Illinois Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Trumps 1 Year for Government Employees

As an Illinois lawyer representing victims of childhood sexual abuse I was pleased with the recent ruling in Doe v. Hinsdale Township High School District, 388 Ill. App. 3d 995, 905 N.E. 2d 343 (2009). In Doe, a female high school student brought action for personal injuries based upon childhood sexual abuse against school, principal, and superintendent. The trial judge in Du Page county dismissed student’s claims against school, principal and superintendent based on the Illinois Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/8-101, ruling that a suit against the school or any of its employees must be brought within the one year statute of limitations for suits against governmental entities or their employees. The issue on appeal was whether the one year statute of limitations for governmental bodies and their employees governed this action or whether the five year statute of limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse, 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2 applied.

The Appellate Court in Doe, stated:

In resolving which statute apples, we note that the cardinal rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the legislature’s intent.

905 N.E. 2d at 347. The reviewing court concluded that:

In this case, section 13-202.2(b) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/13-202.2(b) begins with the language “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” In using this language, the legislature clearly intended section 13-202.2 of the Code to control over other provisions of law, such as section 8-101 of the Tort Immunity Act, which would otherwise bar the plaintiff’s action.

905 N.E. 2d at 348.

This ruling is a clear victory for victim’s of childhood sexual abuse in that it does not limit to one year the time frame a victim can sue a governmental employee or governmental entity regarding any duties they may have to children under their care and supervision for sexual abuse by others they employ or control. This decision while respecting the statutory language, also furthers the legislative intent in allowing children adequate time to assess the damage done to them by the pedophile. From a practical standpoint it is frequently only the employer of the pedophile who can pay damages to the sexually abused victim. Further, it provides a clear incentive for schools or other organizations that deal with children on a regular basis to have a clear set of guidelines for what is and is not appropriate relationships between children and their teachers, coaches or others who interact with them on a regular basis. The bottom line is that this decision will insure that school districts, park districts, and others dealing with children will have to be vigilant regarding the screening and monitoring of the individuals who came into contact with the children that have been entrusted to their care. This is a good thing!