Thousands of New Yorkers who said they were sexually abused as children filed lawsuits ahead of a state deadline last week. For many, their efforts to seek redress and confront abusers will now run through bankruptcy court, where the institutions they sued took refuge from litigation.
Since New York’s Child Victims Act in 2019 opened the door for lawsuits over sexual abuse suffered years or decades ago, roughly 9,000 people have filed suits in the state against individuals and institutions, according to Child USA, a nonprofit childhood abuse research and advocacy group.
The window for victims to bring lawsuits is now closed, capping the efforts of activists who worked for years to convince lawmakers to suspend the statute of limitations for legal claims involving incidents of childhood trauma.
Now a new phase begins for those survivors whose claims have been shifted from plaintiff-friendly state court to the federal bankruptcy system, where they could face resistance from institutions like the Boy Scouts of America and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre on New York’s Long Island. Both filed for chapter 11 last year, overwhelmed with abuse litigation, as did dioceses in Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester.
Survivors in such cases must go through bankruptcy court to seek redress from insurance companies and nonbankrupt affiliates.