The trend in New York State to provide relief for expired claims by waiving statutes of limitation in sex-abuse cases may be continuing. As its current session winds down, the New York State Legislature is considering legislation that would provide a “revival” one-year period of the statute of limitations within which survivors of adult sexual abuse may file civil claims against individuals, companies and institutions, even if the statute of limitations for the claims has expired, and/or the claims were previously dismissed because of late filing. Entitled “Adult Survivors Act” (S.66/A.648), the bill recognizes that New York’s current statute of limitations effectively bars individuals who were eighteen years old or older at the time of the alleged sexual abuse, from seeking civil redress because the statute of limitations fails to take into account the number of years it may take for survivors of adult sexual abuse to process the abuse and come forward to confront their abusers.
This is not the first time the New York Legislature has sought to temporarily waive the statute of limitations for abuse victims. In August of 2019, New York enacted the Child Victims Act. The Child Victims Act similarly permitted a one-year “revival” period of the statute of limitations for individuals who assert civil claims of child abuse to file claims against individuals and institutions, even if those claims had been previously time-barred or dismissed due to late filing. In August 2020, the Child Victims Act’s “revival period,” which was originally scheduled to close in August 2020, was extended through August 13, 2021. Over five thousand cases have been filed in New York State courts under the Child Victims Act, and many more are expected to be filed in the two and a half months leading up to the August 14th deadline.
Like the Child Victims Act, the Adult Survivors Act would establish special trial preference for cases filed pursuant to the revival of the statute of limitations and requires that the Chief Administrative Judge of the Office of Court Administration promulgate rules concerning the timely adjudication of claims revived by the Act. If the Adult Survivors Act, which would allow a claimant to file a civil suit against any company or institution – such as a workplace, school, house of worship, doctor’s office, etc. – where the abuse took place, is enacted, it will likely result in a similar, if not greater, number of cases being filed.
This blog will provide updates as the Legislative Session continues.