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Sex abuse litigation prompted effort to update state law regarding statute of limitations
Jason Spencer mug
State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine

The sponsor of 2015 Georgia General Assembly legislation that extended the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse civil lawsuits is now supporting a tougher bill.

State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, held a press conference at the Capitol Wednesday morning surrounded by victims’ advocates and those who have filed litigation under the Hidden Predator Act.

The act allowed for a two-year civil suit window that expired July 1, and a number of cases were filed before the expiration date.

One includes Robert William Lawson III, who filed a suit last year involving former Gainesville scoutmaster Royal Fleming Weaver Jr. and the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. The case is still pending in Cobb County Superior Court.

Spencer said in a statement the litigation in cases across the state involving various organizations “highlight the need for new and tougher changes to the current Hidden Predator Act.”

“It is necessary that we address many of the injustices uncovered in recent child sexual abuse litigation and the shortcomings of a shortened statute of limitations,” Spencer said in a news release.

The Hidden Predator Act of 2018 would extend the statute of limitations from age 23 to age 38 and re-establish another two-year window for civil claims until 2020.

The new bill also focuses on organizations allegedly covering up child sexual abuse.

“Whenever the attorney general has reasonable cause to believe that a person or entity has been negligent or grossly negligent in the injury of individuals within this state as a result of childhood sexual abuse and such negligence or gross negligence raises an issue of general public importance, the attorney general may commence a civil action … in any appropriate superior court,” according to the bill’s text.

If such negligence is proven, a civil penalty against the person or organization can be assessed and damages can be awarded to the victim.