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New York courts say they are ready for Child Victims Act to take effect

August 14, 2019 Rob Abruzzese
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New York’s landmark Child Victims Act will officially go into effect on Wednesday, and the New York State courts said it has a system in place that is ready to handle the influx of cases that it expects.

The main provision of the act that goes into effect on Wednesday gives adult survivors of child sexual abuse a one-year window to sue abusers or a negligent institution no matter how long ago the abuse took place.

“The Child Victims Act does not guarantee restitution,” said Michele Mirman, president of the NYS Trial Lawyers Association. “But, for the first time, the law gives sexual abuse survivors, who were previously unable to bring suit, their first real chance to heal deep wounds by giving them their day in court, allowing them to confront the people and institutions that so gravely hurt them, and providing them an opportunity for restitution for their injuries, pain and suffering.”

Hon. George Silver has been assigned to pretrial proceedings in Brooklyn and New York City for any lawsuits brought under the new Child Victims Act.

This window is meant to give victims who stayed silent for years a chance to sue in court even if they’re long past the previous statute of limitations.

“The revived Child Victims Act cases are critically important cases, raising numerous challenging legal issues, that must be adjudicated as consistently and expeditiously as possible across the State,” said Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks. “We are fully committed to providing appropriate and sufficient resources to achieve that goal.”

To prepare for the extra cases, the court system conducted judicial training on the new law and issues it expects will frequently come up in civil actions that are a result of it. It also implemented new rules that are available for lawyers on the court’s website under the “Uniform Rules for N.Y. State Trial Courts” section.

Michele Mirman, president of the NYS Trial Lawyers Association, said that the new law doesn’t guarantee restitution, but said it will give victims who could never bring a suit due to expired statute of limitations a chance to finally have their day in court.
File photo by Mario Belluomo

Lawyers bringing cases are asked to incorporate a recommended timeline for each case that includes a schedule for a preliminary conference within 30 days of the initial filing and has a goal that discovery will be completed within a year.

Dedicated parts have been established to handle cases. In Brooklyn and New York City, Hon. George Silver has been assigned for pre-trial proceedings. Each case will also be assigned to a parallel alternative dispute resolution track in the pre-trial phase. If a case is unable to settle, it will be assigned to a designated judge for trial.

The court also explained that to achieve consistency in handling the cases throughout the state, it has adopted a case management order for all actions, similar to the way it handled asbestos-related lawsuits.

“There is not only the question of whether many lawsuits will be brought at one time on August 14th, but in addition, many people will want to bring their lawsuit anonymously to protect their identity and the shame that victims of sexual predators inevitably — and wrongfully, I must add —experience,” Mirman said. “This means that the courts will face the additional paperwork of deciding the requests to proceed as a ‘John Doe.’”

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