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New York courts brace for wave of child-abuse lawsuits

ALBANY — The state’s court system is bracing for potentially thousands of lawsuits to be filed starting Wednesday, when a one-year period begins that will enable victims of childhood sexual abuse to file previously time-barred claims against their alleged abusers and the institutions that may have harbored them.

The state Office of Court Administration has assigned 45 judges, including five in the Capital Region, to handle the lawsuits that are expected to target individuals accused of abuse as well as the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, private and public schools, daycare centers and foster-parent organizations.

Jason P. Amala, a Seattle attorney who represents Levine and specializes in child-abuse litigation, said the Boy Scouts, like the Catholic Church, have files on their known and suspected abusers dating back decades.

“Everyone focuses on the Catholic Church,” Amala said. “But there’s seven or eight dioceses in New York and each has its list of bad guys. If you add up all those numbers and compare to the number of files the Boy Scouts had in New York, the numbers are pretty close.”

“We always have to show in all these cases … the organization knew or should have known the person posed a danger to kids,” Amala said. “We have a lot of clients who will say, ‘I had a single mom and she thought the Boy Scouts were the greatest thing ever. … I never thought this guy might be a pedophile.'”

Amala said his firm is working with the Marsh Law Firm, based in White Plains, and the two firms jointly represent about 530 survivors. Of those, about 170 are people with claims against the Catholic Church and roughly 50 have claims against the Boy Scouts.

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