What is the status of legislation that is designed to extend the Statue of Limitations in New York for sexual abuse?

With the change in control of the New York State Senate going from the Republicans to the Democrats after several decades, advocates for extending the time that a person may file a lawsuit for having been sexually abused are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Until now, a person had five years from the time they became 18 years old (i.e. 23 years old) to bring such a lawsuit.   If through neglect, or more often, the effects of the trauma, a person waited more than five years after they reached 18 years to bring a lawsuit for the sexual abuse they suffered, they were forever barred from bring the lawsuit.

There are currently two competing pieces of legislation intended to alleviate this harsh situation: First, there is a bill simply extending the period within which a lawsuit may be brought to ten years from a person’s 18th birthday (until 28 years old).  A second bill would also extend the age limit to 28 years old but would, additionally,  add a provision giving anyone at all, no matter how old, and no matter how long ago the sexual abuse occurred, the ability to bring a lawsuit within a one year “window of opportunity” from the date the bill becomes law.

Some  religious organizations are vigorously opposing the “window of opportunity” portion of the legislation.   They oppose it for two main reasons: first, this could open them up to such a large number of lawsuits that it could bankrupt many organizations.  Even the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn is concerned about that possibility. Second, they see no way of defending themselves in cases that could conceivably be as much as forty years old–and where often the accused clergyman may have already died.

Those in favor of the “window of opportunity “ portion of the bill point to the enormous harm sexual abuse can have on a person’s entire life and claim that it may take many years for a person so affected to be willing to actually admit and face up to the facts of the abuse.   They argue that it would be unfair to the victim of this horrendous abuse to deny them any compensation whatsoever.

With valid arguments being available to both sides, it might be wise to attempt some compromise..    While it is generally unfair and potentially injurious to the cause of justice to limit compensation to harmed individuals, it might be acceptable when the equities on both sides are so cogent.   Limit, if you will, recovery to perhaps $500,000 or even one million dollars.   In this way, at the least, most organizations will probably be able to cope with any lawsuit they face.and, at the same time, the victims will have the opportunity to have “their day in court”, an act that may well be a very significant contributor to their further recovery.

Post by New York Personal Injury Lawyer Steve Orlow