TEXAS

CHILD SEX ABUSE SOLs

 

CURRENT CIVIL SOL

In Texas, the civil SOL against all defendants is age forty-eight with a very narrow discovery rule.

CIVIL SOL SNAPSHOT

AGE CAP

AGE 48

DISCOVERY TOLLING

30 DAYS

REVIVAL LAW

NONE

Liability Limitations: Generally, the State of Texas may be liable for CSA claims based in negligence.[i] The State must be given notice or receive actual notice of the claim within six months after the injury occurs.[ii] Texas cannot be held liable for punitive damages, and damages to a single person arising from a single occurrence cannot exceed $250,000.[iii] Charitable immunity was abolished by common law in 1971.[iv] However, the State legislature enacted the Charitable Immunity and Liability Act in 1987, reducing the liability exposure and insurance costs of charitable organizations and their employees and volunteers in order to encourage volunteer services and maximize the resources devoted to delivering these services.[v]

Other Tolling Theories/Causes of Action: Fraudulent concealment, equitable estoppel, and conspiracy can toll an SOL, but none have successfully tolled the SOL for CSA cases.[vi] The Court of Appeals recently reversed a lower court ruling dismissing a CSA case on SOL grounds, recognizing PTSD and repressed memories could result in plaintiff being of unsound mind, which would toll the SOL.[vii]

Civil SOL History

Age Cap

2002

Age 23 (age of majority, 18, plus 5 years).[viii]

2007

Added to its age 23 SOL the offense of continuous sexual abuse of a child.[ix]

2011

Added to its age 23 SOL the offense of trafficking and prostitution.[x]

2015

Extended to age 33 (age of majority, 18, plus 15 years).[xi]

2019

Extended to age 48 (age of majority, 18, plus 30 years).[xii]

 

Revival Law

N/A

No window or other SOL revival law.

 

Discovery

Common Law

Although there is a common law discovery rule in Texas running from a victim’s discovery of abuse, it has not yet successfully tolled the SOL for sexual abuse claims.[xiii]  To apply the discovery rule, a court must find that “the alleged wrongful act and the resulting injury are inherently undiscoverable at the time they occurred but may be objectively verified.”[xiv]  Additionally, the plaintiff need only know of the abuse and the injury, not their causal connection, before the discovery rule is triggered.[xv]

Statutory

In 1995, Texas added a very narrow statutory discovery rule that gives a plaintiff thirty days after “discover[ing] the identity of the defendant” to amend a previously filed petition with the court.[xvi]  The discovery rule applies to individual perpetrators and to institutional defendants, but not to the government.[xvii] 

 

[i] See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.057; Russell v. City of Houston, 808 F.Supp.2d 969 (S.D. Tex. 2011) (determining that city could be held liable for negligence in claim arising out of arrestee’s sexual assault by police officer); Limon v. City of Balcones Heights, 485 F.Supp.2d 751 (W.D. Tex. 2007) (finding that a claim for negligence will not be barred by sovereign immunity if it arises out of an employee’s negligence that allows the assault to occur).

[ii] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.101(a); State v. Kreider, 44 S.W.3d 258, 264 (Tex. Ct. App. 2001) (holding that minors must fully comply with the six-month notice requirement).

[iii] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.023.

[iv] Howle, v. Camp Amon Carter, 470 S.W.2d 629 (Tex. 1971).

[v] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. §§ 84.001–84.008. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. § 84.003 (stipulating that to qualify for protection under the statute, an organization must either be a homeowners association, or a registered tax-exempt organization under the applicable provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, or an organization that provides charitable or religious services, prevents cruelty to animals or children, provides youth sports or recreation, neighborhood crime prevention or patrol, provides educational services, or generally operates exclusively for the promotion of social welfare by being primarily engaged in promoting the common good and general welfare of the people in the community).

