1997-98 Academy Text Supplement

Chapter 8

Civil Lawsuits for Victims of Crime
Civil Remedies

In May of 1998, the Office for Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department of Justice released a significant study, New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century, developed by leaders in the victims' field containing recommendations for the improvement of crime victims' rights and services. Key recommendations regarding civil remedies from this report are as follows:

The Violence Against Women Act's Impact on Civil Remedies

The 1994 Violence Against Women Act's (VAWA) provisions authorizing federal suits for civil damages resulting from gender-based injuries has resulted in numerous such suits over the past two years. For example:

Statutes of Limitations

Extending "statutes of limitations" in civil suits for adult survivors of child sexual abuse has become a great aide to victims pursuing these matters. Significantly, a recent Connecticut case indicates that the state's "17 years past the age of majority" statute is not affected by the death of the alleged abuser. The Trial Court indicated that bringing such a civil action against the estate of the deceased does not violate Constitutional "equal protection" rights. (Moen v. Baransky, Judicial District of Ansonia-Milford at Milford, Doc. No. CV96-054785, May 2, 1997, cited in # Conn. Ops. 604, June 2, 1997.)

Impaired Driving

It is well known that licensed servers of alcohol may be subject to civil liability suits instituted by victims when their intoxicated patrons drive drunk causing crashes and injuries. However, this "Dram Shop" liability may also extend beyond the bar or restaurant owner to other patrons in the bar who give alcohol to the intoxicated individual. (See: Impaired Driving Update, Vol. 1, No.1, p. 9. (1996, November/December). Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute.)

Increased Public Awareness of Civil Remedies

According to a recent USA Today opinion poll, the American public is more knowledgeable about victims' civil legal rights resulting from both the increased attention at state and national levels, and more media attention afforded to victims' civil litigation. (Cited in: Nelson, D. T. (1997, May). "The American Public on Victim Litigation: We Get It." Crime Victims' Litigation Quarterly, Vol 4, No. 2. Arlington, VA: National Victim Center.)

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