With NY Child Victims Act Now Law, Expert Predicts Rise in Abuse Settlements

Published on June 24, 2019 by Laurie Villanueva

The Empire State will see a significant increase in legal settlements and insurance payouts related to child sexual abuse over the next several years, now that the  New York Child Victims Act has finally become law.

What the NY Child Victims Act Does

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the NY Child Victims Act in February, following a 12-year-battle that saw intense lobbying by the Roman Catholic Church and other powerful interests seeking to block its passage.

The new law grants adult survivors of child sexual abuse significantly more time to seek redress against those responsible, including any private and public institutions that may have protected or covered for their abusers, by:

  • Extending the states’ statute of limitations to allow for criminal charges against sexual abusers of children until their victims turn 28 for felony cases, up from the current 23.
  • Allowing survivors to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and institutions until they turn 55.
  • Opening a one-year, one-time-only window to allow all survivors to file civil lawsuits, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

Child Victims Act “Opens the Floodgates” in NY

According to the Buffalo Law Journal, a new analysis recently presented at a CLE luncheon for the Defense Trial Lawyers Association of Western New York and other legal groups suggests the NY Child Victims Act might be enough to convince hundreds of survivors to move forward with decades-old claims.

“What it’s going to do is literally open the floodgates to civil lawsuits for sexually based offenses,” said Florina Altshiler, the attorney who authored the analysis. “The institutions that are going to be most at risk are academic institutions, religious institutions and municipal entities. … We are talking about stale cases from 20, 30 or even 50 years ago.”

Before the NY Child Victims Act’s passages, payouts related to clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church had already totaled $2.6 billion $2.6 between 2004 and 2012.

“This is what we can look to as the absolute floor (of what it may cost), and it’s going to be way more than (that number),” Altshiler warned.

$3 Billion in Catholic Clergy Abuse Settlements Nationwide

Nationwide, Catholic Dioceses have paid over $3 billion to settle clergy sexual abuse lawsuits during the past 16 years alone.

In many of these cases, predatory priests were able to assault multiple children over many years because high-ranking church officials declined to report allegations to law enforcement and remove offenders from ministry. The accused were instead shuttled among unsuspecting parishes, while victims and their families were intimidated into silence, all in in a bid to conceal misconduct from the public and preserve the Church’s reputation.

States with laws similar to the NY Child Victims Act recorded some of the largest recoveries in clergy sex abuse lawsuits.

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