Victims of child sex abuse will have another five months to file civil claims against their alleged abusers, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that a window for litigation set to expire in August would be extended through early January.
Victims will now have until Jan. 14 to file a lawsuit against their alleged abusers after the COVID-19 pandemic halted that area of litigation in recent months.
“Because of the reduction in court services, we want to extend that window … because people need access to the courts to make their claim, because justice too long delayed is justice denied,” Cuomo said.
The Child Victims Act, approved last year by the state Legislature in New York, created a one-year window for victims of child sex abuse to file civil claims against their abusers, regardless of when the alleged abuse happened.
The law was a mechanism for victims who were allegedly abused decades ago to bring civil claims against their abuser during that window, which was set to expire in August.
But in March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the filing of claims under the Child Victims Act was paused, along with most other litigation, to take pressure off the state’s courts. That’s taken away more than a month during the one-year window for victims to file claims.
Lawmakers who sponsored the measure last year have called on the one-year window to be extended for another full year, which would have it expire in August 2021. That’s still a possibility, but legislation on the idea hasn’t moved in Albany.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, said the extension from Cuomo was the right move, but that the Legislature should act to move the deadline another seven months. He sponsors the bill to extend the window through August 2021.
“Coming forward as a survivor of child sexual abuse takes courage, focus and lots of time,” Hoylman said. “As the unemployment rate spikes above 14%, it's unreasonable to expect survivors of child sexual abuse to do the emotional and legal work necessary to file CVA lawsuits while simultaneously fighting to pay rent and put food on the table.”
The state Legislature may not return to Albany this year, though top Democrats have said they have the means to reconvene digitally if they need to. This year’s session was scheduled to end in early June, but some lawmakers have suggested they return later in the year as well.