May 31, 2022
New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act (ASA) into law last week. The New York ASA sets aside the statute of limitations and gives adult sexual assault survivors – individuals over the age of 18 at the time of incidents – a limited one-year lookback window to file civil lawsuits for financial compensation. The one-year window will officially take effect six months from the date of the bill’s signing.
Beginning on November 24, 2022, survivors of adult sexual assault will be able to file claims for one year, regardless of how long ago the crimes occurred.
“To those who thought they got away with horrific crimes they committed, I just have one message: Your time is up. Your victims will see you in court and you will be brought to justice,” Governor Hochul told reporters at a press conference last week.
The Adult Survivors Act mirrors New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA), which opened a lookback window for childhood sexual abuse survivors in August 2019. The window closed in August 2021, with more than 10,600 New York child sexual abuse lawsuits being filed during that time, according to a CNN report.
Both the New York Adult Survivors Act and the state’s Child Victims Act are similar to California’s AB 218 (Assembly Bill 218), which began in 2020 and offers survivors of childhood sex crimes a limited three-year lookback window to file civil lawsuits through the end of 2022.
But as Governor Hochul noted at a press conference, the CVA failed to consider a large number of valid sexual assault claims from adults.
“It forgot a lot of people,” Hochul said during a bill-signing ceremony at the state Capitol. “What about the people who were adults when they experienced this trauma? We didn’t do enough to protect those individuals, until today.”
Both lawmakers and advocates hailed the passage of the New York ASA as an opportunity for survivors of sexual assault to obtain often long overdue justice. “The new law is intended to help survivors who have kept sexual abuse secret for years beyond the statute of limitations out of shame and fear,” a CNN report said.
“It’s not possible to show up fully in the world when you are hiding your truth to make space for your abuser’s lie, so this is a watershed moment,” Drew Dixon, a sexual abuse survivor and advocate, said in a statement which referenced the new law, according to CNN.
“The ASA will empower survivors to have their stories heard, scrutinized, and at long last, acknowledged,” Dixon added.
In 2019, New York extended the statute of limitations for adults filing civil claims for certain sex crimes to 20 years. The legislation, however, only applies to new cases, thereby barring most claims for crimes which occurred outside of the standard three-year statute of limitations for adult sexual assaults. The ASA is intended to offer adult sexual assault survivors whose incidents occurred outside of the normal statute of limitations a limited one-year window to file claims.
“For many survivors, it takes years to come to terms with the abuses committed against them, let alone to summon the courage to come forward to report the abuse, to confront a boss or a trusted co-worker or family member in a protracted court fight,” New York State Senator, Brad Hoylman, a sponsor of the bill, said.
The ASA’s broad application allows adult sexual assault survivors an opportunity to file claims against individuals as well as institutions or employers that would have otherwise been liable had the claims been brought within the traditional statute of limitations. As multiple media outlets have noted, the ASA will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for institutions and employers.
“As a result [of the ASA’s broad application], in cases where the sexual abuse occurred in the workplace or was associated with the employment relationship, employers may be named as defendants in the lawsuits. The far-reaching implications of this employer/institutional liability have been demonstrated where employers and institutions were confronted with single plaintiff and class action lawsuits that resulted in substantial settlements and even caused some organizations to file for bankruptcy. Given the breadth of the New York Human Rights Law and the resulting potential liability on employers for conduct of their employees, institutions and employers throughout New York will undoubtedly be named as defendants, as individual defendants do not always have the means to satisfy settlements and/or judgments. Practically speaking, the Child Victims Act did not have this result as the child victims, given their age, were not employed at the time of their victimization,” a report from Forbes noted.
A report from JD Supra, entitled “Employers Face New Litigation Exposure Under Adult Survivors Act,” echoed the posting from Forbes.
“The ASA revives any claims that a victim suffered physical, psychological, or other injuries as a result of sexual offenses under Article 130 of the Penal Law or as a result of incest… Like the Child Victims Act (“CVA”) enacted in 2019, the ASA is likely to increase the number of claims filed against those accused of sexual abuse. We anticipate a new round of lawsuits alleging negligence claims against employers, churches, schools, and municipalities based upon hiring, supervision, and retention of the alleged perpetrators,” the JD Supra report said.
