b) If a complaint is filed alleging an act of childhood sexual abuse which occurred more than six years prior to the date the action is commenced, the complaint shall immediately be sealed by the clerk of the court. The complaint shall remain sealed until the answer is served or, if the defendant files a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b) of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure, until the court rules on that motion. If the complaint is dismissed, the complaint and any related papers or pleadings shall remain sealed. Any hearing held in connection with the motion to dismiss shall be in camera.
(c) As used in this section, “childhood sexual abuse” means any act committed by the defendant against a complainant who was less than 18 years of age at the time of the act and which act would have constituted a violation of a statute prohibiting lewd and lascivious conduct, lewd or lascivious conduct with a child, sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault in effect at the time the act was committed.
Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 522
Our discovery-rule case law construing the statute has established that “a cause does not accrue for physical injuries “or condition”
Clarke v. Abate, 2013 VT 52, P9, 194 Vt. 294, 299, 80 A.3d 578, 580-581, 2013 Vt. LEXIS 69, 6-7, 2013 WL 4034238 (Vt. 2013)
The date of accrual under the statute of limitations seeks to identify the point at which a plaintiff should have discovered the basic elements of a cause of action: an injury caused by the negligence or breach of duty of a particular defendant.” Id. at 193, 743 A.2d at 1108; see Lillicrap v. Martin, 156 Vt. 165, 175, 591 A.2d 41, 46 (1989) noting “clear trend” among courts holding that limitations period does not begin to run “until the plaintiff has discovered his ‘legal injury,’ such that the statute begins to run only when the plaintiff has or should have discovered both the injury and the fact that it may have been caused by the defendant’s negligence or other breach of duty.
Earle, 170 Vt. at 192, 743 A.2d at 1108.
Court declines to follow decisions holding that a plaintiff alleging sexual abuse is, as a matter of law, on inquiry notice of the potential liability of a defendant based on the knowledge that the perpetrator was a priest in the employ of a church.
Turner v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, 186 Vt. 396, 987 A.2d 960.
Current Criminal SOL
In Vermont, there is no criminal SOL for the felonies of aggravated sexual assault, human trafficking, and aggravated human trafficking. The criminal SOL for for lewd and lascivious conduct against a child, sexual exploitation of a minor, lewd or lascivious conduct with a child is 40 years after commission of the offense.
NONE, for the following felonies: aggravated sexual assault, human trafficking,
aggravated human trafficking.
SOL vs. perp. (for lewd and lascivious conduct against a child, sexual exploitation of a minor, lewd or lascivious conduct with a child): + 40 years after commission of the offense.
Vermont State Law Provides:
Limitation of prosecutions for certain crimes
(a) Prosecutions for aggravated sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault of a child, sexual assault, human trafficking, aggravated human trafficking, murder, arson causing death, and kidnapping may be commenced at any time after the commission of the offense.
(c) Prosecutions for any of the following offenses shall be commenced within 40 years after the commission of the offense, and not after:
(1) lewd and lascivious conduct alleged to have been committed against a child under 18 years of age;
(2) sexual exploitation of a minor as defined in subsection 3258(c) of this title;
(3) lewd or lascivious conduct with a child;
(4) sexual exploitation of children under chapter 64 of this title; and
(5) manslaughter alleged to have been committed against a child under 18 years of age.
(e) Prosecutions for other felonies and for misdemeanors shall be commenced within three years after the commission of the offense, and not after.
13 V.S.A. § 4501
Age of Majority / Age of Consent / Age of Marriage
Age of Majority: 18. See, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 1, § 173.
Age of Consent: 16. See, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 2602.
Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: 16.
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: 18.
See, Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 18, § 5142.
Medical Neglect Statute
CIVIL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
A parent shall not be considered neglectful solely for providing spiritual treatment in accordance with a legitimately practices religious belief.
Vermont Civil Statute:
Harm can occur by:
(B) Failure to supply the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter or health care. For the purposes of this subchapter, “adequate health care” includes any medical or nonmedical remedial health care permitted or authorized under state law. Notwithstanding that a child might be found to be without proper parental care under chapter 55 of this title, a parent or other person responsible for a child’s care legitimately practicing his religious beliefs who thereby does not provide specified medical treatment for a child shall not be considered neglectful for that reason alone.
Vermont Statutes Title 33 §4912(3)(B)
CRIMINAL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
There is no religious exemption to criminal liability for parents failing to provide medical care based on faith.
Vermont Criminal Statute:
Current DNA Provision
*As of December 2018
Religous Liberty Statute
Religious liberty statute that could put children at risk
No law as of January 2017
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.