New York extends childhood sexual abuse “lookback window” deadline due to COVID-19

New York extended its deadline to file civil sexual abuse claims under the state’s Child Victims Act to Aug. 14, 2021 due to COVID-19. 

Enacted in August of 2019, New York’s Child Victims Act opened a one-year, one-time-only limited “lookback window” in which victims of abuse may file civil claims against their alleged abusers and institutions that enabled them, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred. The one-year window on filing claims was previously scheduled to close on Aug. 13, 2020, but has been extended to account for delays and difficulties filing amid the ongoing pandemic.  

New York is one of several states throughout the country that have passed or are considering similar legislation targeting childhood sexual abuse and abuse enablers. Childhood sexual abuse often goes unreported until victims are well into adulthood, and in many cases the statute of limitations, the time period within a civil claim must be filed, has long sense passed. By granting victims more time to file claims, lookback window laws widen the opportunity to seek accountability from abusers and abuse enablers and protect future victims of childhood sexual abuse.   

For more information about lookback windows and sexual abuse litigation, read Motley Rice attorney Daniel Lapinski’s blog: Childhood sexual abuse litigation FAQ: “Lookback window” laws give voice to victims.

Under New York’s Child Victims Act, a child sexual abuse victim may file a civil case regardless of: how old they are now; how long ago the abuse occurred; whether it’s too late to file a claim  under the old statute of limitations; whether the victim had a prior case dismissed because the victim waited too long to file it; whether a Notice of Claim was never filed; or whether the victim is suing the abuser or organizations (such as a school, an employer, or a place of worship) or people who should have done something to stop or prevent the abuse.  

“Coming forward with allegations of childhood sexual abuse is an incredibly difficult decision for victims to make. It’s in everyone’s best interest to remove as many hurdles as we can to ease that process, and to be mindful of the unique challenges that victims often face, such as special considerations for the amount time victims realistically need to file a claim,” said Motley Rice sexual abuse attorney Daniel Lapinski. “COVID-19 complicated an already difficult situation as the clock continues to wind down on lookback windows throughout the country. I think it’s safe to say that New York victims appreciate that their need for more time hasn’t been forgotten.”  

States that have already passed “window” laws or otherwise extended the time within which a victim can file include: 

Motley Rice represents victims in litigation filed under New York’s Child Victims Act that alleges sexual abuse by clergy members that was suppressed by the Catholic Church, and is investigating similar claims in New York, New Jersey, and California against the Boy Scouts of America. For more information or to discuss a potential claim, you may contact sexual abuse attorney Daniel Lapinski by completing this form or calling 1.800.768.4026. 

Motley Rice LLC, a South Carolina Limited Liability Company, is engaged in the New Jersey practice of law through Motley Rice New Jersey LLC. Esther Berezofsky is the attorney responsible for New Jersey practice.