As discussed in our March 31, 2020 alert, recent administrative orders arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, which preclude the initiation of new lawsuits in New York state courts, have renewed calls by lawmakers to expand the look-back period previously established by the New York Child Victims Act by one year. Notwithstanding, lawmakers elected not to include these measures in the state budget, which, in New York, is the premier legislative package of the year.
The New York Child Victims Act, which went into effect on August 14, 2019, created a one-year “window” (i.e., the look-back period) in which victims of childhood sexual abuse could bring a civil action to recover money damages, regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. However, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, a March 22, 2020 administrative order from the New York Office of Court Administration curtailed the receipt of filed papers by county clerks, which prohibits claimants from commencing new lawsuits at this time, effectively narrowing the look-back period available to claimants. In light of this, lawmakers have renewed calls to extend the look-back period by one year, a proposal that was made in a bill sponsored by New York State Senator Brad Hoylman.
Some anticipated this measure would be included in the New York State budget, which lawmakers will oftentimes use to push forward non-fiscal policy measures. The New York Law Journal, however, has reported that, according to Sen. Hoylman, the state Senate raised the extension of the look-back period in budget negotiations, but it was rejected at some point in the process.
Notwithstanding, lawyers representing people with potential claims under the Child Victims Act have asserted that Governor Cuomo’s order tolling most time limits under New York law should apply equally to the look-back period, effectively extending the deadline to file from August 14, 2020 to September 14, 2020. The order itself, however, does not, on its face, apply to the unique circumstances of the Child Victims Act look-back period. We anticipate that, should the look-back period not be extended via legislative action, this will likely be an issue that will be litigated in the courts.
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