NEW YORK — Historic legislation temporarily suspending the statute of limitations for victims of sexual exploitation to bring claims in New York — affording thousands who previously had no legal recourse their day in court — is set to expire on Thanksgiving Day.
With the one-year look-back window in its twilight stage, a tsunami of Adult Survivors Act lawsuits remain pending on New York’s dockets against people and institutions spanning the public and private sectors and continue to pour in, according to the state Office of Court Administration. The legislation signed in May 2022 by Gov. Kathy Hochul allows sex abuse victims older than 18 to sue their alleged abusers and the institutions where they were harmed, no matter how long ago.
“One year is definitely not enough,” Susan Crumiller, an attorney representing dozens of clients in Adult Survivors Act suits, said Friday. “We are getting a big influx of inquiries right now, which is, of course, what we always predicted.”
Crumiller said a return to the status quo would deprive sexual assault victims of the chance to pursue justice. She said the number of claims brought under the expired Child Victims Act, which bankrupted the Boy Scouts of America, dwarfed those brought under the Adult Survivors Act that mirrored it.
“I think the more we learn about trauma and how it affects people — especially sexual assault trauma — the better we understand that, unlike a breach of contract or a slip-and-fall, these are cases where there’s a fair amount of time required for a survivor to process what happened to them,” Crumiller said.
“By the time they even acknowledge to themselves what has happened, the statute of limitations has already expired.”
Less than 10 minutes after it went into effect, writer E. Jean Carroll sued Donald Trump under the new law for sexually assaulting her in the mid-1990s in a case she’d win at trial this past May. When she initially sued then-President Trump for defamation in 2019 for accusing her of lying about the incident, Carroll couldn’t include a battery claim because it was time-barred.
In January, Manhattan Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan upheld the state law in allowing Carroll’s suit to go forward, saying Trump’s “dubious” arguments that it violated New York’s due process clause “fail to persuade.”
Trump was the first of many high-profile individuals sued under the legislation in state and federal courts, including pending suits against disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, screenwriter James Toback, billionaire investor Leon Black and Bill Cosby. All deny wrongdoing.
In the month before the clock runs out, claims have been brought against British TV presenter Russell Brand, rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs in a quickly settled suit, Abercrombie & Fitch, Grammy Award-winning music mogul Antonio “L.A.” Reid and the former CEO of the Grammys, Neil Portnow. They deny the accusations.
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