Hundreds of lawsuits expected in New York after statute lifted on old child abuse cases

Hundreds of lawsuits expected in New York after statute lifted on old child abuse cases

The state of New York on Wednesday began a one-year waiver of statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse lawsuits, with hundreds of lawsuits expected to be filed on the first day, according to The Associated Press.

The state legislature earlier this year passed the Child Victims Act (CVA), which allowed the one-year “lookback” window.

Powerful institutions frequently given responsibility for children such as the Catholic Church of New York and the Boy Scouts of America are expected to be the targets of multiple complaints, and two of the first three lawsuits, filed just after midnight, were against the two institutions.

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“The abuse that I faced as a child has stayed with me for decades as an adult, but that moment at 12:01, when my lawsuit was filed, marked the start of bringing closure for me and many other survivors,” Peter Vajda, a 76-year-old man who alleged sexual abuse at Mount Saint Michael Academy, a Catholic boys’ high school in the Bronx, by a teacher who died in 2005, said in a statement.

“We’re seeking justice after sexual abuse was willfully swept under the rug by a powerful institution, and to be the among the very first to file under this historic legislation was an important moment in the process for seeking right over wrong,” he added.

The Marsh Law Firm and Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, which is representing Vajda, is also representing Raul Diaz, who alleges abuse by his scoutmaster, in his suit against the Boy Scouts.

“The lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act will give survivors across the state the opportunity to confront the institutions and individuals that perpetrated horrific abuse – no matter when or in what setting it occurred. We moved forward this morning towards delivering justice,” Diaz said.

The firm is also representing 45 plaintiffs who claim in a lawsuit that Rockefeller University allowed Dr. Reginald Archibald, who is alleged to have sexually abused more than a thousand children over four decades at Rockefeller University Hospital, to continue in his role long after a grand jury investigation by the New York County District Attorney’s office.

In a statement to The Hill, the archdiocese of New York said it has an anticipated a flurry of lawsuits since the CVA's passage.

"While we carefully review the claims made in these suits, we ask that people pray for peace and healing for all those who have suffered from the sin and crime of the sexual abuse of minors, wherever it occurred, particularly victim-survivors and their families," spokesman Joseph Zwilling told The Hill.

Rockefeller University told The Hill "Rockefeller University is committed to acting responsibly and working constructively with former patients of Dr. Archibald. We profoundly apologize to his patients who experienced pain and suffering as a result of his reprehensible conduct."

In a comment to The Hill, the Boy Scouts said it supports the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse and an extension of the statute for civil claims.

"We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children," the organization said. "We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward. It is BSA policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement."

After a similar law passed in California, Catholic dioceses in the state eventually paid $1.2 billion in legal settlements, according to the AP. 

— This report was updated at 11:45 a.m.