MASSACHUSETTS

CHILD SEX ABUSE SOLs

CURRENT CIVIL SOL

In Massachusetts, the civil SOL for child sex abuse claims is capped at age 53 (age of majority, 18, plus 35 years). There is also a retroactive discovery rule, which allows victims up to 7 years to file a claim after discovering an injury caused by the abuse, even where the SOL is long expired. A revival law is in effect and previously expired claims can be filed until a survivor reaches age 53 against perpetrators only.

CIVIL SOL SNAPSHOT

AGE CAP

AGE 53

DISCOVERY TOLLING

7 YEARS

REVIVAL LAW

UP TO AGE 53

Changes Since 2002:

Age Cap: In 2002, the civil SOL for sexual abuse of minors in Massachusetts was age 21 (age of majority, 18, plus 3 years).  In 2010 and 2011 the list of sex abuse crimes this SOL applied to was expanded to apply to more crimes, including sex trafficking.  By 2014, Massachusetts extended the civil SOL to age 53 (age of majority, 18, plus 35 years).

Discovery:  Since at least 1995, Massachusetts has recognized a common law discovery rule for child sex abuse claims which delays accrual of a cause of action, so the 3-year SOL does not begin to run until a victim discovered her injuries were caused by abuse. It also adopted a statutory 3-year discovery rule in 1993 which ran from when a “victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered that an emotional or psychological injury or condition was caused by” the abuse and only applied against perpetrators. In 2014, the statutory discovery rule was extended to 7 years from discovery and was made applicable to claims against any type of defendant – including, perpetrators, individuals, entities and the government. The 2014 amendment was completely retroactive against perpetrators and non-perpetrators, reviving claims and giving a victim 7 years after discovering an injury was caused by the sex abuse to file suit. 

Revival Law:  In 2014, Massachusetts revived child sex abuse claims by all survivors up until they reach age 53, against perpetrators only.

CURRENT MASSACHUSETTS CIVIL LAW

Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260 § 4C - Sexual abuse of minors

Actions of tort alleging the defendant sexually abused a minor shall be commenced within 35 years of the acts alleged to have caused an injury or condition or within 7 years of the time the victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered that an emotional or psychological injury or condition was caused by said act, whichever period expires later; provided, however, that the time limit for commencement of an action under this section is tolled for a child until the child reaches eighteen years of age.

 For purposes of this section, “sexual abuse” shall mean the commission of any act against a minor as set forth in section thirteen B, 13B ½, 13B ¾, thirteen H, twenty-two, twenty-two A, 22B, 22C, twenty-three, 23A, 23B, twenty-four, 24B or subsection (b) of section 50 of chapter two hundred and sixty-five or section two, three, four, four A, four B, seven, eight, thirteen, seventeen, twenty-nine A, thirty-four, thirty-five or thirty-five A of chapter two hundred and seventy-two.

Revival Window: sections 4 to 6, inclusive, of this act shall apply regardless of when any such action or claim shall have accrued or been filed and regardless of whether it may have lapsed or otherwise be barred by time under the law of the commonwealth.

2014 Mass. ALS 145, 2014 Mass. Ch. 145, 2013 Mass. H.B. 4126.

SECTION 8. Clause (i) of section 4C1/2 of chapter 260 of the General Laws shall be limited to all claims arising out of or based upon acts alleged to have caused an injury or condition to a minor which first occurred after the effective date of this act. Clause (ii) of said section 4C1/2 of said chapter 260 and sections 4 to 6, inclusive, of this act shall apply regardless of when any such action or claim shall have accrued or been filed and regardless of whether it may have lapsed or otherwise be barred by time under the law of the commonwealth.

Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260 § 4C 1/2 - Negligent supervision or conduct causing or contributing to the sexual abuse of minor by another person

An action of tort alleging that the defendant negligently supervised a person who sexually abused a minor or that the defendant’s conduct caused or contributed to the sexual abuse of a minor by another person shall be commenced within the later to expire of: (i) 35 years of the acts alleged to have caused an injury or condition to such minor; or (ii) 7 years of the time the victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered that an emotional or psychological injury or condition was caused by such act; provided, however, that the time limit for commencement of such an action under this section shall be tolled for a child until the child reaches 18 years of age. For purposes of this section, “sexual abuse” shall have the same meaning as in section 4C.

Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 260 § 4D - Civil remedies for victims of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude; damages; time for actions; representation of victim’s rights by others

(a) A victim of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude under section 50 of chapter 265 or of trafficking of persons for forced services under section 51 of said chapter 265 may bring a civil action for trafficking of persons for forced labor or services or sexual servitude. The court may award actual damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief or any other appropriate relief. A prevailing plaintiff shall also be awarded attorney’s fees and costs. Treble damages may be awarded on proof of actual damages if the defendant’s acts were willful and malicious.

(b) A civil action for trafficking of persons for forced labor or services or sexual servitude shall be commenced within 3 years of the date on which the human trafficking victim was freed from human trafficking or, if the victim was a child during the commission of the offense, within 3 years after the date the plaintiff attains the age of 18.

(c) If a person entitled to sue is under a disability at the time the cause of action accrues, such that it is impossible or impracticable for such person to bring an action, the time during which the plaintiff is under a disability shall toll the statute until the disability ceases.

(d) In the event that a child plaintiff is under a disability, the failure of the child’s guardian ad litem to bring a plaintiff’s action within the applicable limitation period shall not prejudice the plaintiff’s right to do so after his disability ceases.

(e) A defendant shall be estopped from asserting a defense of the statute of limitations if the expiration of the statute is due to the defendant inducing the plaintiff to delay the filing of the action, preventing the plaintiff from filing the action or threats made by the defendant that caused duress upon the plaintiff.

