On January 11, 2021, New York’s Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Adult Survivors Act (S.66/A.648), which would create a one-year window reviving previously time-barred civil lawsuits based on a sexual offense committed against individuals who were 18 years of age or older. The bill is now eligible to be voted upon by the full Senate if called up for a vote by the Senate majority leader. The full Senate had previously passed the bill in the last legislative session, though the bill was never brought up for a vote in the Assembly, and therefore needed to be reintroduced in the current legislative session. The New York Assembly has yet to act on the bill.
The sponsors of the Adult Survivors Act are the same individuals that sponsored New York’s Child Victims Act, which, after amendment, opened a two-year window reviving previously time-barred claims for childhood sex abuse. During that window, nearly 10,000 lawsuits were filed against various New York entities, including schools, universities, and religious entities, going so far as causing several dioceses throughout New York to file for bankruptcy protection.
Needless to say, the passage of the Child Victims Act had a significant impact on the insurance industry in New York. The Adult Survivors Act, if passed, could result in a similar influx of lawsuits, with a more diverse array of defendants, potentially including employers across all different industries.
As with the Child Victims Act, lawsuits stemming from the Adult Survivors Act would likely raise issues pertaining to the potential availability of insurance coverage, including issues surrounding lost policies, scope of coverage, number of occurrences, and compliance with policies’ notice requirements. Should the Adult Survivors Act become law, insurers will need to remain ready for the likely increased influx of claims/lawsuits, and be prepared to promptly investigate the existence of coverage and assert any available coverage defenses in a timely manner.
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