New York extends time period to file civil lawsuits in sex abuse cases

New York extends time period to file civil lawsuits in sex abuse cases

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo chats with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, left, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan outside St. Patrick's Cathedral during the Columbus Day Parade in New York City Oct. 14, 2019. (Credit: CNS)

New York has extended its window for abuse victims to bring a lawsuit.

NEW YORK — Governor Andrew Cuomo has extended the state’s lookback window for victims of abuse to file civil lawsuits until January 14, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The New York Child Victims Act (CVA) took effect last August and extends the statute of limitations for abuse victims which had originally allowed for a one-year window in which victims could bring suit. Further, the legislation extended the statute of limitations for civil claims, now allowing survivors to file a claim until they are 55 years old. In January, a similar window allowing for two years took effect in New Jersey. 

Given that courts have been closed for nearly two months, the governor said on Friday that he would extend the special period into 2021. 

In March, the legislature granted Cuomo broad powers amid the pandemic. At the time, however, the New York Civil Liberties Union and some legislators voiced opposition to it. Presumably, Cuomo is exercising those powers here in announcing this extension, though it remains to be seen as to whether he will face a challenge from legislators over it. 

“The governor has issued a slew of executive orders on any number of things, including elections and the petitioning process for getting on a ballot, motor vehicle inspections and registration renewals, waivers of regulations to allow out of state doctors to practice here,” Dennis Poust, the director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference told Crux. 

“Among those was a tolling of statutes of limitation from the time that he suspended most court proceedings. It was unclear if the CVA window, which is not a statute of limitations but rather a legislative action to provide an extraordinary look back at previously time-barred cases, was covered by the tolling,” Poust continued. 

“CVA advocates were concerned it was unclear, and have been advocating for an extension. The governor has been asked several times about a bill that would extend the statute of limitations by another year, but had not taken a position,” said Poust. “The decision to extend it through executive order is not terribly surprising to us.”

Poust said the conference is not taking a specific position on the extension, as it did not have a position on the original bill passed last year. 

“We will continue to work toward healing and justice for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, whenever it occurred and regardless of the status of the Child Victims Act,” said Poust. 

Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212 

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