COVID-19 Impact on New York Court System Triggers Calls for Extension of the Child Victims Act Look-Back Window
Knowledge

COVID-19 Impact on New York Court System Triggers Calls for Extension of the Child Victims Act Look-Back Window

Key Takeaways:

  • The New York Office of Court Administration (OCA) issued an administrative order curtailing the receipt of filed papers by county clerks in New York State, effectively prohibiting the initiation of new legal proceedings

  • This has narrowed the yearlong window in which survivors of childhood sex abuse were permitted to bring a civil action, regardless of when the abuse occurred, under New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA)

  • New York lawmakers are calling for an extension of the CVA’s look-back period, which would further impact insurers and their policyholders

On March 22, 2020, the New York Office of Court Administration (OCA) issued an administrative order curtailing the receipt of filed papers by county clerks in New York State.  The order came on the heels of a March 20 executive order from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo suspending statutes of limitation in all legal matters. The OCA’s administrative order effectively prohibits the initiation of new legal proceedings, including the filing of lawsuits recently revived by New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA). In effect, this has narrowed the yearlong window in which survivors of childhood sex abuse were permitted to bring a civil action, regardless of when the abuse occurred (i.e., the “look-back period” or “window”). This has lawmakers renewing their calls for an extension of the current look-back period.

According to New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, the sponsor of the CVA, the recent suspension of plaintiffs’ ability to file actions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and OCA administrative order has “effectively closed” the New York window to bring claims (though the window does not formally close until August 14, 2020). This has caused Senator Hoylman to renew his calls for an extension of the look-back period for one year beyond the original deadline, as proposed in his bill (S.7082/A.9036), cosponsored by Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal.

For some time now, New York lawmakers have been mulling over a potential yearlong extension of the look-back period to align with states such as New Jersey and California, whose look-back periods are two and three years, respectively. In consideration of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the judicial system and plaintiffs’ ability to file suit within this limited time period, insurers of religious organizations, schools districts, and other civic organizations in New York should anticipate an extension of time for plaintiffs to file claims under the Child Victims Act in New York.

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