On November 24, 2022, the Adult Survivors Act (“ASA”) was enacted in New York State. New York’s statute of limitations for civil actions arising out of sexual offenses against people over 18 years old has been amended by the ASA. The ASA amends the statute of limitations in New York for civil actions arising from sexual offenses against persons over the age of 18.
Survivors of sexual assault have one year to file civil lawsuits. Employers and institutions can be named as potential defendants in civil lawsuits under the ASA Civil Laws. These cases are not limited to the alleged victims. The ASA covers a wide range of sexual offenses, including groping and forcible touch to rape or sodomy.
If you have any questions or need any assistance in the defense of an ASA civil lawsuit and/or in determining the existence of liability insurance coverage to defend and indemnify you against an ASA civil lawsuit, our New York business lawyers can help.
The Adult Survivors Act and the Child Victims Act
The Adult Survivors Act was inspired by the Child Victims Act (“CVA”), which was enacted in August 2019. It amended the statute of limitations in New York to allow civil actions arising out of sexual offenses against persons younger than 18. In August 2021, the one-year window in which CVA civil lawsuits could be filed (extended by the Covid pandemic), expired. CVA lawsuits are often brought against employers and institutions.
This included, apart from the alleged abusers. Schools, religious institutions, and Scouting organizations were also frequently sued in CVA lawsuits. These same employers and institutions could also face civil lawsuits under ASA.
The ASA broadens the potential defendants to civil lawsuits to include almost all businesses, municipalities, government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, hospitals, health care providers, and professional service firms. In cases in which sexual abuse was committed in the workplace or was related to it, survivors of sexual abuse can sue employers and institutions.
How to Prepare for Any Possible Lawsuits
What can institutions and employers do to prepare for possible ASA Civil lawsuits, and/or when they are named as defendants in ASA Civil lawsuits? Employers and institutions should consider these strategies when facing ASA civil lawsuits. This is especially important since some claims may involve alleged sexual abuse that was decades ago.
You should review and preserve any historical claims, letters, or claims of sexual abuse in the workplace if you know of them.
You should gather, review, and keep any relevant paper or electronic material that may still be available. This includes correspondence and any documents related to historical office policies and procedures.
What to Do if You’re Sued in an ASA Case
If you are sued in an ASA civil case:
- Determine if there is any liability insurance policy (including the excess) that could have been in place at the time of the alleged abuse. This will provide coverage for your company or organization.
- If you find any of these liability insurance policies, please provide prompt written notice of claim (including a copy of the lawsuit) and a request for defense and indemnity to the liability insurance carrier.
- Conduct a thorough search of all documents, letters, and files that are paper or electronic about the plaintiff victim and the alleged abuser(s).
- If a liability policy cannot be found, you can determine if other proof of coverage exists. This could include written correspondence with an agent or insurance broker and reviewing historical and previous litigation records.
Depending on whether the plaintiff/victim filed the lawsuit anonymously, or under a pseudonym you will be able to identify potential witnesses or actual witnesses that may have information about the alleged abuse, plaintiff/victim, or any other details about policies/procedures that were in place at the time of the abuse.
Interview potential witnesses or actual witnesses if they are still employed to get relevant information regarding the abuse allegations. If potential witnesses or actual witnesses have ceased to be employed, you should find their last known addresses and contact counsel during the investigation stage of the lawsuit.
If you cannot find information about liability insurance coverage during the alleged abuse, it may be worth considering financial reserves to safeguard against any settlement or judgment that may be made against your company or organization by the survivor Plaintiff.
Although the survivor plaintiff is responsible for proving their claims in any ASA Civil lawsuit, there are steps an employer can take that will maximize their defense and minimize financial exposure to an influx of ASA Civil lawsuits.
If you have any questions or need any assistance in the defense of an ASA civil lawsuit and/or in determining the existence of liability insurance coverage to defend and indemnify you against an ASA civil lawsuit, please contact Rosenbaum & Taylor today.