When the North Carolina SAFE Child Act was passed in 2019, it extended the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases. It also created a two-year “lookback window” that would allow new claims to be filed for sexual assaults that occurred outside the typical statute of limitations in the state. Despite the state legislature passing the SAFE Child Act unanimously, it was met with legal opponents who tried to argue it was unconstitutional.
Now, in the summer of 2022 and after dozens of sex abuse lawsuits were filed during the lookback window that closed on December 31st, 2021, Attorney Bobby Jenkins, Attorney Don Higley, and Attorney Lisa Lanier of Lanier Law Group, P.A. are fighting to keep the SAFE Child Act standing—and they have made remarkable headway. The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed to hear a child sexual assault case handled by the attorneys and that was filed by using the act’s lookback window. The order bypasses a lower Court of Appeals decision, allowing the state’s highest court to give a final say over the legal validity of the act.
The sexual assault case in question was filed against Gary “Scott” Goins, a former board of education member, teacher, and coach in Gaston County. He was convicted of a multitude of sex crimes against minors and sentenced to 34 years in prison in 2014. Survivors of his abuse decided to speak up and take legal action after the lookback window gave them more time to make that sensitive decision. But the case hit obstacles when SAFE Child Act challengers sued and said the act was not constitutional.
Attorneys Higley, Jenkins, and Lanier have worked diligently since the challenge to show that the act was created on solid legal grounds, had been reviewed numerous times before SB 199 was finalized, and was voted on correctly. The Attorney General’s Office of North Carolina joined the effort, too, defending the SAFE Child Act and citing how important it has been for child sex abuse survivors who previously felt like they had no avenue to seek justice.
At this point, it is expected that the North Carolina Supreme Court will uphold the SAFE Child Act. In turn, it will allow Lanier Law Group’s lawsuit and many others – like those filed against the Boy Scouts of America in Asheville – to proceed.
To learn more about this important development and Lanier Law Group’s involvement, you can click here to read a full article from the Citizen Times, which features Attorney Higley. For more information about Lanier Law Group in North Carolina and the types of cases we accept, please feel free to fill out an online contact form at any time.