[vi] Schouest v. Medtronic, Inc., 13 F.Supp.3d 692 (S.D. Tex. 2014) (articulating that the fraudulent concealment doctrine tolls the SOL where a defendant conceals the responsible party’s identity, if there is a duty to disclose, until the cause of action is, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have been, discovered); Tri v. J.T.T., 162 S.W.3d 552 (Tex. 2005) (finding victims of sexual assault committed by Buddhist monk were not entitled to recover against owner of Buddhist temple and other monks for civil conspiracy, where civil conspiracy instruction did not require jury to find that defendants had meeting of minds to accomplish sexual assaults and impermissibly allowed jury to find conspiracy on the basis of defendants’ negligence in allowing assaults to occur); Johnson & Higgins of Tex., Inc. v. Kenneco Energy, Inc., 962 S.W.2d 507, 515–16 (Tex. 1998) (noting that equitable estoppel requires: (1) a false representation or concealment of material facts; (2) made with knowledge, actual or constructive, of those facts; (3) with the intention that it should be acted on; (4) to a party without knowledge or means of obtaining knowledge of the facts; (5) who detrimentally relies on the representations);  Slay v. Burnett Trust, 187 S.W.2d 377, 385 (Tex. 1945) (reiterating that a person to whom a fiduciary duty is owed is relieved of the obligation of diligent inquiry into the fiduciary’s conduct until the fact of misconduct becomes so apparent it can no longer be ignored, regardless of the nature of the relationship); Doe v. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston ex rel. Dinardo, 362 S.W.3d 803 (Tex. Ct. App. 2012) (refusing to apply doctrine of equitable estoppel to defer accrual of limitations period based on church’s alleged failure as a fiduciary to inform former parishioner of possible claims he may have against it, in action brought by former parishioner against church and priest alleging negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and conspiracy, related to CSA by a priest, where parishioner admitted having knowledge of the facts giving rise to his claims, i.e., that he had been abused and that he was suffering from psychological problems); Doe v. Catholic Diocese of El Paso, 362 S.W.3d 707 (Tex. Ct. App. 2011) (holding that estoppel did not apply where the alleged abuser claimed that he was God, and a supervisory priest warned that the altar boy victim would get in trouble if he did not keep quiet about being sexually abused by the visiting priest, and where the altar boy admitted that he had knowledge of the facts giving rise to his claims; also explaining that for equitable estoppel to apply, these threats must have related to a civil action, redress, or compensation); Marshall v. First Baptist Church of Houston, 949 S.W.2d 504, 508 (Tex. Ct. App. 1997) (explaining that the estoppel effect ends when the plaintiff learns of facts, conditions, or circumstances which would lead a reasonably prudent person to inquire and thereby discover the cause of action).

[vii] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.00(a)(2) (unsound mind tolling); Rollins v. Pressler, 623 S.W.3d 918, 931 (Tex. Ct. App. 2021), review denied (Apr. 1, 2022).

[viii] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.0045 (2002) (five-year SOL).

[ix] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.0045 (2007) (five-year SOL).

[x] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.0045 (2011) (five-year SOL).

[xi] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.0045 (2015) (fifteen-year SOL).

[xii] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.0045 (2019) (thirty-year SOL).

[xiii] Doe v. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Sch., 382 F.Appx. 386, 388 (5th Cir. 2010) (noting that “[t]he Texas Supreme Court has not directly addressed the question of whether all sexual abuse cases are inherently undiscoverable, but other Texas courts have found that the discovery rule does not apply uniformly to these cases”); S.V. v. R.V., 933 S.W.2d 1, 25–26 (Tex. 1996) (concluding that the legislature did not prescribe application of the discovery rule in sexual abuse cases). But see Rollins, supra note 863 (questioning the accuracy of the scientific opinion on repressed memories which S.V. v. R.V. was predicated on).

[xiv] Dinardo, supra note 862, at 810 (citing L.W. v. L.S, No. 03-96-00535, 1997 WL 634343, at *3 (Tex. Ct. App. Oct. 16, 1997)).

[xv] Doe v. Linam, 225 F.Supp.2d 731, 735 (S.D. Tex. 2002).

[xvi] Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.0045(d) (2021).

[xvii] King-White v. Humble Indep. Sch. Dist., 803 F.3d 754, 760–61, 764 (5th Cir. 2015).

