Sexual assault victims who had been barred from suing their abusers because too much time had passed have been given a second chance.
The Adult Survivors Act (ASA) temporarily eliminates the usual statute of limitations, giving victims of sexual assault the right to file a personal injury lawsuit in New York no matter when the attack occurred.
Advocates say the law better aligns with how survivors process what happened to them. Some don’t immediately come forward due to fear of retaliation or other violence.
Limited Opportunity to File a Lawsuit
The statute of limitations for most personal injury claims, including assault, is three years. In 2019, the statute of limitations for sexual assault lawsuits was increased to 20 years. The new timeframe, however, is not retroactive so only applies to attacks after the law’s passage.
The ACA allows survivors to file a claim against their abuser no matter how many years have passed since the sexual assault occurred.
Eligible claims include those identified in Article 130 of the New York Penal Law:
- Sexual Misconduct
- Criminal Sexual Act
- Forcible Touching
- Sexual Abuse
The suspension of the statute of limitations for sexual assault is limited. Time-barred claims must be filed between November 2022 and November 2023. Survivors must also have been 18 years old at the time of the assault. The act directs the Chief Administrator of the Courts to grant trial preference to these cases so they can be adjudicated in a timely manner.
ASA’s Broad Application
In addition to the abuser, survivors can file claims against institutions and employers that would have been liable had the claims been asserted within the original statute of limitations.
If the sexual abuse occurred in the workplace or was associated with the employment relationship, employers may be named as defendants in the lawsuits. The recent federal Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 also means these claims can be taken before a jury and not hidden through an arbitration process.
A Companion Law to the Child Victims Act
This law addressing adult survivors is modeled after the 2019 Child Victims Act (CVA). The CVA allowed survivors of child sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit against their abusers and liable institutions.
A one-year window was opened for survivors of any age to bring lawsuits for abuse that would otherwise have been barred by the statute of limitations. About 10,000 lawsuits were filed during that window (later extended due to COVID). The law also gives child survivors the ability to file a claim up until the age of 55.
Institutions and organizations like the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America were defendants in numerous lawsuits associated with the CVA. It stands to reason that large and small businesses and even governmental entities will be among the defendants in the upcoming wave of claims.
Pursue Justice Previously Denied
Filing a civil lawsuit, particularly one related to sexual assault, can be difficult and emotional. Our legal team at Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC offers compassionate and determined legal counsel to fight for what you deserve.
The process and potential damages available in a civil action can help survivors move forward and perhaps find a semblance of closure. Many individuals who thought they had escaped liability will be held accountable in a civil court.
The first step in taking legal action is to schedule a no-obligation consultation. By talking with one of our experienced attorneys, you can better understand the process and what to expect.
Send us an online message or call (516) 218-5131 to learn more.