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A few years ago, reports of child molestation began to surface involving the voice actor behind the famous children’s character, Elmo. The allegations were made by young men who claimed that they began “sexual relationships” with Kevin Clash when they were about 16 years old. Civil lawsuits against Clash followed. However, Clash has been lucky enough to beat each of the lawsuits thus far. His lawyer successfully argued that New York’s statute of limitations law barred each case. The courts agreed.

Earlier this month, the Third Circuit threw out another case, this one filed by yet another one of Clash’s alleged victims. In Stephens v. Clash, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a PA federal court’s dismissal of Stephens’ civil sex abuse lawsuit against Clash.

Brief Summary of the Legal Issue – The Statute of Limitations

Stephens alleged that he and Clash met in 2004, when he was a minor, 16 years old. Over the course of several years, they engaged in a “pattern of sexual activity.” Stephens filed his lawsuit in 2013, nearly ten years after the “relationship” began and seven years after reaching the age of 18. The lawsuit included claims under state and federal laws.

The key issue in the case was the statute of limitations under state and federal laws and whether the discovery rule applied to the federal claims. Stephens’ federal claims were brought under the older version of 18 U.S.C. Section 2255. Section 2255 creates a private right of action for certain sexual offenses, including child sex abuse. Under the older version of this law, the statute of limitations period was 6 years after the conduct occurred or 3 years after a legal disability. Stephens’ federal claims were analyzed under the older version which was amended in 2012 and became effective after Stephens filed his lawsuit. The amendment increased the statute of limitations period from 6 years to 10 years.

Applying the older version of Section 2255, the Third Circuit upheld the lower court’s dismissal of Stephens’ claims. In addition, his state claims were evaluated under NY’s statute of limitations (1 year) and likewise, were denied.

Teens who are sexually abused often struggle with anxiety, depression and other psychological issues well into adulthood. Brain development and maturity is not complete, and the brain undergoes significant changes during the teenage years. Major changes occur in the reasoning or rational part of the brain. This explains why teens who “choose” or voluntarily engage in this type of conduct simply can’t appreciate the full extent of the behavior. Read more about sexual abuse and its effect on teenage brain development.

For more information, please visit our sexual abuse law library where you can access dozens of legal articles, news releases, etc., by our civil sex abuse lawyers.

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