New York, May 29, 2020—Levy Konigsberg attorneys Corey Stern and Renner Walker successfully opposed a pair of motions to dismiss filed by the Rockefeller University Hospital in federal court. A United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that individual claims brought by two survivors of traumatic child sex abuse by Dr. Reginald Archibald could move forward. The decision is an important one for individuals who have survived child sex abuse and stepped forward to bring their abusers to justice.
The federal court’s ruling permits the plaintiffs’ individual claims against Rockefeller to proceed to the next phase of the lawsuit. In particular, the Court ruled that “Plaintiffs’ claims for negligent hiring, supervision, and retention survive” Rockefeller’s motion. The federal court explained that a company or institution can be held liable for the actions of its employees even when those actions—like sexual abuse—are outside the employee’s normal scope of duties if the employer fails to investigate or terminate the employee notwithstanding the existence of facts that would lead a “reasonably prudent” employer to investigate or terminate the employee. This law is important because corporations and institutions all too often turn a blind eye to sexual abuse by their employees—or, even worse, they cover it up.
A complete failure to take appropriate action was certainly the case at Rockefeller University Hospital. Dr. Archibald abused hundreds of children in Rockefeller’s exam rooms, using Rockefeller equipment. Moreover, when Rockefeller finally (and recently) commissioned an investigation by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP into Dr. Archibald’s decades of sexual abuse, the investigation showed that Rockefeller’s President had been made aware in 1961 of a grand jury investigation into Dr. Archibald that had subpoenaed “medical records for two of Archibald’s patients, presumably prompted by a complaint.” And Rockefeller’s Physician-in-Chief acknowledged that throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, he received “several” complaints from patients and their parents regarding Dr. Archibald’s inappropriate touching of genitals. In fact, despite considering Dr. Archibald’s examination methods, including measuring young boys’ penises both flaccid and erect, to be “questionable,” Rockefeller’s Physician-in-Chief never investigated or terminated Dr. Archibald, and never took any other action to protect the children who sought medical treatment at Rockefeller University Hospital. Now, after having survived Rockefeller’s motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs in these lawsuits will have a chance conduct discovery and obtain even more information about what Rockefeller knew and when.
Additionally, the Court recognized that Dr. Archibald’s nude photography of children, which he published in two articles, constituted the “use of a minor in a sexual performance.” Rockefeller had argued that one of the plaintiffs— N.R., who brought the suit anonymously and suffers from traumatic amnesia as a result of Dr. Archibald’s repeated sexual abuse—did not identify sexually abusive acts specifically enough to survive a motion to dismiss. The Court disagreed. The New York Child Victims Act creates a window to revive child sex abuse claims, which it defines not just sexual offenses under New York Penal Law article 130, but also use of a minor in a sexual performance under New York Penal Law section 263.05 as well. Applying well-established factors from New York and federal courts, the Court held that Dr. Archibald’s photos included a “lewd exhibition of the genitals” in violation of section 263.05. This ruling by the Court is important, not just because it represents a judicial recognition that Dr. Archibald’s nude photography of children was itself child sex abuse, but also because the publication of these photos further supports the inference that Rockefeller University Hospital had all the facts necessary to know it should investigate Dr. Archibald’s behavior and then terminate his access to children. Yet, it did nothing for more than four decades.
Levy Konigsberg has a team of sex abuse lawyers who are committed to investigating and handling each case individually. The firm represents dozens of survivors of survivors of Dr. Archibald’s sex abuse, both against Rockefeller and also the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club, which also failed to prevent Dr. Archibald from sexually abusing children on its premises. The Child Victims Act’s “look back window” was originally open for one year and scheduled to close in August 2020, but Governor Andrew Cuomo extended it for an additional year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The window now closes on August 14, 2021. Governor Cuomo’s extension provides additional time for victims of child sex abuse to file New York sex abuse lawsuits so they can bring their abuser to justice and get financial compensation for the injuries they suffered.
If you are a victim of child sex abuse in New York or New Jersey, you can learn more about your rights and options by contacting us. We provide free consultations and can advise you about what to do during the Child Victims Act’s look back window, which permits lawsuits for child sex abuse to be filed no matter when the abuse took place. Don’t hesitate to call the number below, email us, complete the web form on this page, or take a moment to chat live with one of our representatives now.