CURRENT TEXAS CIVIL LAW

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 16.0045 - Limitations Period for Claims Arising from Certain Offenses

(a) A person must bring suit for personal injury not later than 30 years after the day the cause of action accrues if the injury arises as a result of conduct that violates:

(1) Section 22.011(a)(2), Penal Code (sexual assault of a child);

(2) Section 22.021(a)(1)(B), Penal Code (aggravated sexual assault of a child);

(3) Section 21.02, Penal Code (continuous sexual abuse of young child or children);

(4) Section 20A.02(a)(7)(A), (B), (C), (D), or (H) or Section 20A.02(a)(8), Penal Code, involving an activity described by Section 20A.02(a)(7)(A), (B), (C), (D), or (H) or sexual conduct with a child trafficked in the manner described by Section 20A.02(a)(7), Penal Code (certain sexual trafficking of a child);

(5) Section 43.05(a)(2), Penal Code (compelling prostitution by a child); or

(6) Section 21.11, Penal Code (indecency with a child).

(b) A person must bring suit for personal injury not later than five years after the day the cause of action accrues if the injury arises as a result of conduct that violates:

(1) Section 22.011(a)(1), Penal Code (sexual assault);

(2) Section 22.021(a)(1)(A), Penal Code (aggravated sexual assault);

(3) Section 20A.02, Penal Code (trafficking of persons), other than conduct described by Subsection (a)(4); or

(4) Section 43.05(a)(1), Penal Code (compelling prostitution).

(c) In an action for injury resulting in death arising as a result of conduct described by Subsection (a) or (b), the cause of action accrues on the death of the injured person.

(d) A limitations period under this section is tolled for a suit on the filing of a petition by any person in an appropriate court alleging that the identity of the defendant in the suit is unknown and designating the unknown defendant as “John or Jane Doe.” The person filing the petition shall proceed with due diligence to discover the identity of the defendant and amend the petition by substituting the real name of the defendant for “John or Jane Doe” not later than the 30th day after the date that the defendant is identified to the plaintiff. The limitations period begins running again on the date that the petition is amended.

Case law

S.V. v. R.V., 933 S.W.2d 1 (Tex. 1996) (Texas has found the discovery rule to apply only if “the alleged wrongful act and resulting injury were inherently undiscoverable at the time they occurred but may be objectively verified)

Marshall v. First Baptist Church, 949 S.W.2d 504, 507 (Tex. App. 1997) (holding that the discovery rule did not apply because the victim had reported the abuse and therefore had “discovered the wrongful acts”).

Doe v. Linam, 225 F. Supp. 2d 731, 735-36 (S.D. Tex. 2002) (holding that the discovery rule did not apply because the plaintiff knew both of the abuse and of his emotional and psychological problems)

Adams v. YMCA, 265 S.W.3d 915, 917-18 (Tex. 2008) (To bring a suit, it is not necessary for the victim to connect the abuse to any subsequent psychological injuries or understand the full extent of his injuries.)

Doe v. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Sch., 382 Fed. Appx. 386, 388-389,(5th Cir. Tex. 2010).

Rollins v. Pressler, No. 01-19-00460-CV, 2021 WL 726995 (Tex. App. Feb. 25, 2021) (unsound mind tolling for PTSD)

CURRENT CRIMINAL SOL

In Texas, there is no SOL for trafficking and some CSA offenses. The SOL for sexual performance is age thirty-eight and any remaining felonies have an SOL of three years from the offense and two years for misdemeanors. 

CRIMINAL SOL SNAPSHOT

OTHER FELNOIES

FELONY SEXUAL ASSAULT

NO SOL Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. § 12.01(1)(B)-(C)

CONTINUOUS SEXUAL ABUSE OF A CHILD

NO SOL Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. § 12.01(1)(D)

SEX TRAFFICKING

NO SOL Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. § 12.01(1)(G)-(H)

COMPELLING PROSTITUTION

NO SOL Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. § 12.01(1)(I)

SEXUAL PERFORMANCE

AGE 38 Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. § 12.01(5)(A)

MISDEMEANORS

2 YEARS FROM OFFENSE Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. § 12.02

Tolling: The SOL is tolled while the defendant is out of State or pending charges for the same conduct in the State.[i]

Criminal SOL History

Age Cap

2002

Age 28 for sexual assault and indecency with a child unless there was DNA evidence, which eliminated the SOL.[ii] The SOL for remaining felonies was 3 years from the offense or 2 years for misdemeanors, and are not subject to the DNA evidence rule.[iii]

2007

Eliminated the SOLs for felony sexual assault, continuous sexual abuse of a child, and indecency with a child, and extended the SOL to age 38 for sexual performance.[iv]

2011

Eliminated the SOL for sex trafficking and added the crime of compelling prostitution to its age 38 SOL.[v]

2015

Eliminated the SOL for compelling prostitution.[vi]

 

[i] Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. §12.05(a) (1977).

