New York Courts are expecting to see hundreds, if not thousands of lawsuits filed in the coming weeks and months after a new law goes effect on Wednesday, which provides adult victims of childhood sexual abuse with one year to bring civil lawsuits against their alleged abusers and the institutions that may have allowed the abuse.
Known as a “look-back window,” the one-year filling gives survivors more time to file civil and criminal cases going forward and opens the look-back window for old cases—things that used to be beyond the state’s statute of limitations that legislators overhauled this year. NPR reported that most survivors in New York used to be cut off once they reached the age of 23.
Marci Hamilton, director of the advocacy group Child USA and a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania said to victims who get their courage up to go to a lawyer and be refused for “too late,” this new law will bring them some hope.
Critics of the look-back window said the cases may be based on faulty evidence or faded memories, but survivors said it’s a chance to finally have their day in court.
“The passing of this legislation is telling survivors like myself that our stories matter to our government and that we count in the eyes of the law,” Manhattan Assemblywoman Yuh-line Niou, one of the people who voted for the new law, said at a news conference on Tuesday.
To 74-year-old Jim Corcoran, one of the hundreds of sexual abuse victims, it has been a fight of endurance on suing Manhattan’s Rockefeller University Hospital over alleged abuse by one of its doctors, Reginald Archibald, who Corcoran said was a predator and worked there for roughly four decades and died in 2007.
“It’s a common-sense thing. You’re a fiduciary, you’re supposed to be protecting these children,” Corcoran said, wanting the institution held accountably.
Rockefeller Hospital has said it “profoundly apologizes” to any former patients who were harmed. This month, it sued its insurers to make sure they’d provide coverage for the lawsuits.
Before New York, California passed the one-year look-back window in 2003, which led to about a thousand cases and hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements. Since Minnesota closed its look-back window in 2016, multiple Catholic dioceses have filed for bankruptcy protection.