Governor Cuomo Announces Intention to Extend Child Victims Act Lookback Period

By Charles J. Englert III, Esq.Attorney Charles J. Englert III

On March 7, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.8 tolling all time limits for filing legal actions in New York State. Effective March 22, 2020, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks issued Administrative Order 78/20, which limited all court filings in New York State to “essential matters” as defined by the Order.

With the Child Victims Act (CVA) “lookback”, which allows the filing of civil lawsuits seeking damages as a result of childhood sexual abuse, no matter when the abuse occurred, set to expire on August 14, 2020, many wondered how the State would address the period of time where child victims were prevented from seeking recovery.

On Friday afternoon, we received our answer. At his daily COVID-19 press briefing, Governor Cuomo announced that the CVA “lookback” window would be extended by five months, now closing on January 14, 2021. This news come two days after New York State Unified Court System spokesman Lucian Chalfen told the New York Law Journal that the courts will be making accommodations for potential plaintiffs to file new CVA lawsuits prior to the expiration of the current “lookback” period. The Governor made no mention as to which mechanism of law he would be using to facilitate the extension.

Hurwitz & Fine questions whether the Governor has the authority, under statutory powers provided to him under the State Executive Law, Section 29-a, to unilaterally extend the statute of limitations for five months.  Without legislative authority, we think not.

We expect that a wave of CVA lawsuits is coming, as it is likely that Plaintiff’s attorneys have been dutifully preparing complaints for filing as soon as New York State Courts accept new cases. Hurwitz & Fine continues to monitor and analyze these updates and advise on all of the COVID-19 CVA related changes as they are released.  

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