TENNESSEE

CHILD SEX ABUSE SOLs

CURRENT CIVIL SOL

In Tennessee, the civil SOL for child sex abuse claims is capped at age 33 (age of majority, 18, plus 15 years). There is also a discovery rule, which allows victims up to 3 years to file a claim after discovering a connection between their injury and the abuse.

CIVIL SOL SNAPSHOT

AGE CAP

AGE 33

DISCOVERY TOLLING

3 YEARS

REVIVAL LAW

NONE

Changes Since 2002:

Age Cap: The civil SOL in 2002 was age 19 (age of majority, 18, plus 1 year). The civil SOL was extended in 2019 to age 33 (age of majority, 18 plus 15 years).

Discovery:  There is a common law discovery rule in Tennessee that runs from when the victim discovers the injury, “or when in the exercise of reasonable care and diligence” the injury should have been discovered. However, that rule has not successfully been applied in cases of child sexual abuse. In 2016, Tennessee created a statutory discovery rule of 3 years, triggered by the victim’s connection of the injury to their abuse. In the statute, Tennessee clarified that mere knowledge of abuse is not enough to trigger the SOL; instead, discovery requires that “an injured person becomes aware that the injury or illness was caused by child sexual abuse.” The discovery rule applies to perpetrators and institutions, but it is unsettled whether it applies to the government.

Revival Law:  Tennessee has not passed a window or other SOL revival legislation since 2002.

CURRENT TENNESSEE CIVIL LAW

Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-116 - Child sexual abuse

(a) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1)“Child sexual abuse” means any act set out in § 37-1-602(a)(3), that occurred when the victim was a minor;

(2)“Discovery” means when the injured person becomes aware that the injury or illness was caused by child sexual abuse. Discovery that the injury or illness was caused by child sexual abuse shall not be deemed to have occurred solely by virtue of the injured person’s awareness, knowledge, or memory of the acts of abuse;

(3) “Injury or illness” means either a physical injury or illness or a psychological injury or illness; and

(4) “Minor” means a person under eighteen (18) years of age.

(b) Notwithstanding § 28-3-104, a civil action for an injury or illness based on child sexual abuse that occurred when the injured person was a minor, but was not discovered at the time of the abuse, shall be brought within three (3) years from the time of discovery of the abuse by the injured person

(1)For child sexual abuse that occurred before July 1, 2019, but was not discovered at the time of the abuse, within three (3) years from the time of discovery of the abuse by the injured person; or

(2) For child sexual abuse that occurred on or after July 1, 2019, within the later of:

(A) Fifteen (15) years from the date the person becomes eighteen (18) years of age; or

(B) If the injury or illness was not discovered at the time of the abuse, within three (3) years from the time of discovery of the abuse by the injured person.

(c) A person bringing an action under this section need not establish or prove:

(1) Which act in a series of continuing child sexual abuse incidents by the alleged perpetrator caused the injury or illness complained of, but may compute the date of discovery from the date of discovery of the last act by the same alleged perpetrator which is part of a common scheme or pattern of child sexual abuse; or

(2) That the injured person psychologically repressed the memory of the facts upon which the claim is predicated.

(d) In an action brought under this section, the knowledge of a parent or guardian shall not be imputed to a minor.

(e) Notwithstanding subsection (b), in no event shall an action under this section be brought against the alleged perpetrator of the child sexual abuse or against the estate of such alleged perpetrator after the perpetrator’s death later than twenty-five (25) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age. If the action is brought more than one (1) year from the date the injured person attains the age of majority, the injured person must offer admissible and credible evidence corroborating the claim of abuse by the alleged perpetrator.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104 - Torts; persons

(a)(1) Except as provided in subdivision (a)(2), the following actions shall be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of action accrued:

(A) Actions for libel, injuries to the person, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, or breach of marriage promise;

(B) Civil actions for compensatory or punitive damages, or both, brought under the federal civil rights statutes; and

(C) Actions for statutory penalties.

