SANTA ROSA, CA–“Survivors of sexual abuse have new rights in the fight against childhood sex abuse and assault,” said Michael Fiumara, founding partner of the leading Northern California litigation law firm of Fiumara Law, who, for 30 years, has been a powerful advocate for justice and for victims’ rights.
Fiumara has teamed up with local attorney and former State Legislator, Noreen Evans, to represent the rights of sexual abuse victims against their abusers. While in the State Assembly and State Senate, Evans provided leadership in strengthening the rights of victims and extending the statute of limitations on their rights to sue.
“Exactly one month ago, Governor Gavin Newsom catapulted California to the forefront of fighting for the rights of child sex abuse and assault victims by signing into law AB 218,” Fiumara said. “We are proud to have him joining many of us who have devoted years advocating for justice for children victimized by sexual abuse or assault.”
The new law extended the time victims of child sexual abuse and assault have to sue, until age 40 (from age 26), or 5 years from the time of the discovery of the injury.
Additionally, beginning January 1, 2020, the new law suspends the Statute of Limitations for three years, to allow victims to file civil actions, regardless of age or date of injury. And, for the first time in the State’s history, Newsom’s action eliminated the previously restrictive limitations on such claims being filed against public institutions, like school districts, universities, hospitals, or state-run facilities.
Fiumara, a prominent member of the Sonoma County legal community who has practiced law in Santa Rosa, CA, for nearly three decades, was a pioneer in winning a major child sex abuse case against the Archdiocese of Santa Rosa, Bishop Daniel Walsh, and Father Xavier Ochoa-Perez, over a decade ago, under California’s former, more restrictive laws. The case was filed, by nine plaintiffs—three of whom were still minors at the time the case was settled–for a then-record $5,020,000.
The successful lawsuit was brought against the Santa Rosa Diocese for its failure to protect children from incidents of sexual abuse and assault over a period of 22 years. Through Fiumara’ s tenacious advocacy for justice, the Bishop was held criminally culpable for failing to report the sexual assaults, which enabled the priest who abused children in the rectory, to flee to Mexico and avoid prosecution.
The new Child Sex Abuse and Assault Victims Law signed by Governor Newsom last month, triples the damages against the entity (church, school, scouting group, camp, university, hospital) if the victims can prove an attempt to cover up the abuse.
“Our victory on behalf of our innocent child sex abuse and assault victims in 2007, forced the Diocese of Santa Rosa to abide by the mandatory reporting act, and served as an important impetus for the Catholic Church’s eventual establishment of a Victims Compensation Fund years later,” Fiumara said.
“A new window to justice has been opened, with this new law,” said Fiumara who has recently collaborated with long-time litigator and Appellate Specialist, Noreen M. Evans. Ms. Evans served six years in the California State Assembly and four in the State Senate representing Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Solano, Lake, and Humboldt counties.
Because of her chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee and her ten years of public service in such a vast geographical area she will be an incredibly strong advocate for the victims that this new law is aimed to protect. While she served in the Senate, she was instrumental passing the first substantial increase in the statute of limitations which increased the age at which victims of sexual abuse could bring legal action for compensation.
Our highly skilled legal team at Fiumara Law, PC, has the experience and knowledge to advance these types of cases on behalf of the victims. We will handle these cases in a compassionate and confidential manner to protect the privacy of the victims. Cases can be prosecuted and pled anonymously.
Fiumara Law, PC, Attorneys from Left to right: Noreen Evans, Certified Appellate Specialist; Michael A. Fiumara, Founder; Jackie Martens, Certified Family Law Specialist; and Joe Hoppe.