Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Seattle Personal Injury Attorney Chris Thayer
Handling Personal Injury Claims in the Seattle Area and Throughout Washington Since 1995

My name is Chris Thayer and I am a personal injury attorney practicing in downtown Seattle. I handle personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death claims throughout the greater Seattle area, including Issaquah, Mercer Island and Kirkland.

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Can a Sexually Abused Child Sue a Parent Years After Custody Determination?

Posted Friday, August 3, 2018 by Chris Thayer

Melissa Eckstrom’s parents divorced in 1992. Years later, Eckstrom filed a lawsuit against her father, alleging that he sexually abused her as a child. Eckstrom’s reality tv star father tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled that the lawsuit can go forward.

Background on the Lawsuit

Sig Hansen, from the “Deadliest Catch,” divorced Eckstrom’s mother in 1992. During the custody trial, Eckstrom’s mother accused him of molesting Melissa, but the court ruled that the alleged abuse did not happen. That is why Hansen argued that Eckstrom’s lawsuit should be dismissed. If he was already exonerated on those grounds, then he claimed she could not sue him now.

The appeals court disagreed with Hansen for several reasons. For example, Eckstrom’s lawsuit is not the same as a custody hearing. The first lawsuit focused on whether Hansen had the right to visit his daughter, and Eckstrom is seeking personal injury damages. Also, Eckstrom was not a party to the original proceeding and did not get her day in court. (She was also too young to testify or even understand what was happening.) This is not a case where the law precludes Eckstrom from pursuing her claims. Finally, there is a law that allows sexually abused children to pursue civil damages as adults.

(Preclusion is a legal term that basically means parties can not relitigate the same issues.)*Filing a Childhood Sexual Abuse Lawsuit*

Personal injury claims based on childhood sexual abuse are treated differently than other civil cases. Generally, the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit is three years from the date of the injury. But the timeframe for filing a civil lawsuit based on childhood sexual abuse does not begin until the child turns 18 years old. Young children may not be able to connect the abuse to their injury and they might repress memories that do not resurface until years later. What the parents knew or did not know is not relevant to the statute of limitations.

Claims based on childhood sexual abuse may be filed within the later of the following time periods:

Can a Parent File a Lawsuit on an Abused Child’s Behalf?

Yes. Just because the clock doesn no start to run until the child turns 18 does not mean the lawsuit can not be filed before then. While minors are not allowed to file lawsuits in Washington, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to sue on the child’s behalf. A parent (or both) is usually the designated guardian ad litem.

Contact Us Today

Contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation if you were sexually abused. You have the right to seek civil damages against the perpetrator. We will do everything we can to make sure you receive the compensation that you deserve, including medical expenses and pain and suffering.