(2) A cause of action listed in subdivision (a)(1) shall be commenced within two (2) years after the cause of action accrued, if:

(A) Criminal charges are brought against any person alleged to have caused or contributed to the injury;

(B) The conduct, transaction, or occurrence that gives rise to the cause of action for civil damages is the subject of a criminal prosecution commenced within one (1) year by:

(i) A law enforcement officer;

(ii) A district attorney general; or

(iii) A grand jury; and

(C) The cause of action is brought by the person injured by the criminal conduct against the party prosecuted for such conduct.

(3) This subsection (a) shall be strictly construed.

(b) For the purpose of this section, in products liability cases:

(1) The cause of action for injury to the person shall accrue on the date of the personal injury, not the date of the negligence or the sale of a product;

(2) No person shall be deprived of the right to maintain a cause of action until one (1) year from the date of the injury; and

(3) Under no circumstances shall the cause of action be barred before the person sustains an injury.

(c)(1) Actions and suits against licensed public accountants, certified public accountants, or attorneys for malpractice shall be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of action accrued, whether the action or suit is grounded or based in contract or tort.

(2) In no event shall any action or suit against a licensed public accountant, certified public accountant or attorney be brought more than five (5) years after the date on which the act or omission occurred, except where there is fraudulent concealment on the part of the defendant, in which case the action or suit shall be commenced within one (1) year after discovery that the cause of action exists.

(d) Any action to recover damages against a real estate appraiser arising out of the appraiser’s real estate appraisal activity shall be brought within one (1) year from a person’s discovery of the act or omission giving rise to the action, but in no event shall an action to recover damages against a real estate appraiser be brought more than five (5) years after the date the appraisal was conducted.

Case law

C.S. v. Diocese of Nashville, No. M2007-02076-COA-R3-CV, 2008 Tenn. App. LEXIS 582, 9, 2008 WL 4426891 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 30, 2008).

Redwing v. Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Memphis, 363 S.W.3d 436, 459, 2012 Tenn. LEXIS 143, 54-55 (Tenn. 2012).

CURRENT CRIMINAL SOL

In Tennessee, there is no SOL for child sex abuse felonies and misdemeanors, but admissible and credible evidence corroborating the charges is required where a victim is now over age 43, was abused between ages 13-17 and did not report the abuse.

CRIMINAL SOL SNAPSHOT

OTHER FELNOIES

FELONIES

NO SOL, BUT ADMISSIBLE AND CREDIBLE EVIDENCE REQUIRED IF THE VICTIM IS NOW AGE 43 AND NEVER REPORTED THEIR ABUSE AS A 13-17 YEAR OLD VICTIM Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-2-101(q)

MISDEMEANORS

NO SOL, BUT ADMISSIBLE AND CREDIBLE EVIDENCE REQUIRED IF THE VICTIM IS NOW AGE 43 AND NEVER REPORTED THEIR ABUSE AS A 13-17 YEAR OLD VICTIM Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-2-101(q)

DNA SNAPSHOT

 

NO DNA STATUTE

   

 Changes Since 2002:

Tennessee has expanded its criminal SOL eight times since 2002.  In 2002, Tennessee had no SOL for offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment, and for other felonies it was age 21 or 4 years from the offense, whichever is later.  In 2006, it extended the SOL for rape, sexual battery and incest to age 43.  It broadened its SOL of age 43 to include more crimes of child sex abuse in 2007, child pornography and sexual exploitation in 2012, and promoting prostitution in 2015.  In 2013, the state extended the criminal SOL for crimes of child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation to age 33, and patronizing and promoting prostitution to age 28.  Tennessee eliminated the SOL for rape in 2014 if it was reported within 3 years of the crime.  In 2016, it extended the criminal SOL for aggravated statutory rape to age 33.  Most recently, in 2019, it eliminated the criminal SOL for all child sex abuse felonies and many misdemeanors, including trafficking, pornography and prostitution.  It does have a limitation though: if prosecuting after the victim is age 43, and victim was at or between ages 13 and 17 at the time of the offense, and victim never reported the offense to another person before reaching age 23, admissible and credible evidence corroborating the charge or similar acts by defendant is required.

CURRENT TENNESSEE CRIMINAL LAW

Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-2-101 - Felonies

(a) A person may be prosecuted, tried and punished for an offense punishable with death or by imprisonment in the penitentiary during life, at any time after the offense is committed.