In an effort to allow more survivors of sexual assault their opportunity at justice through civil lawsuits, many states have enacted temporary revival windows similar to California AB 218 and the New York Adult Survivors Act. Revival windows represent the limited amount of time survivors have to file claims outside of the standard statute of limitations, no matter when crimes occurred.
Some states have enacted legislation aimed at childhood sex crimes, while others have passed expanded bills that include adult survivors. For a full list of state sexual assault and abuse revival windows, please visit our recent blog.
In New York, the statutes of limitations create different deadlines for adult survivors of sexual assault and abuse whose crimes occurred before 2019 (at which time the new 20-year statute of limitations for certain sex crimes took effect). Moreover, the New York statute of limitations differs depending on whether the survivor wishes to file a criminal or civil complaint.
If you wish to file a sexual assault claim in New York criminal court, the statute of limitations allows two years for misdemeanors and five years for felonies. For civil claims against a sexual perpetrator (individual or institution), the deadline to file is generally three years.
In other words, New York adult sexual assault survivors whose crimes occurred before 2019 are still bound to the traditional statute of limitations. However, those survivors impacted by crimes occurring before 2019 now have a limited one-year window to file claims seeking financial compensation under the Adult Survivors Act (ASA).
As noted above, many media outlets are predicting that a wave of adult sexual assault claims will be filed under the New York ASA, particularly against employers and institutions. However, as former sex crimes prosecutor and founder of Dordulian Law Group, Sam Dordulian, notes, some adult survivors of sexual assault may be leery of filing lawsuits given that defendants will likely claim consent was given (an issue not applicable to child sex crime claims).
“What we’ve seen with California AB 218 is that some childhood survivors are initially hesitant to come forward and revisit past trauma which may have occurred decades ago. With adult survivors and the New York ASA passage, I think the issue of consent will be the main hurdle for individuals to overcome on a personal level, but that should absolutely not deter them from pursuing justice for past sex crimes,” Dordulian said.
But as Dordulian also notes, the #MeToo Movement as well as the number of survivors throughout the nation who have already secured justice through revival windows like the New York ASA will likely ensure that the bill proves to be beneficial for countless claimants.
“The very fact that the New York ASA was signed into law is an indication of a changing landscape. Most survivors of past sex crimes rightfully believe that they deserve justice and are no longer willing to accept anything less. As more and more claims are successfully filed, I think we’ll see an increased number of adult survivors coming forward. And I think it’s also important for survivors to realize that when they come forward and report past crimes, it can positively impact others around the country. The more successful the New York ASA proves to be, the more likely other states will adopt similar legislation,” Dordulian said.
Although the New York Adult Survivors Act (ASA) one-year lookback window officially takes effect on November 24, 2022, victims can begin preparing claims against individuals, employers, or institutions immediately.
Civil lawsuits can be a means of recovering financial compensation for various damages, such as:
The New York Adult Survivors Act (ASA) is a limited opportunity for all victims of sexual assault to file civil claims, no matter how long ago the crimes occurred. If you are a survivor of sexual assault which occurred in the state of New York when you were at least 18 years old, you may file a claim against your perpetrator (whether an individual, employer, or institution) from now through November of 2023.
The New York ASA is an unprecedented opportunity for adult survivors of sexual assault to obtain justice for past harm, regardless of whether or not those crimes occurred outside of the standard statute of limitations.
However, survivors are encouraged to file claims as soon as possible given the limited one-year lookback window. New York adult sexual assault survivors who do not file ASA claims before the November 2023 deadline will likely be barred from any future legal recourse.
DLG is a leading sexual assault and abuse firm representing survivors across the United States. We offer clients a unique type of legal representation that includes a four-tiered team of professionals known as the SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice Experts).
Led by Sam Dordulian, a former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, DLG’s SAJE Team is comprised of:
Some of our recent sex crime civil lawsuit victories include:
Our sex crime attorneys have helped clients recover more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts while maintaining a 98% success record.
When you’re ready to take the first step towards obtaining justice on your own terms under the New York ASA, we’re here to fight aggressively on your behalf.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.