Legislation intended to address the atrocities and aftermath of the Larry Nassar situation was passed by the Senate earlier this month. The legislation is currently pending before the State House. While we agree that all victims must be protected and the Legislature should research every available option to improve public policy in this area, we are looking for feedback from you -- feedback to determine whether one of the bills in the package might go too far and whether you are concerned about the litigation that could ensue against entities not related to the Nassar situation.
As introduced, Senate Bill 872 would have created a prospective and retroactive 30-year statute of limitations for actions constituting criminal sexual conduct involving penetration. The legislation would have allowed victims, both past and present, to file civil lawsuits against individuals, businesses and other entities based allegations dating back 30 years, regardless of whether the incident was previously reported or the defendant was arrested, charged, prosecuted or convicted. Lawsuits against businesses could be filed regardless of whether the employer knew about the incident or reported the incident to law enforcement.
The Michigan Chamber raised concerns with the legislation as introduced, specifically the fact that it would subject Michigan businesses and other entities not related to the Nassar situation to an indeterminate number of lawsuits and civil damages. Furthermore, we raised concerned that the records (e.g., personnel files, witnesses and other evidentiary records) would no longer exist for a full and transparent adjudication.
The Senate responded to our concerns and passed a scaled back version of the bill as introduced. The changes made by the Senate include:
- Limiting the retroactivity to incidents dating back to Jan. 1, 1997 and limiting the extension to those who were minors when they were abused;
- Creating carve-outs for “Romeo & Juliet” situations;
- Creating a one-year window for retroactive lawsuits to be filed; and
- Changing the statute of limitations for all civil lawsuits alleging criminal sexual conduct for all victims from three to 10 years, prospectively.
As this debate moves to the State House, we are trying to explore two key questions with members:
- Are you concerned about this legislation and the impact it might have on your business (e.g., legal exposure, availability of insurance if you work with or employ minors, etc.)?
- If there was an opportunity to amend the bills to improve them, what would you suggest?
We recognize this is a highly sensitive debate and are in no way trying to diminish the atrocities of the Larry Nassar situation or delay/deny justice to the victims. Rather, we are working to make sure the legislation is an appropriate response to the situation and is the right public policy for Michigan moving forward.
Please email Wendy Block at email@example.com with any questions, concerns or thoughts.