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The Adult Survivors Act Has Expired in New York State

The Adult Survivors Act, or ASA, was signed into law by New York Governor Kathy Hochul on May 24, 2022. Before 2019, a three-year statute of limitations applied to civil suits for sexual misconduct. In 2019, that statute of limitations was extended to 20 years, but the extension was not retroactive. The ASA provided victims of sexual misconduct in New York with a one-year “lookback window,” which ran from November 24, 2022, until November 24, 2023, giving them the opportunity to raise claims that would otherwise be barred by the statue of limitations.

I wrote in May 2022 that the passage of the Adult Survivors Act was a “monumental step” towards providing legal recourse to victims of sexual assault. Indeed, the law has provided an enormous number of victims a shot at justice. Nearly 1,500 claims have been filed against the State of New York by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, for instance, combatting “systemic sexual abuse and staff impunity in the state’s women’s prisons,” according to Molly Hagan, writing for The Appeal. The ASA has also provided victims of sexual abuse with an opportunity to pursue their claims against powerful people who were untouchable when they committed their assaults. Perhaps the most prominent case to come out of the passage of the ASA was E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, in which the writer claimed that the former president raped her. Former President Trump was found liable in a $5 million verdict that was handed down in May. That case is currently on appeal.

My law firm, Wigdor LLP, filed a total of twelve cases under the ASA before the lookback window expired. Many of these cases were filed against men who committed sexual abuse at the height of their wealth and power, when their victims could not hope to make public accusations without being submitted to ridicule and without being overwhelmed by the legal resources of their abusers. These cases have included, as an example, that of Cassandra Ventura, who was lured into a professional and sexual relationship with Sean “Diddy” Combs. In that case the complaint included multiple allegations of rape, sex trafficking and physical violence. On the other hand, the ASA has also provided victims legal recourse where their abusers’ serial sexual assaults have come to light. For instance, Wigdor LLP is representing multiple victims of Robert Hadden, a gynecologist who was found guilty of crimes related to sexually assaulting patients in January 2023 and whose victims number in the thousands.

The ASA has provided numerous sexual assault victims in New York State the opportunity to come forward despite the passage of time, face their abusers, and seek redress for the lasting harms they have suffered. New York is not alone. New Jersey, which also opened a lookback window when it amended its statute of limitations in 2019, saw more than 1,000 victims file civil suits that would otherwise have been barred by their age. These lookback windows have been unmitigated successes, offering the victims of sexual assault import legal recourse and giving them an opportunity to publicly share their powerful stories.

The success of the ASA and similar statutes can be easily replicated in other jurisdictions. For instance, California passed California Assembly Bill 2777, the Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act, in 2022. That act provided additional time for survivors to file claims, but only applies to sexual misconduct that occurred on or after January 1, 2009. Similarly, Washington, D.C. amended its statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits in 2018 under D.C. Law 22-311, the Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2018. That Act extended the civil statute of limitations to five years and was partially retroactive, providing victims whose claims were time-barred under the old statute of limitations but not the new statute of limitations with two additional years to file claims. State legislatures clearly understand how important it is to provide victims of sexual abuse with enough opportunity to come forward with their allegations in the wake of the “Me too” movement, and they are prepared to pass new laws to facilitate these claims.

All jurisdictions would benefit from a lookback window in which victims of sexual abuse would have an opportunity to pursue their legal remedies and make their stories public for the first time. Washington, D.C., as the seat of government, could have an outsized impact on the lives of victims of sexual assault were it to provide them with a lookback window. It is important to let these victims know that they are being heard and that their abuse is being taken seriously, regardless of the length of time that has passed since the abuse or the power and status of their abusers.

Source: Forbes