Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse Given Another Chance to File Lawsuits in New York
Last Updated on March 7, 2023
Attorneys working with ClassAction.org are no longer investigating this matter. The information here is for reference only. A list of open investigations and lawsuits can be viewed here.
At A Glance
- This Alert Affects:
- Anyone who was sexually abused as a minor in New York at the hands of religious leaders, coaches, troop leaders and teachers, among others.
- What’s Going On?
- A new law in New York will allow those who were sexually abused as children one year to file lawsuits for the harm they suffered – regardless of how old they are now. Previously, victims had only until the age of 23 to sue before being legally barred from taking action.
A new law in New York will give those who were sexually abused as minors one year to file lawsuits for the harm they suffered regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
Previously, sex abuse victims had only until the age of 23 to sue before they were legally barred from taking action. Now victims, some of whom are in their 80s, have a small window of time to exercise their right to sue. Read on to find out what’s involved in filing a lawsuit and how you can get more information.
Who Can I Sue?
You may be able to sue any institution or organization that’s responsible for the harm you suffered.
This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Churches, dioceses and other religious organizations such as Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Boy and Girl Scouts of America
- Summer camps
- Sports organizations
With regard to the Catholic church, non-profit newsroom ProPublica has created a searchable database of U.S. clergy members who have been “credibly accused” of sexual assault or misconduct. You can find the database here.
What If My Abuser Is Dead?
Because many of these claims will be filed against an organization or institution – and not necessarily an individual – your abuser does not have to be alive for you to sue. If your abuser has passed away or if you are unsure as to his or her whereabouts, you can still file a claim. In fact, it’s likely that a significant portion of claimants’ abusers are deceased since many victims coming forward are now in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
What If My School, Church, etc. Shut Down?
If the organization responsible for the abuse you suffered no longer exists, an attorney will have to assess whether you can still file a claim. It’s a complicated issue, which is why those even considering legal action need to speak with an attorney.
If you would like to talk to one of the firms we work with, free of charge, fill out the form on this page.
If you, for instance, were abused by a priest at a Catholic school that was later shut down, it’s possible you may still be able to sue the diocese. Further, some organizations and institutions, even if recently closed, may still have insurance to which claims can be filed against.
I Don’t Live in New York Anymore. Can I Still Sue?
Yes. As long as the abuse occurred while you lived in New York, you can still sue.
What Can I Get from a Lawsuit?
A lawsuit can help you recover money for the physical and emotional suffering you endured. You may also be entitled to money for past and future medical care, such as psychological counseling, needed because of the abuse. Further, a lawsuit can help hold the parties responsible for fostering an abusive environment accountable for their actions.
How Much Does an Attorney Cost?
The attorneys working with ClassAction.org only get paid if they win your case. In those instances, they will collect a percentage of your settlement or judgment. It costs nothing up front to speak with or hire an attorney.
Will I Have to Go to Court?
Attorneys believe that the majority of these lawsuits will be settled. This means you could win your case and collect money for the harm you suffered without having to ever step foot in a courtroom.
What’s Involved in Filing a Lawsuit?
If an attorney believes you have a claim against a church, school or other entity, he or she will first meet with you or schedule a time to speak on the phone. He or she will work to gather your account of what happened, as well as corroborating testimony from anyone else who may have been witness to the abuse. Additionally, the attorney may request medical records from your doctors if mental or physical treatment was sought for the abuse.
The attorney will then compile your claims in a legal document known as a “complaint” and file it with the court. The complaint will likely make claims that an organization covered up reports of abuse, didn’t run proper background checks on employees, or otherwise acted negligently or fraudulently, essentially failing to provide students, parishioners, scouts or others with a safe environment. The complaint will also lay out the types of monetary damages you are seeking.
From there, attorneys for both sides will enter into discovery where they will exchange documents, gather further evidence, and conduct depositions. Once discovery is over, the attorneys will prepare for trial or work to come to a settlement agreement to put an end to the case.
Is This a Class Action?
No. The attorneys working with ClassAction.org are handling these claims on an individual basis - and not as a class action lawsuit. This means you will be hiring your own attorney and filing your own individual lawsuit for the harm you suffered.
What Firms Are You Working With?
ClassAction.org is working with Nye, Stirling, Hale & Miller; Sweet Law, P.C.; and Berger Montague. Nye, Stirling, Hale & Miller is a nationally recognized leader in childhood sexual abuse cases.
The firm is renowned for:
- Being one of the first firms in the United States to sue on behalf of victims of the Roman Catholic Church
- Being appointed to leadership positions in cases involving decades of concealed priest abuse
- Recovering the largest settlements in the country against the Catholic Church ($660 million and $198.1 million against the Los Angeles Archdiocese and San Diego Diocese, respectively) for abuse victims
It's important to note that these are just examples of settlements and that no result is guaranteed.
Why Are Lawsuits Being Filed Now?
Over the last 13 years, childhood abuse victims in New York rallied to pass stronger laws that would allow people to sue churches, schools and other organizations for abuse that occurred decades ago. The calls were met with strong pushback from the Catholic Church and insurance companies, among others, but in early 2019, the Child Victims Act was passed.
The law will extend the statute of limitations – that is, the amount of time someone has to sue following an accident or event – for childhood abuse victims. This means that those who were previously time-barred from suing have a new opportunity to take action. Under the Act, New York childhood abuse victims have until the age of 55 to take action against their abusers and the organizations that were once responsible for their safety.
Further, the Act is allowing anyone – including those over the age of 55 – one year to file lawsuits if they were sexually abused as minors.
I’m Still Hesitant About All This.
With claims of this nature, that’s to be expected. Keep in mind that just because you speak to an attorney, however, doesn’t mean you’re obligated to take legal action.
Talking to a lawyer can help explore whether you can file a claim and give you an opportunity to have all of your questions answered.
Further, the firms we work with have both male and female attorneys and staff, and if you have a preference on who you want handling your case, they are more than happy to accommodate. The firm and its attorneys will take every step necessary to ensure you feel comfortable, are more than willing to travel to meet with you, and can adapt to your schedule to meet your specific needs.
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