An article published yesterday by the New York Law Journal (available here) provides good reason to believe that the one-year Child Victim Act (“CVA”) revival window, which allows victims of child sex abuse of all ages to file previously time-barred claims against their alleged abusers until August 14, 2020, will not be extended by the New York Legislature.
Earlier in this legislative session, both the New York State Senate and State Assembly introduced parallel bills to expand the August 14, 2019 CVA revival window for one more year. The justification provided for the proposed extension was that many victims of child sexual abuse are not aware of the new law or could not find attorneys to take on their cases and that more time was needed to notify all New Yorkers of the revived statute of limitations. The initiative appeared to come from the legislators themselves, as we understand that a fairly significant number of CVA Plaintiffs’ counsel wanted to maintain the status quo and move forward, and attempt to resolve, the many cases they did file. They understood that for many Defendants the decision to litigate or resolve the cases, required a better understanding of the number of cases Defendants would have to contend with. Arguably, the extension of the window actually might serve as an impediment to resolution, this to the detriment of their clients.
After the proposed legislation was introduced, it was reported that Governor Cuomo did not support the extension advising that the CVA and initial one-year window was passed with the intention that the period would be limited because society needs closure and “people just want to know at some point what their liability is.”
After the current COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was speculation, which proved true, that the pandemic would curtail the CVA docket and provide renewed justification for the extension of the revival window. Then, on March 20, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order (“EO”) 202.8, which provides as follows:
[A]ny specific time limit for the commencement, filing, or service of any legal action, notice, motion, or other process or proceeding, as prescribed by the procedural laws of the state, . . . is hereby tolled from the date of this executive order until April 19, 2020.
Today, Governor Cuomo issued EO 202.14, which further extends the tolling provision in EO 202.8, tolling any statute of limitations (along with other suspensions and modifications of law issued in prior executive orders as part of the ongoing disaster emergency) until May 7, 2020. That effectively extends the tolling period for an additional 18 days. Thus, it would seem that any impediment to investigating or filing new CVA actions during the current crises is addressed by the Executive Orders, which, by tolling any limitation periods for commencing actions extends the revival window for an additional 48 days until October 1, 2020 (this assumes the tolling period is not further extended by the Governor).
The NYLJ article reports that the Legislature “took a pass last week on extending a one-year legal window” when it “did not move to lengthen the so-called look-back window in the state budget.” The article quotes Governor Cuomo as saying that “the legislative session was effectively over” and also quotes State Senator Brad Hoylman—one of the bill’s sponsor’s—that the CVA extension was raised in budget negotiations and was rejected. And last week, in Governor Cuomo’s detailed discussion of the FY 2021 Enacted Budget, and the funds that had been allocated for various legislative initiatives, there was no mention of the CVA. It is still possible that sometime in the next few months, before the current window is set to expire, the Legislature may revisit extending the revival window. However, in light of the above, that now appears less likely.