Law firms in New York state have already started working on several cases soon to be brought by victims of child sexual abuse after a bill was signed into law earlier this month that extended the period of time during which those claims can be filed.
Several of those firms have also put money into the new law, called the Child Victims Act, by paying to advertise their services when users search for it on the internet. So far, many have received a return on that investment.
One such firm is the Marsh Law Firm, which sponsored an ad to appear near the top of search results querying the law following its enactment. Jennifer Freeman, a partner at the firm in White Plains, said interest from victims of child sexual abuse seeking legal help has been strong.
“Since the statute passed, we’ve probably gotten about 15 calls an hour, which is a lot,” Freeman said. “We had been getting calls for months, so over the last eight or nine months, we’ve probably gotten about 1,500 calls.”
Freeman said there’s been an uptick in the number of calls from victims since the bill became law on Feb. 14, but that inquiries about litigation had already started to increase since publicity surrounding the CVA began to ramp up last year.
Republicans, who controlled the State Senate until it flipped in the November 2018 election, blocked the bill from coming to the floor for a vote at the time. Democrats approved it within the first month of this year’s legislative session after gaining a firm majority in the chamber in last year’s elections.
Since then, advertising and media reports on the legislation have helped inform victims that they may have a new opportunity to sue their alleged abuser, Freeman said.
“There’s a lot more attention and there’s advertising and law firms are reaching out to make sure people know this exists,” Freeman said. “Before the statute passed, you really had no recourse.”
The law increased the statutes of limitations for both criminal and civil cases of child sexual abuse. The new statute allows civil claims in those cases until the victim is 55 years old. Criminal charges are now allowed until a victim is 28 years old in felony cases and 25 years old for misdemeanors.
It will also create a one-year revival period during which victims age 55 and above can bring civil claims against their alleged abusers. That window is scheduled to begin in August, which was intentional to give victims time to prepare their case before the filing period opens.
Some firms, including Freeman’s, have started to reach out to individuals who called them in previous years about their alleged child sex abuse but were outside the statute of limitations at the time.