Recent New York legislation will afford a class of sexual abuse victims the opportunity to sue their abusers, where they previously would have been time-barred. On May 24, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law the Adult Survivors Act (“ASA”) (S.66A/A.648A), which creates a one-year lookback window for alleged survivors of sexual assault that occurred when they were over the age of 18 to sue their alleged abusers regardless of when the abuse occurred. The one-year window will begin six months from signing – on November 24, 2022 and will close on November 23, 2023. In 2019, New York extended the statute of limitations to 20 years for adults filing civil lawsuits for certain enumerated sex offenses. However, that legislation only affected new cases and was not retroactive. In contrast, the ASA permits individuals who were over the age of 18 when any alleged abuse occurred to sue for civil damages regardless of the statute of limitations.
We’ve written about the New York’s Child Victims Act (“CVA”), which created a one-year lookback window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file claims otherwise barred by the statute of limitations. Over 10,000 cases have been filed in New York courts under the CVA. The underlying facts of some of those cases stretch back as far as the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
Educational and religious intuitions and other employers should learn from the experiences of those who have had actions brought against them under the CVA and use the next six months to proactively prepare for litigation involving allegations that were previously time barred. Best practices should include reviewing insurance policies and attempting to track down policies from decades ago; tracking down old policies and procedures for investigating internal sexual assault and/or sexual harassment allegations; and locating any documents relating to prior sexual harassment and sexual assault internal investigations and tracking down personnel files and contact information of long-departed employees.