USA Swimming has confirmed its opposition to a California Senate Bill which would extend the statute of limitations for seeking damages for childhood sexual abuse. The organization has hired the lobbying firm Nielsen Merksamer to support its position that the bill needs to be amended, reported aquatics blogger Tony Austin.
CA SB 131 is authored by Senator Jim Beall (D) San Jose, with co-authors, Ricardo Lara (D) Long Beach, and Assembly member Nancy Skinner (D) Berkeley. Last year, as a member of the California State Assembly, Beall was behind efforts to pass a similar bill (AB 1628), which died in committee. As was previously reported by Aquatics International, Beall’s work on the earlier bill was with the support of co-author, Senator Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) and Robert Allard, an attorney with Corsiglia McMahon & Allard LLP, in San Jose, Calif.
Allard represents several individuals who have come forward alleging that they were abused by their swim coaches, including the female teenager who sued convicted sexual predator and former swim coach Andrew King, now banned for life from USA Swimming. The King case was the first in a series that has embroiled USA Swimming.
As currently proposed, SB 131 would “provide that the time limits for commencement of an action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse shall be applied retroactively to any claim that has not been adjudicated to finality on the merits as of January 1, 2014.
“This bill would revive, for a period of one year, a cause of action, as specified, that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations as of January 1, 2014, provided that the plaintiff’s 26th birthday was before January 1, 2003, and the plaintiff discovered the cause of his or her injury on or after January 1, 2004.”
Swimming World reported the following statement from USA Swimming, regarding its decision to lobby for changes to the proposed legislation:
"When USA Swimming created its Safe Sport program, our 100% commitment was to prevent abuse and keep athletes safe," USA Swimming said in a statement. "We remain committed to that charge and abhor any abuse that happens to anyone. We have many components of this program, including background screens, educational programs, an updated Code of Conduct and Safe Sport leadership conference.
"With that said, we have concerns with California SB 131 and USA Swimming, on behalf of our current and future members, has engaged Nielsen Merksamer to work with us on opposing this bill in its current form. For example, this bill does not hold the abusers accountable and excludes governmental agencies even when they are the employer."