The Child Victims Act, enacted in 2019, provided for the reopening of claims for those sex abuse victims under the age of eighteen (18) at the time of the crime. Adult victims (those over the age of eighteen (18)) were not afforded the same opportunity. However, on May 24, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act into law. The Adult Survivors Act, which mirrors the Child Victims Act, now permits adult survivors of certain sexual offenses an opportunity to seek civil redress against their abuser, or their abuser's enablers, in a court of law.
The Adult Survivors Act revives civil actions related to certain sexual offenses committed against a person eighteen (18) years of age or older, that had previously been barred by the existing statute of limitations. In signing the legislation, the Governor has thus set in motion, beginning six months from the date the bill was signed, a one-year window to allow for the filing of previously time-barred lawsuits. The Adult Survivors Act, like the Child Victims Act, grants trial preference for such actions, and directs the Chief Administrator of the courts to promulgate rules for the timely adjudication of these revived actions.
Section 1 of the bill established section 214-j of the Civil Practice Law & Rules. Per section 214-j, previously time-barred actions, in which conduct which would constitute a sexual offense against a person 18 years of age or older is alleged, are allowed to be revived and not be barred by any statute of limitation or notice of claim requirement otherwise existing in law. However, the revival of an action can only take place within the one-year window which commences six months from the effective date of the act. As the Governor signed the legislation on May 24, 2022, the one-year window should commence on or about November 24, 2022; and the window will close on or about November 24, 2023. The law also states, per Section 214-j, that it shall apply despite any other section of law pertaining to the filing of a notice of claim or a notice of intention to file a claim as a condition precedent to bringing a civil action against a public institution. In addition, the law also provides that any revived civil action brought during the one-year window previously dismissed due to being time-barred, or for failure to file a notice of claim or a notice of intention to file a claim, shall not be dismissed on those grounds.
Section 3 of the Act requires the Chief Administrative Judge to promulgate rules regarding the timely adjudication of claims revived under Section 1 of the Act. Although Section 3 is directed to go into effect three months after the Act becomes law, August 2022, it does not appear that the intent of the section is to delay the revival window period of November 2022 through November 2023 as set forth in Section 1, during which victims are permitted to revive previously time barred claims. Victims and counsel should be mindful of these provisions when considering the timing of the filing of a potential claim.
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