Posted on Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 at 5:36 pm
Four hundred twenty seven sexual abuse lawsuits were filed by 5 p.m. on the first day that the one-year extended statute of limitations window was opened by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing of the The Child Victims Act (CVA). We are now beginning to see some of the different public and private entities that are being hardest hit by these actions.
On September 27, 2019, WKBW-TV reported that there are currently 31 lawsuits targeting the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda district, all of which were filed against alleged serial predator Arthur Werner, a retired fifth-grade teacher at Herbert Hoover Elementary School. According to the news outlet, this abuse began in the early 1960s and the most recent claim occurred during the 1991-1992 school year.
WHAM-TV reported on October 10, 2019, that a teacher in the Brighton Central School District was accused of sexually abusing two women “hundreds of separate occasions” between 1971 and 1975 or 1976. The man was a teacher in the Brighton Central School District until retiring in March 2001 and a gymnastics coach with the Brighton Town Recreation Department.
On October 15, 2019, the New York Daily News reported that a Manhattan law firm said in a letter to the city comptroller that the city government of New York City would be the subject of 17 child sexual abuse lawsuits. The letter specifically mentioned the Education Department and the Administration for Children’s Services, and it included details about eight of the 17 cases.
Diocese of Buffalo
WKBW reported that 80 percent of the over 200 lawsuits filed in Western New York under the CVA name the Diocese of Buffalo as a defendant. One firm told WKBW that it expected to file as many as 90 lawsuits before the limitations window ends.
On October 24, 2019, WSHU-FM reported that three new civil complaints filed against the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island alleged that four members of the Diocese sexually abused three minors between 1963 and 1971. The members included Bishop John McGann when he was a monsignor, two other priests, and an employee of the Diocese.
The New York Post reported on August 22, 2019, that at least 47 alleged victims had filed suit against the Diocese of Brooklyn in Brooklyn and Bronx courts since the CVA went into effect. On September 18, 2019, the Buffalo News reported that the 138 lawsuits filed against the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo were more than any other defendant in New York State.
According to the Buffalo News, Catholic dioceses facing lawsuits included the following totals:
- Buffalo — 138
- Archdiocese of New York City — 125
- Brooklyn — 78
- Rochester — 45
- Rockville Centre — 43
- Albany — 34
- Syracuse — 20
- Ogdensburg — 16
How the courts are preparing for legal action
On August 14, 2019, USA Today reported that New York’s civil courts had been preparing for the dramatic number of legal actions filed because of the CVA. The state had named judges for each judicial district (including the five counties within New York City) who would handle nothing but lawsuits filed under the CVA.
One judicial district for counties within the Rochester diocese would have child sexual abuse cases routed to a special part, or section, of state Supreme Court. One primary judge was assigned with a backup and as many as three more on standby should caseloads be too large.
A judge was actually accused of sexual abuse in one case, as the Briarcliff Daily Voice reported on October 25, 2019, that former Orange County Court Judge Jeffery Berry was accused of sexually assaulting a student while employed at Cornwall Central High School. The Cornwall Central School District was also named in the lawsuit because the suit alleged employees knew of allegations against Berry while he was employed there.
Concerns about due process
The Buffalo News reported on October 18, 2019, that a Catholic religious order from the Province of St. Anthony of Padua of the Conventual Franciscans and related entities asserted that the CVA was unconstitutional and child sexual abuse cases filed under the law should be dismissed. According to the News, Franciscan orders are named as a defendant in at least seven CVA lawsuits in Erie County.
Due process concerns are expected to be one common defense in these cases, as many defendants in sexual abuse cases that are often several decades old will claim that they have trouble remembering events from such periods and have no way to defend themselves against such claims. While liability insurance may help protect certain institutions from significant financial losses, even the amount of coverage they are afforded could become a complicated issue for certain policyholders.
On September 30, 2019, ABC News reported that a year-long review of the Archdiocese of New York’s handling of sexual abuse allegations found that it had acted in accordance with standards established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Former District Judge Barbara Jones did have recommendations, however, including the hiring of a person whose sole job would be to oversee how the archdiocese responds to sexual abuse allegations.
How victims can take action
Many people are now aware of their newfound rights under the CVA, but it can still be difficult for some people to take the necessary steps. It is perfectly understandable why victims of sexual abuse do not want to again encounter their attackers, but you can still take the steps you need to get justice and protect yourself by working with an experienced attorney.
Were you or your loved one the victim of sexual abuse in New York? No matter how long ago your abuse occurred, you are going to want to do something about it right now while the state has provided this limited period and Hach & Rose, LLP will be committed to helping you every single step of the way.
Our firm knows that sexual abuse is a difficult subject to discuss and we can make sure that you are able to feel confident in your decision to move forward with a lawsuit while being by your side every step of the way. You can have us help you understand all of your legal options as soon as you call (212) 779-0057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.