Recovering Compensation Under the CVA
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act (CVA) on February 14, 2019, and the bill extended the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse whose claims had expired for one year beginning six months after the governor signed the CVA. On August 14, 2019, USA Today reported that 200 child sexual abuse lawsuits were filed before 5 a.m. that same morning, and there were 385 claims filed before noon.
The most common defendants in many CVA claims were churches and the Boy Scouts of America. The Buffalo News reported on September 18, 2019, that the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo was facing the most lawsuits of any defendant in New York State with 138, followed by the Archdiocese of New York City with 125, Brooklyn with 78, Rochester with 45, Rockville Centre with 43, Albany with 34, Syracuse with 20, and Ogdensburg with 16.
WHEC-TV reported on November 1, 2019, that many claims filed under the CVA were filed against the Rochester Catholic Diocese, although the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. As a result, WHEC said more lawsuits were being filed against individual Catholic parishes, including one that named the Immaculate Conception St. Bridget Church in Rochester, The Parish of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in Elmira, and Kateri Tekakwitha Roman Catholic Parish in Irondequoit as well as Catholic Charities, a part of The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester.
The Financial Impact of the CVA
On October 9, 2019, the Rochester Beacon reported that the Rochester Catholic Diocese stated in papers filed on October 4 that it had total assets of $67 million and liabilities of $113.1 million, with sex-abuse claims accounting for an estimated $90 million of the diocese’s liabilities. The $90 million was in addition to $1.9 million the diocese agreed to pay 19 claimants with whom it settled sex-abuse claims before the September 12 Chapter 11 plea for court protection from creditors.
The Beacon noted that Chapter 11 bankruptcy means that the debtor must pay creditors something but still have enough to cover operating costs. There was some question of how much awards, such as the 19 payouts of $100,000 each, could end up being reduced because of the bankruptcy.
On October 26, 2019, the New York Post reported that Boy Scouts of America had sent out a notice to leaders that the registration fee would be almost doubling from $33 to $60 on January 1, 2020. Boy Scouts blamed the increase on the rising “cost of insurance.”
The Post noted that court documents revealed in April 2019 that the Boy Scouts believed over 7,800 of its former leaders allegedly abused more than 12,000 victims between 1944 and 2016. One veteran commercial insurance consultant the Post spoke with said whatever insurance premiums Boy Scouts was paying before the allegations came to light would “probably be tripled,” and the deductible could be in the millions of dollars.
Others Have Been Accused
The Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts are not the only defendants in CVA cases, though. Newsday reported on October 9, 2019, that a group of more than 50 women was preparing to file a lawsuit against a former Long Island pediatrician stripped of his medical license because of multiple complaints of sexual abuse.
Stuart Copperman had his license revoked after at least six women told a state hearing panel that he had molested them as young girls between 14 years of age and 20 years of age during the 11 years ending in 1989, but the statute of limitations laws barred all of the women from filing lawsuits. Copperman unsuccessfully tried to retain his license before relocating to Florida.
Certain cases can be more isolated. The Citizen reported on October 7, 2019, that one woman who now lives in Florida had filed a lawsuit against Michael Speno, the operator of instrument retailer and repair shop Speno Music in Auburn, alleging that he had abused her from when she was 9 years of age until she was 16 years of age from 1976 until 1983.
The lawsuit claimed that Speno was 18 years of age and dating the victim’s sister when he “forcefully inserted his tongue” into the victim’s mouth and then threatened to have her killed by the mafia if she told anyone. That abuse occurred in the backroom of the victim’s home, but incidents of abuse also occurred in the pool and bathroom of Speno’s parents as well and at Speno’s home when the victim agreed to babysit he and the victim’s sister’s child.
On October 17, 2019, the New York Daily News reported that 12 former students had filed a lawsuit against the New York School for the Deaf and its employee Joseph Casucci, who was fired more than four decades ago following complaints from students about kissing and groping of underage girls and died over ten years ago.
Two of the victims claimed they were abused as young as four years of age and six years of age. One of the plaintiffs who was abused at four years of age said the children came to expect the abuse as routine, and the school administration ignored complaints, but legal action did not become possible until the CVA extended the statute of limitations.
Spectrum News reported on October 9, 2019, that a lawsuit was filed under the CVA against a former employee at the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca in which the victim claimed they were admitted to the center at 12 years of age. The lawsuit named Marshall Krzos, a nurse who sexually assaulted the victim for months and Spectrum stated that the Buffalo News reported in 1989 pleaded guilty to two counts of sex abuse.
The Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reported on September 25, 2019, that a lawsuit had been filed against former Afton high school principal David E. Curtis and Afton Central School District almost 30 years after the principal sexually abused a teenage student. Curtis was accused of kissing and fondling a 15-year-old student and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a minor by sexual contact before being sentenced to three years probation.
New Court Procedures Implemented to Handle the Cases
New York State Courts have had to implement new procedures to allow courts to handle the dearth of new CVA claims as efficiently as possible. One move was the creation of a dedicated part of the Supreme Court in each Judicial District to hear the CVA childhood sexual assault cases.
There is also mandatory training of justices, hearing officers, referees, and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) neutrals in relevant points of law under a curriculum approved by the Office of Court Administration. The state has also implemented a recommended schedule for pre-trial proceedings in CVA cases, and also enacted specific requirements for counsel to follow before preliminary or status conferences on CVA sexual abuse cases.
The new schedule will hopefully allow child sexual abuse cases to be immediately assigned to the relevant section of the Supreme Court. A preliminary conference would occur within 30 days of a request for judicial intervention, and there should be a status conference within 60 days of that.
Discovery should conclude in such cases within one year of the initial preliminary conference. Dispositive motions would have to be filed within 90 days of the end of discovery, and decisions would have to be rendered within 30 days.
Trials would then be scheduled within 60 days of the note of issue or decisions on any motions. The New York State Court stated in an August 13, 2019, press release that it had formally appointed and trained 45 judges statewide to hear CVA cases.
Mondaq reported in July 2019 that as many as 2,500 people were expected to use the CVA to file lawsuits against individual defendants and organizational defendants in New York. As many lawsuits have already been filed, there remains the possibility that more people could still come forward during the one-year extension of the statute of limitations.
Help is Available to Victims
It is not always easy for victims of sexual abuse to come forward with their allegations, as there can be concerns about the possible consequences of doing so. You should not let fear prevent you from using the current opportunity provided to get justice, and Hach & Rose, LLP can be on your side and help you hold your attacker accountable.
Our firm understands that one of the primary reasons people can be afraid to come forward concerns precisely how long ago sexual abuse occurred, as some people are talking about incidents that occurred several decades ago and for which evidence will be minimal. We will know how to approach your case and help locate the most substantial evidence needed to prove your allegations.
You don’t have to file a CVA claim on your own. The sex abuse survivor attorneys of Hach & Rose, LLP are ready to handle all of the legal legwork for you. Our firm has helped scores of sexual abuse victims all over New York and we will be able to discuss all of your legal options with you when you call (212) 779-0057 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation.