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As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to shutdown courts nationwide, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that the deadline for filing sex abuse lawsuits under the New York Child Victims Act has been extended until January 2021, as New York state has been hit harder than virtually anywhere else in the world.
In a press release issued on May 8, Governor Cuomo announced that the deadline for adults to file claims over sexual abuse when they were a child has been extended five months, allowing lawsuits that were previously barred by the statute of limitations to be filed until January 14, 2021.
The original New York sexual abuse deadline required that cases be brought between August 14, 2019 and August 14, 2020, as part of a “window” that allowed victims to pursue claims against perpetrators of the abuse and institutions responsible for allowing the conduct to occur, regardless of when the abuse occurred, or how old the victim is at this time.
Governor Cuomo originally signed the Child Victims Act into law in February 2019, as part of an effort to allow plaintiffs to pursue damages after the Catholic Church and other large institutions took active measures in prior years to suppress claims and prevent victims from coming forward. The law also extended the statute of limitations for future sex abuse claims in New York until the victim reaches the age of 55.
The law also provided a one-year opening of the New York statute of limitations for individuals whose claims were previously barred, allowing them 365 days to file a claim, starting August 14, 2019, regardless of when the sexual abuse occurred, or the current age of the victim.
New York was one of the first states to extend the child sex abuse statute of limitations, but similar legislation has been passed or introduced in a number of states nationwide.
Since August 2019, hundreds of previously barred claims have been filed in New York state. However, as child sex abuse lawyers continue to review and file claims over the coming months, the number of lawsuits filed nationwide is expected to increase, particularly in New York, New Jersey, California and other states where “windows” in the statute of limitation have been opened for adult survivors to step forward and hold their abuse and the institutions that enabled the conduct accountable.