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New York Child Victim’s Act and the Corona-virus Court Shutdown

The New York Child Victims Act came into effect on August 14, 2019.  That act extended the statute of limitations and allowed victims of past sexual misconduct to sue the abuser up to the time until the victim is 55 years of age.  Moreover, there is a one year “look-back” period during which survivors can file a civil case against the abuser — and any institution or religious organization that may have had notice or knowledge of the abuse — no matter how long ago the abuse happened.  That look-back period will end on August 14, 2020.

However, on March 22, 2020 the Office of Court Administration in New York issued an order which stops our ability to initiate any new claims, by lawsuit, including the filing of lawsuits under the Child Victims Act.  While Governor Cuomo did suspend, as of March 20, 2020, all statute of limitations in all legal matters due to the Covid-19 virus, we also hope that the Legislature changes the look-back window to extend the time within which to bring a claim under the Act, so that victims of child sexual abuse — no matter when it happened — are not robbed of their day in Court.

Our law firm offices, located in Potsdam, New York and Malone, New York are centrally located within the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York. The Diocese encompasses the Counties of St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, Hamilton and northern Herkimer, in New York and the of the total population of 462,000 total  43,000  or (31.1%) are Catholics.  However, the law is not limited, as some may think by reading the popular press, to the “Catholic Church Scandal”.  ANY VICTIM of child sexual abuse can take advantage of the act.  We’re told that child sex abuse is a secret crime, hidden by shame and fear, and it too often is for the victim. Yet it’s striking how often the abuse is known to others—employers, supervisors, employees, colleagues, friends, family—who do little or nothing to stop the abuser. Priests were moved to a different parish. Teachers were fobbed off on another school. Prestigious physicians like USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar and Rockefeller University pediatrician Reginald Archibald molested young patients for years and years, and despite people’s complaints, nothing happened. They were too respected, too “valuable.” This is not just a “clergy problem”, although it is very much that, but it is also a school district problem, a college and university problem — and society’s problem.

We will keep you posted on developments.  But in the first eight months of the Child Victims Act in New York, almost 1,800 cases have been filed.

Joe Nichols

Tom Grue, Steve Vanier, Luke Babbie, Joe Nichols

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