BY: KRISTEN DRAKE
Over the past several years, many school districts, youth-based organizations, religious institutions, and municipalities have enlisted PolicyFind’s Insurance Archaeologists to locate their lost liability policies. This sharp increase in the demand for insurance archaeology correlates with individual states passing legislation that expands the statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits related to child sexual abuse claims.
In recent years, more than a dozen states nationwide have opened reviver statute ‘windows’ – either for a finite term (1-2 years, generally) or permanently. These windows allow survivors of sexual abuse to file previously time-barred civil lawsuits against perpetrators and associated organizations decades after the alleged acts occurred.
PolicyFind has conducted Insurance Archaeology for defendant organizations throughout the country and has been engaged most frequently in (but not limited to) California, New York, and New Jersey. However, the landscape of reviver statutes seems ever-evolving.
MARYLAND’S CHILD VICTIMS ACT OF 2023
Most recently, in April, Maryland’s governor signed the Child Victims Act of 2023, eliminating the statute of limitations and allowing adult survivors of child sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit, regardless of when the abuse happened. Maryland’s lookback window opens on October 1, 2023, and, similarly to Vermont and Maine, it will be open permanently.
CALIFORNIA’S AB 452
In California, just over a month after the Child Victims Act reviver statute ended in December of 2022, lawmakers introduced AB 452, the “Justice for Survivors Act”. While the Child Victims Act window was open for a 3-year period, if passed, AB 452 would open a permanent lookback window. AB 452 has been sent to the state’s Committee on Appropriations’ Suspense file for further determination of the potential fiscal impact of the bill.
ARKANSAS’ SB 676
In February, SB 676, the “Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act” became law in Arkansas. The law opened a two-year window allowing survivors aged 55 and younger to file civil lawsuits against alleged perpetrators or responsible organizations. This window closes on January 31, 2024.
These matters are sensitive and undoubtedly full of complexities for defendant institutions. When a school district, a religious institution, or a non-profit receives a civil complaint of this nature, they will likely begin to assemble a team to assist them. The team will probably be anchored by the attorney representing the defendant’s institution. An Insurance Archaeologist needs to have a place of prominence on the team, too. Insurance Archeologists are the experts at bringing to light those often long buried or lost general liability insurance policies issued to the school or non-profit. These old General Liability policies can respond today and provide the funds needed to answer revived claims of abuse – even if the allegations span back to the 1960s. While these old policies can provide monetary relief, the policyholder must first prove the policy existed. This can be problematic, especially when the policies have long ago been discarded.
Insurance Archeology is the practice of locating and retrieving proof of the existence, terms, conditions, and limits of lost or destroyed insurance policies. Under current and future reviver statutes and emerging new laws across the country, historical CGL policies issued to businesses, schools, churches, and other organizations, are the first line of assets to be explored to pay for claims against them.
Contact PolicyFind today to learn more about how to discover and reconstruct your organization’s historical liability insurance portfolio.