According to a recent article in The Washington Post, the number of child sexual abuse allegations against Catholic clergy more than quadrupled in 2019 compared to the average in the previous five years. In 2015, there were 903 reports, and by 2019, that number had increased to 4,434.
Meanwhile, New York has seen at least 1,000 new child sexual abuse lawsuits filed since May 2020, with hundreds more expected before the “look-back window” deadline, which has now been moved to August 14, 2021.
New York Extends Filing Deadline to 2021
In February 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Child Victims Act. This new law provided a short-term expansion of the state’s statute of limitations on child sex abuse claims, creating a one-year look-back window during which victims could file claims that had previously been barred.
Starting August 14, 2019, victims could bring lawsuits against the perpetrators and related institutions, regardless of when the abuse occurred. The law also extended the statute of limitations for future civil cases until the victim reaches the age of 55, a significant increase from the previous limit of age 23. For criminal cases, victims can seek prosecution until they turn 28.
The one-year grace period was scheduled to end on August 14, 2019, but in May 2020, Governor Cuomo announced an executive order extending that deadline until January 14, 2021, mainly because of court delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then on August 3, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed another extension giving survivors of childhood sexual abuse an additional year to bring their cases. This extension creates a final deadline of August 14, 2021. Supporters argued that the extra time was needed because of the court disruption brought by COVID-19.
“The Child Victims Act brought a long-needed pathway to justice for people who were abused,” Governor Cuomo said, “and helps right wrongs that went unacknowledged and unpunished for far too long and we cannot let this pandemic limit the ability for survivors to have their day in court.” According to Senator Brad Hoylman, 3,000 survivors have filed claims so far.
Catholic Dioceses and Boy Scouts of America Create Victims’ Compensation Funds
Several other states have also opened look-back windows for child sex abuse victims, including New Jersey, California, Arizona, Montana, Hawaii, Vermont, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia. In all of these states, victims that were previously barred from filing lawsuits because of the statutes of limitations can now come forward and seek justice.
Multiple dioceses around the country have created compensation funds for victims, including those in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and more.
In addition to sexual abuse claims against Catholic clergy and related dioceses, many victims of sexual abuse occurring within the Boy Scouts organization have come forward to file lawsuits. The Boy Scouts has created a victims’ compensation fund—survivors who wish to file for damages within the fund have until November 16, 2020 file claims in federal bankruptcy court.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.