The New York Child Victims Act, also referred to as the CVA, was signed into legislation in January of 2019 and went into effect on August 14, 2019. Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature signed this bill into law to empower victims of child sex crimes by extending the statue of limitations and open the door for thousands of victims to bring claims that otherwise would not have been possible. The laws in New York State now encourage victims to seek justice and the legal remedies that are afforded to them.

What Does the Child Victims Act Change?

Before the Child Victims Act of New York was passed, survivors of child sex abuse were required to file a civil law suit prior to their 23rd birthday. Any failure to file a claim against an individual before the survivor turned 23, or 21 if the survivor was filing against an institution, resulted in that survivor losing their ability to seek justice in the state courts of New York. Many survivors of child abuse do not accept and come to terms with the horrible acts that they endured until later in life. Under the old laws it was too late for many of these survivors to bring a claim against those who abused them. However, the new CVA has pushed back the statute of limitations so victims have until the age of 55 to bring a suit. Additionally, the new act has created a one-year window which has no age or time limit. From August 14, 2019 until August 13, 2020, victims who were previously told they were too old or it was too late to file a civil lawsuit, will now be bale to file that lawsuit no matter when their abuse occurred. This one-year window allows all survivors, regardless of age, the opportunity to seek damages from their abuser.

Child Victim Act Lawsuits that have been Filed

A massive flood of lawsuits was filed within the first 12 hours of the CVA being enacted as the New York State court system saw more than 400 survivors file claims. New York State has been preparing for this wave of litigation for months. In order to efficiently handle all of the claims, the courts have designated 45 judges, including 12 in New York City, to hear only child sex abuse cases. The state court system felt this was the best way to ensure consistent decisions and smooth case flow in this one-year look back period. It is expected that over 5,000 cases will be brought in the state over the course of this one-year time window. Similar steps were taken by the state courts when lawmakers made a similar adjustment to the statute of limitations for the “toxic tort” litigations.

Among the most notable defendants in the already filed claims are the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, Rockefeller University and the estate of Jeffrey Epstein. The Catholic Church was one of the biggest opponents of the passing of the Child Victims Act and had spent years lobbying against the passing of this bill in New York. The Church had spent over $3 million in efforts to dissuade lawmakers from passing the Act. Ultimately, once control of the state senate changed to Democratic leadership, the Church dropped its opposition and the Act passed unanimously.

The Catholic Archdiocese of New York and Rockefeller University Hospital have already begun litigation proceedings against their insurance providers to ensure claims brought against them will be covered. The New York Archdiocese has publicly stated that they do not expect to file for bankruptcy protection, ensuring that those awarded in proceedings against the archdiocese will be able to recover. However, they did state “the fiscal impact on the Catholic Church and other organizations won’t become clear for weeks or even months.”

How a Survivor Should Proceed

The passing and enactment of the Child Victims Act is the first step in reclaiming justice for those who have suffered. Survivors now much more freedom in bringing a civil lawsuit against their individual abusers and the institutions who employed those abusers. Those who have kept quiet and held onto nightmares of abuse for decades will now be able to come forward with their stories and obtain the justice and recovery they are entitled to. If you are the survivor of a child sexual abuse case, we encourage you to contact one of our attorneys at Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. to shoulder the weight of your incident while you focus on healing.

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