On May 24, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law the Adult Survivors Act, which renews access to judicial relief for adult survivors of sexual assault. In the State of New York, the current statute of limitations for filing a civil suit for rape is 20 years, while some forms of forcible sexual contact have only a 5-year statute of limitations. The new law implements a one-year lookback window for individuals who were sexually assaulted as adults to file claims against their abusers, even if the statute of limitations has already expired.
Governor Hochul’s official statement regarding the Adult Survivors Act may be accessed here.
The new law is patterned after the Child Victims Act, which, by the end of the lookback window in August 2021, resulted in nearly 11,000 civil actions being filed. As with the Child Victims Act, the Adult Survivors Act provides survivors six months to determine if litigation is the right choice for them, investigate their claims, and consult with counsel prior to the commencement of the one-year lookback window.
The lookback window allows these same individuals to sue the entity where the assault occurred, such as workplaces, schools or religious institutions. Given the age of the claimants at the time of the alleged abuse, the universe of potential institutional defendants, as well as avenues for insurance coverage, may be quite different than the claims made under the CVA. Such entities who suspect that they may become defendants would be well served to consider their document retention policies and how best to position themselves for litigation during this six-month period.
Hurwitz & Fine represents local, national and international organizations—and individuals—in the defense of Child Victims Act cases, and anticipates that there will be a number of Adult Survivors Act cases brought in the near future. Our insurance coverage team also helps guide insurers and institutional clients, alike, through the complex array of issues involving insurance coverage for abuse cases, including issues concerning lost or historical policies, late notice, policy towers, and other related coverage matters.