New York, August 3, 2020—Today, Governor Cuomo signed into law a one-year extension of the “look back window” created by the historic New York Child Victims Act (CVA). Survivors of child sex abuse can now file a New York sex abuse lawsuit until August 14, 2021, no matter how long ago the sexual abuse occurred.
The CVA was originally signed into law in February 2019, and it has made New York a leader in protecting the rights of children who are sexually abused and come to terms with their abuse as adults. What makes the CVA so important is that it modifies the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse. Virtually all lawsuits are subject to a particular statute of limitations, which is a period of time in which the lawsuit must be filed or else the claim may be lost. While some statutes of limitations run for a certain number of years from the occurrence of an event (like a car accident, for example), the statute of limitations for child sex abuse often requires the victim to file the lawsuit before reaching a certain age.
Before the CVA, New York’s statute of limitations required a victim of child sex abuse to file a lawsuit by age 23 or else lose their claim. It was one of the worst statutes of limitations in the nation. After all, one of the devastating effects of child sex abuse is that it often takes victims decades to process the abuse. The average age at which a person is ready to disclose the sex abuse they suffered as a child is 52 years old. As the CVA’s legislative sponsor, State Senator Brad Hoylman put it, short statutes of limitation actually have the effect of “aiding and abetting a future cycle of abuse.” Under the CVA, if a child is sexually abused today, that child will now have until age 55 to file their lawsuit.
The CVA also created a revolutionary “look back window” that lets a child sex abuse survivor bring a lawsuit for a limited period of time regardless of when they were sex abused, and even if their claim would have been lost under the previous statute of limitations and even if they over the age of 55 now. During the window, survivors may bring civil claims against not only their individual abusers but also against the schools, institutions, and corporations which failed to stop the abuse from taking place. The CVA applies so long as the abuser’s underlying conduct would be a “sexual offense” under New York law, which includes not only touching the child, but also “use of a minor in a sexual performance.”
Originally, the CVA created a one-year look back window, which would have closed in August 2020. Shortly after the CVA was signed into law, advocates and thought-leaders called upon the Legislature to make the look back window two years, not one. Over the last year, the surge of grass roots support for an extension began to gain momentum. Furthermore, other states, like New Jersey, joined New York in reviving child sex abuse claims but created longer, two-year look back windows for survivors. And just this spring, Governor Cuomo used his authority as Governor to extend the look back window five months in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Heeding this swell of support, New York’s Legislature overwhelmingly voted on May 27, 2020 for a one-year extension, giving victims another full year to come forward and file suit.
With Governor Cuomo’s signature today, persons whose claims were previously barred by the statute of limitations and who want to file a sex abuse law suit in New York will now have until August 14, 2021. Advocates rightly applauded the extension, and we at Levy Konigsberg agree. However, failure to bring a claim during the look back window can result in losing the claim forever. Moreover, it takes time to prepare each individual sex abuse case: attorneys have to conduct research, find defendants, and draft the relevant pleadings. Survivors shouldn’t wait until the last minute to file a lawsuit to bring their abusers to justice and to seek compensation from the institutions at fault.
Levy Konigsberg has a team of attorneys who focus exclusively on sex abuse lawsuits. They handle high-profile cases and fight to achieve the best possible result for each individual client. Recently, Levy Konigsberg attorneys secured a favorable ruling in federal court regarding whether nude photographs the infamous Dr. Reginald Archibald took of his child patients were “lewd” and constituted “use of a minor in a sexual performance.” Our attorneys are handling hundreds of cases, involving schools, foster care homes, churches, and the Boy Scouts among others, but we recognize that survivor is an individual with a unique story.
If you are a survivor of child sex abuse, we can help. You have rights and options, and we can not only give you advice about them, but also help you obtain the maximum possible recovery. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us by calling at (800) 315-3806, submit an email inquiry, or completing the web form on this page, or using the “live chat” function to the right.