Illinois Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations

Illinois sexual abuse lawyers representing clients who were abused when they were children are confronted with four different versions of 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2. A careful analysis of the four distinct versions of the statute is essential in determining whether the claim is viable or fails due to the statute of limitation and/or the statute of repose.

The 1991 version (effective 1-1-91) of 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2 provides that an action for childhood sexual abuse must be commenced within 2 years of reaching 18 or 2 years from the date the person abused discovers the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and that an injury was caused by the childhood sexual abuse. The statute of repose in the statute provided that : “…but in no event may an action for personal injury based on childhood sexual abuse be commenced more than 12 years after the date on which the person abuse attains the age of 18 years.”

The Illinois Appellate Court in Wisniewski v. Dioceses of Belleville, 406 Ill. App. 3d 1119, 1150, 943 N.E. 2d 43, 69 (2011), stated: “The difference between a statute of limitations and a statute of repose is that a statute of limitations governs the time within which lawsuits may be commenced after a cause of action has accrued, while a statute of repose extinguishes the action after a fixed period of time, regardless of when the action accrued. “The effect of the 1991 version of the statute was to “bar anyone over the age of 30 from bringing an action for personal injury based on childhood sexual abuse.” Doe v. Diocese of Dallas, 243 Ill. 2d 393, 408, 917 N.E. 2d 475, 484 (2009).

The 1994 version (effective 1-1-94) of 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2 eliminated the 12 year statute of repose for childhood sexual abuse claims. However, the legislature’s repeal of the statute of repose was not applied retroactively to revive claims that had expired prior to the repeal of the statute of repose. Doe v. Diocese of Dallas, 234 Ill. 2d at 409, 917 N.E. 2d at 484 (2009). Accordingly, if the victim of childhood sexual abuse has attained the age of 30 prior to January 1, 1994, the statute of repose bars the action and it cannot be revived by the 1994 repeal of the statute of repose.

The 2003 version (effective 7-24-03) of 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2 increased from 2 years to 10 years the time after attaining 18 to bring an action. It also increased from 2 years to 5 years the time frame for bringing an action after discovering both (i) that the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and (ii) that the injury was caused by the sexual abuse. The statute specifically states: “Knowledge of the abuse does not constitute discovery of the injury or the causal relationship between the any later-discovered injury and the abuse.” This language was important because it overruled the Illinois Supreme Court’s holding in Clay v. Kuhl, 189 Ill. 2d 603, 611, 727 N.E. 2d 217, 222 (2000), where the court stated: “Notably, Illinois law presumes an intent to harm and a resulting injury from the type of misconduct allegedly committed by Kuhl.” The 2003 amendment was critical because the effects on a victim of childhood sexual abuse frequently do not manifest themselves or are not understood to be related to the sexual abuse until well after 5 years after the victim reaches the age of 18.

The 2011 version (effective 1-1-11) of 735 ILCS 5/13-202.2 increased from 10 years to 20 years the time after 18 to bring an action. It also increased from 5 years to 20 years the time for bringing an action after discovering “both (i) that the act of childhood sexual abuse occurred and (ii) that the injury was caused by the childhood sexual abuse.”

The effects of these amendments are to allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring actions even though the injuries and effects of the abuse and their causal relationship are not discovered until well into their adult years. When discussing issues surrounding sexual abuse claims it is essential that you discuss your situation with an attorney familiar with the nuances not only of the statute of limitations but also of the tactics of the attorneys who defend those charged with abusing children. Should you wish to discuss any issues regarding childhood sexual abuse feel free to contact Edmund Scanlan toll free at 877-494-1309.