The Child Victims Act (CVA), which was enacted last year, is widely lauded for opening up the time frame for victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits over claims that were previously barred from court due to the statute of limitations.
Amid the pandemic that has nearly clogged the wheel of justice, state lawmakers are yet to decide on extending a one-year legal window that allowed survivors of child sex abuse to sue over decades-old allegations.
The legal window is set to close in August, but New York’s court system is no longer accepting CVA lawsuits. Since the state’s court system has postponed all non-essential services and the CVA lawsuits were not listed as essential under an order from Lawrence Marks, the state’s chief administrative judge, this has effectively placed a hold on new litigation under the act.
For the Marsh Law Firm, which represents about 700 people with potential CVA claims, of which less than a third have sued, the closing window is especially frustrating. This is because a long stay on CVA cases in New York City was lifted in February, just before the crisis struck.
James Marsh, a partner at the firm, said the firm believes that Cuomo’s tolling of statutes of limitations has not been favorable for CVA plaintiffs. Even with lawyer advertising and press coverage of the Act, many potential plaintiffs do not know about the law. Furthermore, the pandemic has been a particularly hard time for victims and has caused them to retreat internally rather than come forward with their stories.
In the meantime, Marsh is worried about the mounting health risks for the firm’s CVA clients who are senior citizens. One client is now deceased and another, who has stage-four cancer, may not live long enough to see justice served.