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Child abuse survivors wait for justice, healing as CVA deadline passes with nearly 10K lawsuits filed

When legislators in New York passed the Child Victims Act in 2019, it was prompted by an understanding that survivors of sexual abuse were struggling to heal and needed help. Outdated laws kept them from finding justice through the courts, and the institutions which had fostered the abuse were slow to respond on their own.

What the legislators did not understand, perhaps, was how pervasive the sexual abuse of children had been across the state and the sheer number of individuals who had been victimized.

More than 9,200 complaints have been filed as part of the CVA process, with a surge of new claims arriving as the Aug. 14 deadline approached. The final number may approach 10,000 cases.

Law firms such as New York City-based Marsh Law Firm have been working with child sexual abuse cases since before the passage of CVA, but didn’t know what to expect in terms of the number of cases that would come in when the legislation was passed.

“We knew that certainly a lot of people have been abused, but are they interested, ready, available to come forward? ” said Jennifer Freeman, a senior attorney with Marsh Law. Due to the influx of individuals coming forward, her firm dedicated specific resources to CVA cases and even hired additional staff.  

That firm has filed about 479 cases, including one with 80 accusers against Reginald Archibald, a Rockefeller University Hospital doctor who allegedly abused hundreds of children during his over 40-year term starting in 1948. There are about 70 lawsuits filed against the university hospital under the CVA.

Some of the cases involving Archibald have been resolved, and a handful of other clients have been able to reach a settlement agreement without needing to file a claim.  

However, Freeman said the larger institutions may be waiting until after the deadline passes to assess the number of claims and liability exposure before deciding how to move forward.

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