On October 13, 2019, when California’s governor signed AB 218—the
California Child Victims Act (CCVA)—California became one of at least nine
other states to enact some form of window legislation for childhood victims of
sexual assault. The CCVA became effective on Jan. 1, 2020. This article
explores the CCVA’s pertinent changes to existing law for pursuing childhood
sexual assault claims, as well as some of the key insurance coverage issues
arising from this new law.
The text of the CCVA is substantively similar to other states that
have passed similar legislation, such as New York, and provides the following
1. The definition of childhood
sexual abuse is expanded and is now referred to as “childhood sexual assault.”
2. The CCVA increases the time limit for commencing an action for
recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual assault to 22 years from the date the plaintiff attains
the age of majority (i.e., age 40), or within five years of the date the
plaintiff discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) that the
psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused
by sexual assault, whichever is later.
3. The CCVA provides for the recovery of up to treble damages against
a defendant who is found to have covered up the sexual assault of a minor,
defined as “a concerted effort to hide evidence relating to childhood sexual
4. A robust certificate of merit process must be followed for
plaintiffs who are 40 years of age and older.
5. The plaintiffs have a three-year
look-back period, starting January 1, 2020, to bring claims that are otherwise
barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Numerous lawsuits have already
been filed in several courts throughout California.
In terms of insurance coverage, a
threshold issue to consider is whether a liability policy that potentially
covers these newly-brought claims even exists, as the vast majority of these
claims will involve sexual assault that allegedly occurred years, if not
decades, ago. Because a complete copy of these historical policies may not
exist, secondary evidence of the policies might be assembled to prove the
existence of coverage.
Another key issue is whether
potential coverage exists for parties whose negligent, or even reckless,
conduct contributed in some way to the sexual assault. Although no coverage
exists for the individual perpetrator of the sexual assault, nuances exist for
claims for negligent hiring, training, and supervision of the perpetrator.
The CCVA’s provision of awardable
treble damages for a cover up will also be a hotly-contested issue on both the
defense and coverage angles. For example, the requisite intent requirement that
a plaintiff must prove against a defendant may ultimately equate to an
intentional act, which is typically barred from coverage under an insurance
policy that requires an accident.
Further, the punitive nature of treble damages in this provision also puts it
at odds with California’s public policy against coverage for punitive damages.
In addition to the above, there are many coverage issues that must be considered for an accurate assessment of coverage for this new flood of CCVA claims. Stay tuned for an updated post. You can also listen to Goldberg Segalla’s Timely Notice podcast series on the Child Victims Act: State by State
 See Cal. Evid. Code § 1521; Dart Indus., Inc. v. Commercial Union Ins.
Co., 28 Cal. 4th 1059 (2002).
 See Cal. Ins. Code § 533; J. C. Penney Cas. Ins. Co. v. M. K., 52
Cal. 3d 1009 (1991); Minkler v. Safeco
Ins. Co. of Am., 49 Cal. 4th 315 (2010); Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Constr. Co., 5
Cal. 5th 216 (2018).
 See J. C. Penney Cas. Ins. Co., 52 Cal.
3d at 1028 n. 17 (1991) (“We note, however, that
the very notion of ‘accidental’ child molestation is implausible.”).
 See PPG Indus., Inc. v. Transamerica Ins.
Co., 20 Cal. 4th 310, 317 (1999).