MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rape victims have won an important battle in their fight to sue the City of Memphis. Circuit Court Judge Gina Higgins ruled in favor of the victims last week, denying the city’s demand to drop the lawsuit.

The city claimed that the sexual assault victims behind the case Janet Doe vs. City of Memphis did not file their case in a timely manner. Judge Higgins overruled that motion and affirmed the victims’ right to sue the city as a group.

The City is moving to appeal Judge Higgins’ ruling.

In March, a judge ruled that thousands of rape victims in the city could join in one class action lawsuit. Attorneys representing the victims argued that the city is liable for 12,000 rape kits they didn’t test between 1985 and 2014.

At the time, attorneys representing the city said DNA technology didn’t make it plausible to test every kit until they started to have access to a DNA database through the FBI in 2002.

WREG Investigators uncovered this problem in 2010.

Investigators with the Memphis Police Department collected evidence from thousands of rape victims, but many of those Sexual Assault Kits (SAK’s) were never tested for DNA. 

After years of denying the problem, the city finally came clean – admitting more than 12,000 SAK’s remained untested. 

The city embarked on a program to test the kits. Since then, police opened more than 9,000 cases. 

The last information shared with the public was in September of 2022. At that time, Memphis Police had arrested more than 300 suspects, 51 of them are connected to multiple rapes. 567 cases remained open. 422 indictments for “unknown offenders” had been handed down. 

WREG Investigators have requested updated information, but almost a year later, we haven’t received a response. Meanwhile, the sexual assault victims are seeking damages from the city.

We reached out to the city Monday for comment. They told us they do not comment on matters that involve litigation.