[ii] Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. § 12.01 (2002).

[iii] Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. § 12.02 (2002) (two-year SOL).

[iv] Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. § 12.01 (2007).

[v] Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. § 12.01 (2011).

[vi] Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. § 12.01 (2015).

CURRENT TEXAS CRIMINAL LAW

Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. § 12.01 - Felonies

Except as provided in Article 12.03, felony indictments may be presented within these limits, and not afterward:

(1) no limitation:

(A) murder and manslaughter;

(B) sexual assault under Section 22.011(a)(2), Penal Code, or aggravated sexual assault under Section 22.021(a)(1)(B), Penal Code;

(C) sexual assault, if:

(i) during the investigation of the offense biological matter is collected and the matter:

(a)has not yet been subjected to forensic DNA testing; or

(b) has been subjected to forensic DNA testing and the testing results show that the matter does not match the victim or any other person whose identity is readily ascertained; or

(ii) probable cause exists to believe that the defendant has committed the same or a similar sexual offense against five or more victims;

(D) continuous sexual abuse of young child or children under Section 21.02, Penal Code;

(E) indecency with a child under Section 21.11, Penal Code;

(F) an offense involving leaving the scene of an accident under Section 550.021, Transportation Code, if the accident resulted in the death of a person;

(G) trafficking of persons under Section 20A.02(a)(7) or (8), Penal Code;

(H) continuous trafficking of persons under Section 20A.03, Penal Code; or

(I) compelling prostitution under Section 43.05(a)(2), Penal Code;

(2) ten years from the date of the commission of the offense: . . .

(E) sexual assault, except as provided by Subdivision (1);

(G) trafficking of persons under Section 20A.02(a)(1), (2), (3), or (4), Penal Code; or

(H) compelling prostitution under Section 43.05(a)(1), Penal Code;

(3) seven years from the date of the commission of the offense:

(H) exploitation of a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual under Section 32.53, Penal Code;

(4) five years from the date of the commission of the offense:

(D) abandoning or endangering a child; or . . .

(5) if the investigation of the offense shows that the victim is younger than 17 years of age at the time the offense is committed, 20 years from the 18th birthday of the victim of one of the following offenses:

(A) sexual performance by a child under Section 43.25, Penal Code;

(B) aggravated kidnapping under Section 20.04(a)(4), Penal Code, if the defendant committed the offense with the intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually; or

(C) burglary under Section 30.02, Penal Code, if the offense is punishable under Subsection (d) of that section and the defendant committed the offense with the intent to commit an offense described by Subdivision (1)(B) or (D) of this article or Paragraph (B) of this subdivision;

(6) ten years from the 18th birthday of the victim of the offense:

(A) trafficking of persons under Section 20A.02(a)(5) or (6), Penal Code;

(B) injury to a child under Section 22.04, Penal Code; or

(C) bigamy under Section 25.01, Penal Code, if the investigation of the offense shows that the person, other than the legal spouse of the defendant, whom the defendant marries or purports to marry or with whom the defendant lives under the appearance of being married is younger than 18 years of age at the time the offense is committed; or

(7) two years from the date the offense was discovered: sexual assault punishable as a state jail felony under Section 22.011(f)(2), Penal Code; or

(8) three years from the date of the commission of the offense: all other felonies.

Tex. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. § 12.02 - Misdemeanors

(a) An indictment or information for any Class A or Class B misdemeanor may be presented within two years from the date of the commission of the offense, and not afterward.

(b) A complaint or information for any Class C misdemeanor may be presented within two years from the date of the commission of the offense, and not afterward.

Case Law

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

Last Updated: April 21, 2021