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Volume XIII, Number 32

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A Tsunami of Lawsuits Is Expected to Slam Institutions in The Wake of New York Adult Survivors Act

A new revival window opened on Thanksgiving Day for filing sexual assault and abuse lawsuits that would otherwise be time-barred by the New York statute of limitations. This means that entities who formerly employed or were connected to alleged sexual offenders may now have to respond to related claims of negligence and intentional misconduct lodged against them concerning events that may have occurred decades ago.

IN DEPTH

The Adult Survivors Act (ASA), codified as CPLR § 214-j, is a New York state law that creates a one-year “lookback window” for expired civil claims to be filed based on conduct that constitutes a sexual offense, as defined in Article 130 of the New York Penal Law, that was committed against individuals who were 18 years of age or older at the time of the sexual offense. The ASA expires on November 23, 2024, which means the window to file claims closes on that date.

Under the ASA, survivors of sexual offenses can bring claims against individual offenders in addition to bringing related claims against public and private institutions, companies and other organizations that may have employed the alleged offenders or otherwise been connected to such offenders. The nature and extent of the relationships between the alleged offenders and entities will be hotly contested issues litigated in these actions. Plaintiffs will no doubt bring claims based on intentional and negligent acts and omissions, alleging, for example, that entities: failed to protect plaintiffs from sexual offenders; were negligent in implementing proper safety protocols; were negligent in hiring, retaining, supervising and directing offenders; were negligent in implementing proper safety and reporting protocols; and were liable for infliction of emotional distress.

Key issues in these litigations may involve the duty, if any, that entities owed to plaintiffs, the extent of entities’ control of alleged offenders, whether alleged offenders acted as agents of entities affiliated with them and whether these entities had actual or constructive knowledge of an alleged offender’s sexual offenses committed against a plaintiff or a propensity to commit sexual offenses based on past conduct.

But for the ASA, many adult survivors of sexual offenses would not have any legal recourse available to them as the time to bring their claims in court has long expired. Individuals have started—and are expected to continue—to file civil lawsuits during this one-year window against alleged offenders and entities in a wide range of industries (e.g., finance, technology, healthcare, academia, entertainment and sports). These matters are often high profile and high stakes, presenting significant reputational risks to the sued entities.

The ASA mirrors New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA) which created a two-year “lookback window” for child sexual abuse survivors (i.e., those under 18 years of age at the time of the alleged abuse) to file civil lawsuits. The CVA’s window closed on August 14, 2021, and resulted in the filing of nearly 11,000 suits.

© 2023 McDermott Will & EmeryNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 336
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About this Author

Greer Griffith White Collar Defense Attorney
Partner

Greer Griffith focuses her practice on investigations, white-collar defense, and complex commercial litigation.

Greer co-leads the Firm’s Sexual Assault & Abuse Investigations Group+ (SAAIG+). This team specializes in handling all aspects of investigations and litigation involving allegations of sexual assault, abuse, and misconduct. Greer has a proven track record of success, including a recent series of victories in which her clients were dismissed from New York Child Victims Act cases early in the proceedings. She is an expert on the...

212-547-5578
Partner

Lisa A. Linsky is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm's New York office.  She focuses her practice on complex litigation, including products liability and toxic tort, civil and criminal trials, business investigations, client counseling and civil rights litigation.

212- 547-5587
Kelly Shami Commercial Litigation Attorney Miami
Associate

Kelly Shami focuses her practice on commercial litigation and has experience in advising and representing clients in commercial disputes and internal investigations. Kelly is also a member of the Firm’s Sexual Assault & Abuse Investigations Group+ (SAAIG+) and assists clients with sensitive and often high-profile matters.

Prior to joining McDermott, Kelly clerked for the Honorable Beth Bloom in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Prior to clerking for Judge Bloom, Kelly clerked for the Honorable R. Fred Lewis at the...

305-507-2312
Max Kellogg Litigation Attorney
Associate

Max J. Kellogg focuses his practice on litigation matters including representing companies and individuals in connection with a broad range of disputes and internal investigations.  Max is also a member of the Firm’s Sexual Assault & Abuse Investigations Group+ (SAAIG+) and assists clients with sensitive and often high-profile matters.

212-547-5763
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