On Tuesday, May 24, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act (S66A) (ASA) which, in six months, will open a one-year window during which survivors of adult sexual abuse may file civil claims against individuals and institutions that were once time barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The ASA follows the closure of the revival window opened as a result of New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA), which had a two-year window that permitted victims of childhood sex abuse to file previously time-barred claims.
The CVA resulted in the filing of more than 10,000 lawsuits across New York State, causing numerous institutions to seek bankruptcy protection including, in particular, various religious institutions throughout the state. It is anticipated the ASA will see a similar influx of claims and lawsuits. However, unlike the CVA, which had a significant impact on religious organizations, school districts, and civic organizations within the child care/child services sector, it is anticipated the ASA will likely impact a wider range of industries across the state.
Also like the CVA, the significant influx of claims and lawsuits anticipated from the ASA will present many challenges to both policyholders and liability insurers alike, most often pertaining to locating policies dating back as far back as the 1950s, and whether such policies, if located, cover the claim. If coverage is in fact implicated, inquiry will need to be made to determine whether the policyholder has adequately complied with all conditions for coverage, and whether all or a portion of the suit is barred by the policy’s exclusions.
To ensure the interests of both the policyholder and insurer are protected, insurers must have in place adequate claims-handling processes and protocols that allow for prompt claims and coverage investigations and the issuance of any necessary correspondence explaining the coverage available for the claim or lawsuit.