DENVER (AP) — Colorado lawmakers in the House passed a bill Monday that would allow victims of sexual abuse to retroactively hold organizations accountable through civil lawsuits.
The bill that next goes to the Senate would allow the victims to sue organizations with youth-related programs for alleged abuse that happened as far back as 1960. The state’s previous law only allowed them to sue for six years after they turned 18.
The bill would give three years for victims to sue for the alleged abuse that happened decades ago, said one of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Rep. Matt Sooper.
Groups that could be sued include organizations that host youth-related programs in which leaders or managers should have known, did not take action or covered up the sexual abuse while the workers accused of committing it were under their supervision.
“Organizations who cover up, actually cut short a victim’s ability to ever be able to bring a cause under any other legal theory,” Sooper said.
The bill is moving forward after Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed another bill into law in April that applies to future cases of alleged sex abuse by removing the statue of limitations for suing.
Sooper said the bill is important because a Colorado Attorney General report found that the average age for sexual assault survivors to share their stories is 53.
Under Colorado law, people who sue public entities can receive maximum awards of $387,000, according to the bill’s fiscal note. Under the bill allowing retroactive lawsuits, alleged victims of sex abuse can receive maximum damages of $1 million when suing private entities.