On Aug. 3, 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a one-year extension of the deadline for filing claims under the Child Victims Act, the law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for adult survivors of child sexual abuse.

The Legislature and Governor Cuomo acted in response to disruption caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic, which halted court operations across the state for an extended period as a matter of public health. The new filing deadline now becomes Aug. 14, 2021 – a one-year extension of the original legislation.

To date, more than 1,400 civil suits have reportedly been filed against alleged abusers, public institutions, or both.

With the extension, organizations of all types should take notice of recent developments in how the courts are managing the cases. The courts are seeking uniformity in case handling, including a standard discovery procedure.

Child Victims Act Background

Among other provisions, the Child Victims Act (CPLR 214-g) created a one-year window (now extended an additional year) during which adult survivors of child sexual abuse would be permitted to file civil actions:

  • If the statute of limitation had already expired, or
  • In the case of civil actions against public institutions, a notice of claim requirement had not been met.

The revival window created by the Child Victims Act opened on August 14, 2019.  The window currently is now set to close on August 14, 2021.

What CPLR 214-g Provides

The Child Victims Act allows the survivor of child sexual abuse to bring a civil claim alleging intentional or negligent acts or omissions by a person for physical, psychological, or other injury or condition suffered as a result of the conduct which would constitute a sexual offense as defined in Article 130 of the New York State Penal Law.  The Act revives cases in which a plaintiff previously failed to file a notice of claim or notice of intent to file a claim.

Because of the complexity of these cases, the 8th Judicial District, which covers the nine counties of Western New York, set up a special part for handling Child Victims Act cases.

Assigned to these matters is Judge Deborah Chimes, a State Supreme Court Judge. The court has developed a case management order which outlines how the discovery procedure is to proceed in all cases to ensure uniformity.

Almost all of the cases are filed using a pseudonym to keep the plaintiff’s identity private.  The court has fashioned a standard decision regarding an application by a plaintiff to proceed anonymously.

The court is in all instances granting that request but allowing the defendants to receive the name of the plaintiff in writing and to use that name when conducting their own investigation.  The defendants are requested to inform any individual that they speak to that the information regarding the plaintiff’s name is confidential and is to remain so.  The defendants are not allowed to publicize the plaintiff’s name.

What Happens Next

If your district, municipality or organization receives a summons and complaint, there are a number of important steps you should take right away. Contact attorneys David Edwards, Tracie Lopardi, or the Harris Beach attorney with whom you work regularly. Our attorneys are regularly monitoring these cases for the latest developments.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.