The state of New York’s court system has made an exception, which will take place in the next few weeks, to allow new filings of childhood sex abuse cases under the Child Victims Act. During his daily coronavirus briefing on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the window for people to file lawsuits regarding the Child Victims Act has been extended to January.
“We will not deny those litigants the ability to file,” the spokesman, Lucian Chalfen, said in an email.
An executive order to extend the Child Victims act has been discussed since COVID-19 crisis began affecting the courts, and arguments to extend the window have grown amid concern from survivors and advocates pleading to extend the act’s one-year “look-back” period that is set to expire in August.
Jeff Herman, an attorney with a Manhattan-based firm who has handled several Child Victims Act cases, said he has “dozens and dozens” of complaints ready to go once the courts allow filings again. While he believes the governor’s tolling order applies to the act, “unless there’s crystal clear, documented evidence of that, via another order, I wouldn’t wait to file. I would file before the deadline – I wouldn’t take that risk.”
He added that the current public health crisis has exacerbated many personal challenges and stresses that survivors already deal with on a regular basis, making it “imperative” that officials extend the look-back period.
“They don’t have the luxury of dealing with these issues that have been haunting them their whole lives because they’re dealing with this current stuff,” Herman said.
Among the New York Senators advocating the extension of the bill is State Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, who sponsored the bill creating the act, said it is “absurd” to think that with growing concerns about health, employment and housing, that survivors would be reluctant or unable to move forward with cases. He reiterated that the current promised CVA window has been effectively “cut in half” and has been urging the governor’s office to extend the window during this crisis.
“It’s not just like you can snap your fingers and think that survivors are going to be able to file claims in the middle of a pandemic,” Hoylman said. “This is a difficult process to file a claim under the Child Victims Act in the best of circumstances.”
Senator Linda Rosenthal said, “The confusion surrounding the statute of limitations will create more needless litigation to clog the courts”she added, “This whole issue is mired in uncertainty, and the only way that I will feel peaceful about what the survivors can anticipate going forward is if we extend the window by another year,” she said.
Jeff Herman has been on the forefront of championing for the extension of the CVA bill and is working closely with the New York State Senators to support them and their efforts.