Michigan OKs Nassar-related laws to give victims time to sue
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley on Tuesday signed two bills inspired by the Larry Nassar scandal, including one giving childhood sexual abuse victims more time to sue.
The current cutoff to file a lawsuit in Michigan is generally a minor victim’s 19th birthday, which critics say is out of step with other states and does not account for how many victims are afraid to report abuse or have suppressed it. Starting in three months, people who were sexually abused as children will be able to sue until their 28th birthdays or three years from when they realize they have been abused. Victims of Nassar, the imprisoned former sports doctor who worked for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, will get a 90-day window to sue retroactively.
As part of a $500 million settlement with Michigan State, his hundreds of accusers agreed to withdraw their support for legislation that would have eliminated the immunity defense in lawsuits for entities that are negligent in the hiring, supervision or training of employees, or if the governmental agencies knew or should have known and failed to report sexual misconduct to law enforcement.
Calley, who enacted the main bill in a private Capitol ceremony because Snyder was out of the state, also signed a measure giving prosecutors 15 years or until a victim’s 28th birthday to file charges in second- and third-degree sexual conduct cases if the victim was younger than 18. The deadline currently is 10 years or a victim’s 21st birthday, whichever is later.
Charges could be filed at any time if there were DNA evidence.
There already is no statute of limitations for first-degree sexual misconduct, which can result in life imprisonment and for which Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting nine girls in the Lansing area under the guise of treatment.
Nassar survivors attended the bill-signing event and a news conference afterward.
Rachael Denhollander, who was 15 when Nassar assaulted her in his campus office in 2000, said she was “deeply disappointed” that the House changed the legislation so it would not retroactively help all childhood sexual abuse victims.
“This legislative reform was for every survivor in Michigan. This was not about us and we never wanted it to be about us,” she said. “So my hope as we take this first step forward today is that the assault survivors who’ve watched this unfold know that … this will be the beginning of much-needed reform and that we will move forward together.”
More than two dozen other Nassar-related bills are unlikely to win final legislative passage until September at the earliest because the Republican-led Legislature planned to adjourn for the summer Tuesday night. The House and Senate are at odds over expanding who must report suspected child abuse to include paid coaches. However, legislators are in agreement on other bills that would require a second health professional to be in the room when a procedure involving vaginal or anal penetration is performed on a minor, require written parental consent before such a procedure is done and require that related medical records be kept for at least 15 years.
Calley credited Nassar’s survivors for spearheading the legislation, taking on “a political system that has a million ways to stop something.”
“It’s something that gives me some confidence that we’re on the right track, that this will be momentum toward a cultural change,” he said.
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