(f) Any legal guardian, family member, representative of the human trafficking victim or court appointee may represent the human trafficking victim’s rights, in the event the human trafficking victim is deceased or otherwise unable to represent his own interests in court.

Case law

Phinney v. Morgan, 39 Mass. App. Ct. 202, 654 N.E.2d 77 (Mass. App. Ct. 1995: By enacting ALM GL c 260 § 4C, which contains discovery rule for actions brought against perpetrator of sexual abuse of child, Legislature did not intend that judicially crafted discovery rule for actions brought against non perpetrators of such abuse should be precluded under ALM GL ch. 260, § 2A.

Martin v. Boston Minuteman Council, Inc., 20 Mass. L. Rep. 569, 2006 Mass. Super. LEXIS 89 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2006): Applying discovery provision of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 4C to all plaintiff’s claims against “boy scout council alleging claims for negligence, negligent supervision, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and assault and battery” stemming out of abuse by boy scout troop leaders.

CURRENT CRIMINAL SOL

In Massachusetts, there is no criminal SOL for many felonies. However, if more than 27 years passes from the date of the offense, the SOL is capped at age 45 (age of majority, 18, plus 27 years) unless there is corroborating or DNA evidence. The remaining felonies and misdemeanors have an SOL of 6 years from the offense.

CRIMINAL SOL SNAPSHOT

 

INDECENT ASSAULT AND BATTERY ON CHILD UNDER AGE 14

No SOL, unless 27 years has passed, and then DNA/corroborating evidence required Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 265 §§ 13B, 13B1/2, 13B3/4

WANTON OR RECKLESS BEHAVIOR CREATING A RISK OF SERIOUS BODILY INJURY OR SEXUAL ABUSE TO A CHILD

No SOL, unless 27 years has passed, and then DNA/corroborating evidence required Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 265 § 13L

RAPE OF A CHILD

No SOL, unless 27 years has passed, and then DNA/corroborating evidence required Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 265 §§ 22A, 22B, 22C

RAPE AND ABUSE OF CHILD

No SOL, unless 27 years has passed, and then DNA/corroborating evidence required Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 265 §§ 23, 23A, 23B

ASSAULT OF CHILD

No SOL, unless 27 years has passed, and then DNA/corroborating evidence required Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 265 § 24B

TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS UNDER 18 YEARS FOR SEXUAL SERVITUDE

No SOL, unless 27 years has passed, and then DNA/corroborating evidence required Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 265 § 50

INDECENT ASSAULT AND BATTERY ON PERSON FOURTEEN OR OLDER

6 years from offense or the earlier of 6 years from age/time of reporting Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 265 § 13H

PROSTITUTION

6 years from offense or the earlier of 6 years from age/time of reporting
Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 272 §§ 2, 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13

INCEST

6 years from offense or the earlier of 6 years from age/time of reporting Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 272 § 17

OBSCENITY

6 years from offense or the earlier of 6 years from age/time of reporting Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 272 § 28, 29A, 29B

CRIMES AGAINST NATURE AND LASCIVIOUS ACTS

6 years from offense or the earlier of 6 years from age/time of reporting Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63 and ch. 272 §§ 33, 34, 35, 35A

OTHER FELONIES & MISDEMEANORS

6 years from offense Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 277 § 63

DNA SNAPSHOT

 

NO DNA STATUTE


Changes Since 2002:

In 2002, the criminal SOL for felonies related to sex abuse was 15 years from the offense.  All remaining felony and misdemeanor crimes have an SOL of 6 years after the crime was committed.  Massachusetts eliminated the criminal SOL for sex abuse felonies in 2006 with a limitation that, if prosecuting an offense more than 27 years after the crime, corroborating or DNA evidence is required.  In 2011, sex trafficking was added to the list of no SOL crimes.

CURRENT MASSACHUSETTS CRIMINAL LAW

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 277, § 63 - Limitation of criminal prosecutions

An indictment for murder may be found at any time after the death of the person alleged to have been murdered. An indictment or complaint for an offense set forth in section 13B, 13B ½, 13B ¾, 13F, 13L, 22A, 22B, 22C, 23, 23A, 23B, 24B or subsection (b) of section 50 of chapter 265, for conspiracy to commit any of these offenses, as an accessory thereto, or any 1 or more of them may be found and filed at any time after the date of the commission of such offense; but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the date of commission of such offense shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim’s allegation. Such independent evidence shall be admissible during trial and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals. An indictment for an offense set forth in sections 22, 24 or subsection (a) of section 50 of chapter 265, or for conspiracy to commit either of these offenses or as an accessory thereto or any 1 or more of them may be found and filed within 15 years of the date of commission of such offense. An indictment for an offense set forth in sections 17, 18, 19 and 21 of said chapter 265 or section 17 of chapter 272, for conspiracy to commit any such crime, as an accessory thereto, or any 1 or more of them may be found and filed within 10 years after the date of commission of such offense. An indictment for any other crime shall be found and filed within 6 years after such crime has been committed. Any period during which the defendant is not usually and publicly a resident within the commonwealth shall be excluded in determining the time limited.

Notwithstanding the first paragraph, if a victim of a crime set forth in section 13B, 13F, 13H, 22, 22A, 23, 24B, 26A or 50 of chapter 265, or section 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 26, 28, 29A, 29B, 33, 34, 35 or 35A of chapter 272 is under the age of 16 at the time the crime is committed, the period of limitation for prosecution shall not commence until the victim has reached the age of 16 or the violation is reported to a law enforcement agency, whichever occurs earlier.

Case Law

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

Last Updated: April 21, 2021

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