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Change to New York Sex-Abuse Laws Expected to Spur A Wave of Lawsuits

NEW YORK (The Wall Street Journal) Just before Stephen Erickson died of cancer late last year, he got permission from a judge to speak under oath about a school janitor who he said sexually abused him beginning in seventh grade.

“Over and over again,” Mr. Erickson, 55 years old, said from his hospital bed in Albany, N.Y.

Mr. Erickson gave his deposition in anticipation of the passage of the Child Victims Act, a state law extending the time for victims to file lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that employed them. His deposition was one of many preparations for the law’s so-called look-back window, a one-year period during which people who say they were abused as children can file civil suits, no matter when the alleged abuse occurred. The window opens Aug. 14.

Now, as the look-back window looms, lawyers’ for alleged victims are advertising on television, Google and social media. Institutions including churches, hospitals and schools are bracing for a wave of litigation and settlement talks. The New York state court system is training judges and establishing timelines to move thousands of anticipated lawsuits through the courts.

Supporters, who fought for the law for more than a decade, say the lawsuits will provide long-awaited justice to victims of childhood sexual abuse. Critics argue some of these abusers died years ago, and that the legal and financial burdens will fall on institutions with few records to defend themselves.

In addition to the look-back window, the law increases the maximum age to file civil suits to age 55 from 23. It also gives prosecutors additional time to file criminal charges.

While some states, including Minnesota, Arizona and Hawaii, have opened similar windows, New York’s law goes further than most because it allows for lawsuits against public institutions, not only private ones. How the window plays out—how many lawsuits are filed, how institutions cope financially and how claims fare in court—is being closely watched across the U.S., advocates and legal experts say.

“If New York can do something like this, it can show the rest of the country that creating broad avenues for justice to survivors is the right thing to do,” said Michael Polenberg, vice president for government affairs at Safe Horizon, a nonprofit that works with victims.

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Our client Stephen Erickson is just one example of so many survivors of sexual abuse who have not been able to seek justice until now! “There is no statue of limitations for trauma. Brave victims of sexual abuse have suffered for far too long. Survivors deserve a voice and the opportunity to seek justice” said Erickson’s attorney, Jeff Herman.

In addition to Erickson’s case, Herman Law plans to file dozens of cases throughout the state of New York when the window opens on August 14th!

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse in New York, Herman Law may be able to help you achieve long overdue justice. Jeff Herman is a trailblazer in the representation of victims of sexual abuse, devoting 100% of his practice to the cause. Renowned for his aggressive and tireless advocacy on behalf of his clients, Jeff understands the unique issues involved in the representation of survivors of rape and sexual abuse.

Please contact us today to discuss your options.

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