New Law Allows Families of Deceased Abuse Survivors to File Lawsuits
(Oakland, CA) – A new statute in California (SB 447) has significant implications for the families of victims of child sexual assault and other injustices. Starting January 1st, 2022, the families of deceased victims may be able to bring forward a lawsuit, or continue to move forward with an existing lawsuit, and seek justice. On January 3rd, 2022, the law offices of attorney Rick Simons of Furtado, Jaspovice & Simons, and Jeff Anderson & Associates filed one of the first lawsuits under this new 2022 law on behalf of the Estate of Jim Bartko, a survivor of child sexual assault.
On March 12th, 2020, Jim Bartko, former Fresno State Athletic Director and University of Oregon Associate Athletic Administrator, spoke at a press conference announcing that he was filing suit against the Diocese of Oakland after having been sexually abused by notorious predator priest and Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) coach, Father Stephen Kiesle. Bartko also wrote a book, The Boy in the Mirror, which chronicles the aftermath of the abuse and his struggles to overcome the trauma. Tragically, just three days after the announcement of the filing of his lawsuit, Jim Bartko passed away. The cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver, the result of decades of using alcohol to cope with his childhood trauma. Jim’s first drink came at the age of 7, provided to him by Fr. Stephen Kiesle as a means of making Jim more vulnerable to Fr. Kiesle’s sexual advances.
“The death of a caring and productive adult like Jim at such a young age directly from the consequences of having been repeatedly sexually abused as a child by his priest parish is a tragedy,” said attorney Rick Simons. “Institutions like the Diocese of Oakland profited from these abuse survivors’ early deaths. Now their families have the right to justice for the wrongs that were done to their loved ones.”
Part of the courage, hope, and strength that Jim found in his last months of life was that the California Child Victims Act (AB 218) provided an opportunity for him to finally seek justice. Sadly, with Jim’s passing, his surviving family could no longer follow through with the lawsuit. However, the new California statute allows his family to continue Jim’s journey to seek justice and accountability.
The California Child Victims Act gives survivors of child sexual abuse an opportunity to take legal action, but only for a limited time. Survivors have until December 31st, 2022 to file a claim under the California Child Victims Act.