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MI Supreme Court says law expanding statute of limitations for abuse not retroactive

Wide exterior shot of state Supreme Court building
Lester Graham
Michigan Public
Michigan Supreme Court

The state Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a 2018 law expanding a three-year statute of limitations to include claims of childhood sexual abuse up to a person's 28th birthday or three years after a person makes a connection between the abuse and injury or trauma is not retroactive. There is an exception for survivors of abuse by Larry Nassar.

Brian McLain sued the Lansing Diocese and others in 2021. His lawsuit said treatment for an anxiety disorder helped connect his years-long mental health struggles to being abused as a minor by a priest in 1999. He argued the 2018 law should also apply to him.

The Supreme Court disagreed. In the majority opinion, Justice Megan Cavanagh wrote that the law “does not apply retroactively to resuscitate lapsed claims premised on past acts of criminal sexual conduct. Because plaintiff’s complaint alleges damages caused by sexual abuse that occurred nearly 30 years ago, it is untimely.”

The Court ruled that the 2018 law applies only to claims of sexual abuse that happened after the law went into effect, with the exception of survivors of abuse by Larry Nassar.

Attorney Ven Johnson, who represented McLain, said in a statement, “This is the first state supreme court ruling of its kind in the country. We are very proud of our client, Brian McLain, for having the strength to fight for these rights for nearly four years. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that since Brian’s sexual abuse occurred before June 12, 2018, he cannot use the extended statute of limitations language and hence, his lawsuit is dismissed.”

“We call upon the Michigan Legislature to correct this result in Brian’s case by simply adding to the language of this statute that it is to be applied 'retroactively,' which means that it would apply to people who were child sexual abuse survivors before the effective date of that statute, June 12, 2018,” Johnson said.

A.J. Jones is a newsroom intern and graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Sources say he owns a dog named Taffy.
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