Victims of child sexual abuse are rushing lawsuits into New York state court, fearful that two attempts to extend the deadline for such suits will amount to nothing.
More than 400 child sexual abuse suits have been filed in the past month, and 1,000 since late May. Hundreds more are expected before the original deadline arrives in three weeks.
“Our firms are working around the clock to finalize the complaints. We’re filing all of our cases now,” said Michael Pfau, a Seattle-based lawyer who, in conjunction with a New York firm, has filed upward of 600 such lawsuits to date.
The firms have at least 200 more cases that will be filed shortly.
Jennifer Freeman, senior counsel with the Marsh Law Firm in Westchester County, which is partnering with Pfau, said lawyers are particularly concerned that the executive order is valid for only 30 days if not renewed. Cuomo has so far renewed the order twice.
Pfau said attorneys devoted much of next six months to vetting and researching cases for new clients. Just when they were preparing to file those suits, the coronavirus pandemic forced closure of the state courts. Only emergency actions could be filed from mid-March to late May.
“We’ve lost almost three months. That’s been a very difficult thing for many of our clients,” Freeman said.
The decision to file suit against a sexual abuser is a difficult one, she said. “Sometimes we talk to people for months. It’s something that takes a lot of time and effort.”
Having no sure extension of time to replace the three months lost to the coronavirus, Freeman said, “is very frustrating.”