Many victims of child sexual abuse already know that the Florida Legislature abolished the Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse cases in the summer of 2010, but most people do not realize that – for victims of sexual abuse prior to 2010 – military service may extend their ability to bring their claims.
We frequently receive calls in our office from people in their 30’s and 40’s who have finally decided to come forward, and are attempting to secure some measure of justice against their abusers. Because of Statute of Limitations laws that existed before 2010, most of those calls end with us informing the callers that, because of the passage of so much time, there is little or nothing that we can do to help them.
However, the existence of military service – whether by the abuse victim, or one of the parents of the abuse victim – may extend (or really, toll) the Statute of Limitations, and provide the victim with additional time to bring a legal claim.
(I have to give credit to one of my colleagues in South Florida for coming up with this legal strategy. I have not seen a reported case addressing this issue in Florida, so it is important for any reader of this post to know that this strategy does not currently reflect the “law of the land”. However, I have also not seen this argument or strategy officially rejected in any reported Florida case, either.)
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act May Actually Provide Some Relief
The effort here is to utilize a federal law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to extend the Statute of Limitations in child sexual abuse cases. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides protections for all U.S. military personnel during their military service. It states that, during military service, the time of military service should not be included in computing any period limited by law (which would seem to include Statutes of Limitation.)
It therefore makes sense that the Act could be used to extend the Statute of Limitations for the length of service of a military member who was abused as a child. However, we believe that the Act might also be used to extend (or more precisely, toll) the Statute of Limitations for the children of military members. This is because the abused child would have had to rely upon his military parent or parents to bring his or her claims when the abuse victim was a minor. Depending upon the length of military service, this theory could provide the abuse victim with several (or more) extra years to bring a claim.
Again, it should be stressed that I have not been able to find any reporting cases deciding this issue conclusively, however we were able to successfully drag a youth-centered sport organization to the bargaining table in a recent case based upon our argument that our client’s father’s deployment in the Middle East tolled the Statute of Limitations in his case. In the appropriate case, the Act could be helpful.
If you have any questions regarding Florida child sexual abuse case – whether it is a case of recent abuse, or abuse that happened a long time ago – please call Florida child sexual abuse attorneys Kim Cullen or Robert Hemphill at 407-254-4901.