Child Victims Act deadline extended
The extension doesn't apply to claims against the Diocese of Rochester, which filed for bankruptcy protection
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Monday that will extend the deadline for lawsuits filed under New York's Child Victims Act.
That legislation, adopted in early 2019, carved out a one-year window during which suits can be brought by people who allege they were sexually abused when they were young. The window of opportunity was set to close on August 13, 2020.
In May, both chambers of the state Legislature passed a bill to extend the deadline by a full year, to August 2021, saying they would do so because other states had given victims more than a year to bring suit. The state court system had also been closed by the pandemic, meaning that for several months, new CVA cases couldn't be filed.
The legislation signed Monday extends the special filing period by a full year and claims can now be filed under the statute until August 14, 2021.
"The Child Victims Act brought a long-needed pathway to justice for people who were abused, and helps right wrongs that went unacknowledged and unpunished for far too long and we cannot let this pandemic limit the ability for survivors to have their day in court," Cuomo said in a statement Monday. "As New York continues to reopen and recover from a public health crisis, extending the lookback window is the right thing to do and will help ensure that abusers and those who enabled them are held accountable."
Cuomo had signed an executive order to extend the deadline, but critics expressed doubts that such a move would survive legal scrutiny and there was widespread concern that as a result, survivors who wait may not get their day in court.
The sponsors of the legislation said the extension would ensure that those seeking redress for the abuse perpetrated against them could have their complaints heard.
"The Child Victims Act has allowed more than 3,000 brave survivors to come forward to seek justice," said state Senator Brad Hoylman, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Yet it's clear many New Yorkers who survived child sexual abuse haven't come forward — especially during the COVID-19 crisis which has upended our courts and economy."
Experts say the decision to come forward with allegations of abuse can be a difficult one, and the extension offers many of them more time to wrestle with the decision about whether to file a claim.
“Today, Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders reaffirmed their commitment to justice for decades of heinous abuse committed by the most trusted members of society," said James Marsh, a New York attorney who represents more than 700 childhood sexual abuse survivors statewide. "The Child Victims Act was a turning point for so many who have called for accountability, and today, we have a message for the predators and their enablers: time is up. We’ve seen so many brave survivors stand up and fight back, but this is only the beginning."
The extension will not apply to plaintiffs who are seeking to bring claims against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, which filed for bankruptcy protection last September.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul Warren issued an order last month confirming that the Aug. 13, 2020, deadline previously set for filing claims in the Diocese’s chapter 11 case will not be extended. He denied a request to extend the deadline filed by the official committee representing abuse claimants and other unsecured creditors.
The Diocese of Buffalo also filed for bankruptcy in February, and a determination about deadlines for filing claims against that institution would be made as part of those proceedings.
Hundreds of new CVA suits had been filed in recent weeks as the deadline for filing claims approached.