New York Child Victims Act: 1-Year Civil Lawsuit Window Opens August 14th

Published on August 2, 2019 by Sandy Liebhard

The New York Child Victims Act is about to grant a powerful tool to child sexual abuse survivors who’ve long been denied the opportunity to hold those at fault accountable.

Later this month, the state will open a 1-year window allowing adult survivors to file civil lawsuits against their abusers, as well as any public or private institutions that enabled the wrongful conduct, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

What the New York Child Victims Act Does

The New York Child Victims Act became law in February, following a years-long battle marked by fierce opposition from the Catholic Church and other powerful institutions that had the most to lose if survivors were allowed to pursue previously time-barred abuse claims.

The New York Child Victims Act changed the states’ law in three key ways:

  • Extends New York’s statute of limitations to allow for criminal charges against sexual abusers of children until their victims turn 28 for felony cases, up from the previously 23.
  • Allows survivors to file child sexual abuse lawsuits against perpetrators and institutions until they turn 55.
  • Opens up one one-year, one-time-only window to allow all survivors to file civil lawsuits, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

The one-year, one-time only window will open on Wednesday, August 14th. According to Reuters, thousands of civil lawsuits are expected to flood New York’s courts in the coming weeks, exposing decades-old crimes committed at churches, hospitals, schools, and sports clubs, as well as the concerted efforts that allowed misconduct to remain concealed for years.

Catholic Church, Other Institutions Brace for Wave of Lawsuits

The Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts, in particular, are bracing for a tidal wave of litigation.

“We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward,” the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement.

Several insurance companies have announced they’ll be bolstering reserves in anticipation of the revived abuse claims. Bankruptcy, which would allow groups of cases to be settled at once, is an option if an institution’s insurance coverage proves inadequate.

“Bankruptcy is the way to go,” one attorney told Reuters. “Most clients come out of it pretty satisfied.”

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