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Colorado Eliminates Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault Cases

For decades, Colorado legislators have debated the civil statute of limitations on sexual assault cases. Now, the state legislature has come to a bipartisan agreement to eliminate this civil statute, granting sexual assault survivors—including those abused as children—unlimited time to sue perpetrators through SB21-073 and SB21-088. The Zalkin Law Firm’s Attorney Kristian Roggendorf played an instrumental role in getting one of these historic laws passed.

A 2019 report detailing how widespread child sex abuse by Catholic priests was and continues to be in Colorado reignited the push for such legislation, giving it a “new steam,” as reported by The Colorado Sun. To add more fuel to the fire, a supplemental report was published in 2020, which studied and analyzed the accounts of survivors who had come forward after the publication of the 2019 report.

These reports, in addition to the well-known fact that survivors often take years to build up the courage to speak about their abuse, rendered the previous six-year civil statute of limitations on sex abuse cases obsolete. Thus, legislators were compelled to try yet again to eliminate this civil statute of limitations. Attorney Roggendorf was determined to ensure that survivors of historic sex abuse were not left out.

Attorney Roggendorf: A Key Player in Historic Legislation

The Zalkin Law Firm’s Attorney Kristian Roggendorf first wrote the draft of what was to become Colorado’s landmark Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act in late 2019, during the legislative wrangling over abolishing the statute of limitations for child abuse cases. Recognizing that a novel approach was needed to provide justice for survivors of child sexual abuse from decades ago, Attorney Roggendorf proposed creating a new legal claim for relief—a new “cause of action” based on statute—that would allow survivors to bring a lawsuit against institutions that allowed their abuse to happen.

Working closely with the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) and bipartisan legislative sponsors Sen. Jessie Danielson and Rep. Matt Soper, Attorney Roggendorf tailored the proposed statute to the needs of survivors, avoiding the constitutional concerns that had plagued other attempts to establish an avenue for relief for victims of decades-old child abuse.

Throughout the 2020 and 2021 session, Attorney Roggendorf continued to meet with legislators, lobbyists, fellow attorneys, survivors, and other interested parties to craft a bill that secured survivors’ rights but would be able to pass through a closely divided Colorado legislature. Attorney Roggendorf also testified on several occasions about the need for and constitutionality of the bill, emphasizing his nearly 20 years of representing adult victims of child abuse seeking justice against churches, schools, youth organizations, and other entities and explaining how the bill would help survivors of child sexual abuse.

A great deal of compromise, contributions from all sides, and the heartwrenching stories of brave survivors willing to speak publicly about their abuse allowed SB21-088 to pass both houses of the legislature on its way to Governor Jared Polis’ desk for his signature. Although no legislation can be perfect, the Child Abuse Accountability Act provides justice long thought out of reach for children who were abused in Colorado.

Some highlights of the bill include:

  • Allows anyone sexually abused as a minor since 1960 to bring suit against an institution (including public schools), when the entity knew or should have known of either a risk from the abuser or that the program or activity itself was dangerous;
  • Applies to all abuse that happened after January 1, 1960;
  • Allows survivors three years to bring suit for any pre-2022 sexual abuse (beginning January 1, 2022), but there is no time limit going forward to bring suit for any abuse that occurs after January 1, 2022;
  • Allows suits against public entities and employees for all post-January 1, 1960 abuse, with no notice required; and
  • Limits damages to $500,000 but allows for up to $1,000,000 if a plaintiff can prove that the institution failed to remedy a danger after gaining knowledge of the risk posed to children.

To speak with Attorney Roggendorf or another qualified trial lawyer, contact The Zalkin Law Firm online or at (800) 477-2989. We accept multi- and single-victim sex abuse cases in Colorado, California, New York, Oregon, and nationwide.