People who were sexually abused as children will have more time to file legal claims under a new state law against individuals and public and private institutions after concerns that the pandemic was keeping survivors from coming forward.
Advocates and survivors had been pressing for an extension of the Child Victims Act amid the shutdown and disruption caused by the virus, including the closure of courts. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday he signed the latest extension of Aug. 14, 2021, for the legislation.
The law lifted the statute of limitations even for allegations that were decades old, initially for a filing period of one year. New York’s law allows individuals to file civil lawsuits for childhood sexual abuse before they reach 55 years of age.
“After fighting for the law’s passage for 13 long years, many feared the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the courts meant that the clock had run out on their opportunity to seek justice,” Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat said.
The original deadline for those making claims under the Child Victims Act was Aug. 14, 2020. Cuomo initially moved the deadline to Jan. 14 with an executive order, and the new extension would extend it to Aug. 14.
Attorney Jeff Herman, who represents victims of sexual abuse, cheered the move and said it also gives lawyers more time to investigate and vet cases amid virus-related shutdowns.
“This means that survivors who do not yet know about the law or who know about the law but are not in a position emotionally and psychologically to do anything right now because of COVID will have sufficient time to seek justice,” he said.
“It’s a win-win for everybody who cares about protecting children,” he added.
Back on May 8th of this year, it was reported on PR Newswire that victims of childhood abuse throughout the State of New York were relieved to learn that Governor Andrew Cuomo had signed an Executive Order extending the time in which to file actions under the Child Victims Act (CVA) to January 14, 2021, due to the effects of COVID-19. Executive Order 202.28, explained Jerry Parker of New York’s Parker Waichman LLP, a law firm handling a significant number of child abuse cases under the CVA, quelled the fears of many victims who were unable to work together with their lawyers in order to file their lawsuits as a result of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing. “It was going to make it impossible for these victims to file their CVA actions under the old deadline of August 14, 2020. Their abusers would be allowed to escape. That can’t happen now thanks to the Governor.”
The PR Newswire report indicated that childhood abuse victims need to work closely with their attorneys because of the delicate nature of their claims. Many of these claims span the years, with the injuries deep and disturbing. Parker described how there was no substitute for face-to-face preparation of their cases by attorneys with the care and concern to take the time to do it well. “This is not like a curbside pickup of your dinner or social distancing in a supermarket. This is personal and raw.” Parker added that he believed many of the defendants in these cases, often large, institutional concerns with multiple cases against them, had been ready to move motions to dismiss the CVA actions forward as the old deadline approached.
(AP & PR Newswire)