(b) Prosecution for a felony offense shall begin within:

(1) Fifteen (15) years for a Class A felony;

(2) Eight (8) years for a Class B felony;

(3) Four (4) years for a Class C or Class D felony; and

(4) Two (2) years for a Class E felony. . .

(e) Prosecutions for any offense committed against a child prior to July 1, 1997, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-2-601 [repealed], § 39-2-603 [repealed], § 39-2-604 [repealed], § 39-2-606 [repealed], § 39-2-607 [repealed], § 39-2-608 [repealed], § 39-2-612 [repealed], § 39-4-306 [repealed], § 39-4-307 [repealed], § 39-6-1137 [repealed], or § 39-6-1138 [repealed], or under §§ 39-13-502 — 39-13-505, § 39-15-302 or § 39-17-902 shall commence no later than the date the child attains the age of majority or within four (4) years after the commission of the offense, whichever occurs later; provided, that pursuant to subsection (a), an offense punishable by life imprisonment may be prosecuted at any time after the offense has been committed.

(f) For offenses committed prior to November 1, 1989, the limitation of prosecution in effect at that time shall govern.

(g) (1) Prosecutions for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 1997, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-17-902 shall commence no later than the date the child reaches twenty-one (21) years of age; provided, that if subsection (a) or (b) provides a longer period of time within which prosecution may be brought than this subsection (g), the applicable provision of subsection (a) or (b) shall prevail.

(2) Prosecutions for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 1997, but prior to June 20, 2006, that constitutes a criminal offense under §§ 39-13-502 — 39-13-505, § 39-13-522 or § 39-15-302 shall commence no later than the date the child reaches twenty-one (21) years of age; provided, that if subsection (a) or (b) provides a longer period of time within which prosecution may be brought than this subsection (g), the applicable provision of subsection (a) or (b) shall prevail.

(h) (1) A person may be prosecuted, tried and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after June 20, 2006, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-13-504, § 39-13-505, § 39-13-527 or § 39-15-302, no later than twenty-five (25) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(2) A person may be prosecuted, tried and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after June 20, 2006, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-13-502, § 39-13-503 or § 39-13-522 no later than twenty-five (25) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(i) (1) A person may be prosecuted, tried and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2007, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-13-532, no later than twenty-five (25) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(2) A person may be prosecuted, tried and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2007, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-13-531, no later than twenty-five (25) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(j) A person may be prosecuted, tried and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2012, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-17-902, § 39-17-1003, § 39-17-1004, or § 39-17-1005, no later than twenty-five (25) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(k) (1) A person may be prosecuted, tried and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2013, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-13-309 or § 39-13-529, no later than fifteen (15) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(2) A person may be prosecuted, tried, and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2013, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-13-514 no later than ten (10) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(3)(A) A person may be prosecuted, tried, and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2013, but prior to July 1, 2015, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-13-515 no later than ten (10) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(B) A person may be prosecuted, tried, and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2015, that constitutes a criminal offense under § 39-13-515 no later than twenty-five (25) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(l) (1) Notwithstanding subsections (b), (g), (h), and (i) to the contrary, a person may be prosecuted, tried, and punished at any time after the commission of an offense if:

(A) The offense was one (1) of the following:

(i) Aggravated rape, as prohibited by § 39-13-502; or

(ii) Rape, as prohibited by § 39-13-503;

(B) The victim was an adult at the time of the offense;

(C) The victim notifies law enforcement or the office of the district attorney general of the offense within three (3) years of the offense; and

(D) The offense is committed:

(i) On or after July 1, 2014; or

(ii) Prior to July 1, 2014, unless prosecution for the offense is barred because the applicable time limitation set out in this section for prosecution of the offense expired prior to July 1, 2014.

(2) If subdivision (l)(1) does not apply to the specified offenses, prosecution shall be commenced within the times otherwise provided by this section.

(m) A person may be prosecuted, tried, and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2016, that constitutes the offense of aggravated statutory rape under § 39-13-506(c), no later than fifteen (15) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(n) Notwithstanding subsection (b), prosecutions for any offense committed on or after July 1, 2016, that constitutes the offense of aggravated child abuse, or aggravated child neglect or endangerment, under § 39-15-402, shall commence by the later of:

(1) Ten (10) years after the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age; or

(2) The time within which prosecution must be commenced pursuant to subsection (b).

