On February 19, 2019, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Child Victims’ Act, which extends the statute of limitations for a survivor of child sexual abuse in civil and criminal cases in New York. Previously, a survivor of child sexual abuse would have had to file a civil lawsuit by the time they reached the age of 21, or their case would be time barred.
Among other things, this legislation originally:
- Increased the amount of time during which perpetrators of these crimes may be held criminally accountable;
- Allowed victims of these crimes to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach the age of 55;
- Eliminated the need to file a Notice of Claim for sexual offenses committed against a minor; and
- Provided victims whose claims have been time-barred a new opportunity by opening a one-year window for them to commence their action, from August 14, 2019 to August 14, 2020.
In light of the coronavirus outbreak, the New York State’s Unified Court System suspended the filing of new lawsuits while the state worked to flatten the curve. As a result, the Governor issued Executive Order 202.29 on May 8, 2020, which extended the filing deadline for Child Victims Act cases from August 14, 2020 to January 14, 2021. The New York State Senate and Assembly subsequently passed legislation on May 26, 2020 extending the ultimate filing deadline until August 14, 2021, granting victims an extra year to file. This Bill was signed into law by Governor Cuomo on August 3, 2020.
Unsurprisingly, when the floodgates opened on August 14, 2019, hundreds of cases were filed under the Child Victims Act, and thousands more have been filed since. The Catholic Dioceses and The Boy Scouts of America are among the defendants listed in these lawsuits. Other cases have also been brought directly against abusive members of the victims’ families.
Any attempts on behalf of the defendants in these suits to attack the law forming the basis for the claims have been thwarted. A recent ruling by the Nassau County Court, for instance, denied the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s attempt to throw out 44 lawsuits filed by sexual abuse survivors. On May 12, 2020, Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Steven M. Jaeger rejected the Diocese’s argument that the Child Victims’ Act was unconstitutional and violated its right to due process. Referencing the intent and actions of the New York legislature, Judge Jaeger concluded that the “Child Victims Act was a reasonable response to remedy the injustice of past sexual abuse.”
If you were the victim of child sexual abuse, please call us at (716) 849-0701 so that we can help you seek justice.