Hundreds of child sexual abuse lawsuits were filed throughout New York state on Wednesday, the first day of a one-year look-back window that allows plaintiffs to revive decades-old claims otherwise time-barred by the state’s statute of limitations.
Media accounts indicate that 439 Child Victims Act lawsuits were pending in New York state courts by 11:59 p.m. on August 14th. At least 169 were filed in New York City.
The majority of new claims name one of the state’s 11 Roman Catholic dioceses as a defendant, while others seek compensation from the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Boy Scouts of America, and Rockefeller University. At least one Child Victims Act lawsuit names the estate of accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein as a defendant.
“His money, influence and connections to important people made me want to hide and stay silent,” 32-year-old Jennifer Araoz wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Wednesday. “For years I felt crushed by the power imbalance between Epstein, with his enablers, and me. The Child Victims Act finally offers a counterweight.”
Some of the Child Victims Act lawsuits assert claims that date back to the 1960s. All of these plaintiffs had been barred from court by the state’s old statute of limitations, which required that civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse be filed by a victim’s 23rd birthday.
The New York Child Victims Act changed the law in three key ways:
The New York Unified Court System has assigned 45 judges to handle the influx of Child Victims Act Lawsuits, including a dozen in New York City.
“The revived Child Victims Act cases are critically important cases, raising numerous challenging legal issues, that must be adjudicated as consistently and expeditiously as possible across the state,” Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks said. “We are fully committed to providing appropriate and sufficient resources to achieve that goal.”