(o) A person may be prosecuted, tried and punished for any offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2019, that constitutes the offense of female genital mutilation, under § 39-13-110, no later than twenty-five (25) years from the date the child becomes eighteen (18) years of age.

(p) Notwithstanding subsection (b), a person may be prosecuted, tried, and punished for second degree murder, as prohibited by § 39-13-210, that is committed on or after July 1, 2019, at any time after the offense is committed.

(q) (1) Notwithstanding subsections (b), (g), (h), (i), (j), (k), or (m), prosecution for the following offenses, when committed against a minor under eighteen (18) years of age shall commence as provided by this subsection (q):

(A)Trafficking for a commercial sex act, as prohibited by § 39-13-309;

(B) Aggravated rape, as prohibited by § 39-13-502;

(C) Rape, as prohibited by § 39-13-503;

(D) Aggravated sexual battery, as prohibited by § 39-13-504;

(E) Sexual battery, as prohibited by § 39-13-505;

(F) Mitigated statutory rape, as prohibited by § 39-13-506;

(G) Statutory rape, as prohibited by § 39-13-506;

(H) Aggravated statutory rape, as prohibited by § 39-13-506(c);

(I) Indecent exposure, as prohibited by § 39-13-511, when the offense is classified as a felony offense;

(J) Patronizing prostitution, as prohibited by § 39-13-514;

(K) Promotion of prostitution, as prohibited by § 39-13-515;

(L) Continuous sexual abuse of a child, as prohibited by § 39-13-518;

(M) Rape of a child, as prohibited by § 39-13-522;

(N) Sexual battery by an authority figure, as prohibited by § 39-13-527;

(O) Solicitation of a minor, as prohibited by § 39-13-528, when the offense is classified as a felony offense;

(P) Soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor–exploitation of a minor by electronic means, as prohibited by § 39-13-529;

(Q) Aggravated rape of a child, as prohibited by § 39-13-531;

(R) Statutory rape by an authority figure, as prohibited by § 39-13-532;

(S) Unlawful photographing, as prohibited by § 39-13-605, when the offense is classified as a felony offense;

(T) Observation without consent, as prohibited by § 39-13-607, when the offense is classified as a felony offense;

(U) Incest, as prohibited by § 39-15-302;

(V) Sexual exploitation of a minor, as prohibited by § 39-17-1003;

(W) Aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, as prohibited by § 39-17-1004; or

(X) Especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, as prohibited by § 39-17-1005.

(2) A person may be prosecuted, tried, and punished for an offense listed in subdivision (q)(1) at any time after the commission of an offense if:

(A) The victim was under thirteen (13) years of age at the time of the offense; or

(B) (i) The victim was at least thirteen (13) years of age but no more than seventeen (17) years of age at the time of the offense; and

(ii) The victim reported the offense to another person prior to the victim attaining twenty-three (23) years of age.

(3) (A) Except as provided in subdivision (q)(3)(B), a person may be prosecuted, tried, and punished for an offense listed in subdivision (q)(1) at any time after the commission of an offense if:

(i) The victim was at least thirteen (13) years of age but no more than seventeen (17) years of age at the time of the offense; and

(ii) The victim did not meet the reporting requirements of subdivision (q)(2)(B)(ii).

(B) In order to commence prosecution for an offense listed in subdivision (q)(1) under the circumstances described in subdivision (q)(3)(A), at a date that is more than twenty-five (25) years from the date the victim becomes eighteen (18) years of age, the prosecution is required to offer admissible and credible evidence corroborating the allegations or similar acts by the defendant.

(4) This subsection (q) applies to offenses:

(A) Committed on or after July 1, 2019; or

(B) Committed prior to July 1, 2019, unless prosecution for the offense is barred because the applicable time limitation set out in this section for prosecution of the offense expired prior to July 1, 2019.

Case Law

The information provided is solely for informational purposes and is not legal advice. To determine the Tennessee SOL in a particular case, contact a lawyer in the state.

Last Updated: April 21, 2021

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