New York Adult Survivors Act effective November 24, 2022

New York Adult Survivors Act[1] (“ASA” or “the Act”) (S.66A/A.648A) became effective on November 24, 2022. The law provides a one-year retrospective window for people to seek civil remedies for sexual abuse they experienced after turning 18, regardless of the year the abuse occurred. This law adds critical energy to the ongoing momentum of the #MeToo movement, allowing survivors to file lawsuits against both their abusers and the institutions that empowered them.

The year-long review window runs through November 23, 2023, giving survivors just over ten months as of today to take advantage of the law. The following guide provides context and recommendations for understanding and applying New York’s Adult Survivors Act.

What does the ASA do?

The ASA is creating a year-long lookback window for sexual assault survivors to pursue civil claims of abuse that may have occurred years earlier, provided they were over the age of 18 at the time. Previously, a person who had experienced sexual abuse had just a few years to file a lawsuit in New York before their claim was barred. That meant survivors had little time to deal with the abuse they suffered, find a lawyer, prepare a case, and file a lawsuit. For those who missed this little window, the ASA is reopening the courthouse doors. So until November 23, 2023, whether you experienced abuse in 2015, 2000, or 1985, you can file a lawsuit in court and seek redress for what happened to you.

What does the law cover?

Sexual offenses covered by the ASA encompass a wide range of behaviors, including but not limited to violent touching, rape, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and other forms of sexual abuse. Not all sexual offenses fall under the ASA,[2] and an attorney can help you assess whether your claim falls under the provisions.

Who can you sue?

Another important provision of the law is who may be named as a defendant. Survivors are not limited to suing their perpetrators—they can also hold accountable the institutions that isolated these perpetrators from justice. These institutions may include entities that were responsible for protecting the survivor and controlling the perpetrator’s actions. Claims against the institutes can be based on intentional or negligent actions. If your abuser was part of a larger organization that contributed to or failed to prevent, detect, or stop the abuse, the ASA authorizes you to take action against that organization.

This provision comes directly from the New York Child Victims Act (“CVA”) of 2019.[3] Over 10,000 people have used the CVA to sue institutions that have played a role in its abuse, including churches, hospitals, overnight and day camps, and schools. For example, in a large number of CVA cases, the Roman Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America are named as institutional defendants. The ASA offers a similar legal remedy: survivors are often abused by those who have power over them. For minors, these individuals may be coaches, religious leaders, teachers, mentors, or other caregivers. For those over 18, those in power may be employers, professors, or community leaders. The ASA enables adult survivors to sue the institutions that empowered their abusers and shielded those abusers from accountability for their actions.

The ASA’s institutional determination of the accused opens up significantly greater opportunities for redress, since institutions often have deeper pockets than individual perpetrators. Examples of institutions that could be held liable under the ASA are employers, colleges and universities, social organizations such as fraternities and sororities, medical practices and facilities that accommodate people with disabilities. Any entity that knew or should have known about the abuse and should have stopped it could be on the hook.

For whom is that?

The ASA opens the courts to people who were over the age of 18 at the time of the sexual abuse but otherwise cannot file a lawsuit due to statutes of limitations. You can use the ASA even if you previously attempted to file a claim but your claim was dismissed as out of time.[4]

It is important to note that if you have resolved or cleared your claims through settlement, you may not file claims under the ASA. For example, the nearly 150 women arrested for sexual abuse by Dr. Robert Hadden, who are not using ASA to file new claims since their claims have been fully settled.

why do we need this

The Adult Survivors Act is a game changer for people previously unable to make sexual abuse claims due to a short statute of limitations. In 2019, New York extended the statute of limitations on certain civil claims related to sex crimes from five to 20 years. But this law was not retroactive, so survivors who had experienced abuse just a few years earlier were still deterred from seeking justice.

The ASA recognizes the lived reality of sexual abuse. Like the CVA before it, the ASA recognizes that sexual abuse cases can take years to process, and those years often far exceed the short filing deadlines New York has historically imposed for these types of claims.

Survivors have many reasons to wait before making allegations of sexual abuse. Some face retaliation from their perpetrators, some fear the risk of community backlash, and others lack the resources to seek legal counsel. Finally, “[t]Rauma takes time,” New York State Senator and ASA Champion Brad Hoylman said while campaigning for the law at the time. Many survivors of sexual assault and abuse take years to process what they have suffered. This can be especially true when an abuser uses power, manipulation, or threats to coerce submission to sexual intercourse, a common tactic employed by notorious abusers Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Dr. Robert Hadden. It can take decades to understand the event as sexual abuse, come to terms with the experience, and decide how to proceed. The ASA is an attempt to respect this process and empower survivors to hold their perpetrators accountable.

Why should I file a lawsuit about what happened to me?

For many people, surviving sexual abuse is not something that can be “fixed” by any legal action. But the remedies available through civil lawsuits can serve as a proxy for a measure of justice, and that proxy can allow survivors to move forward.

Successful ASA plaintiffs can seek economic, compensatory, and punitive damages from both the individual offender and the institution. Many survivors suffer financial losses in addition to the psychological, emotional, and physical damage from the abuse itself. If your boss sexually harasses you and then fires you when you protest, you may be left without an income. Being attacked by a classmate can make you lose tuition after you decide to leave campus for your safety. Civil courts can make you financially healthy in addition to compensating you for the pain of the experience and the efforts you must make to heal. Courts can also provide other remedies by requiring those who committed or permitted abuse to engage in or stop certain behaviors, thereby protecting other potential future targets of abuse and abuse.

How do I use the ASA?

The first thing you should do is consult a lawyer. These cases can be complicated and the burden of proof still falls on the plaintiffs, so you need the expertise of an experienced attorney. There are several companies that regularly file such lawsuits, and many will offer you a free consultation. If, after consultation, you decide to proceed with your case, your attorney will work with you to determine the best strategy. This strategy may involve going to court, or it may involve seeking an out-of-court solution that works for you.

As you go through the process of finding an attorney, you should know that you deserve a compassionate, knowledgeable attorney who is focused on your needs and interests as a client. This is about what happened she, and your lawyer is there to guide you. They should feel heard, understood and respected. KBK attorneys are experienced and dedicated to working with clients making sexual abuse claims.

When do I have to submit?

You must submit your claim by November 23, 2023.

While the ASA is a strong New York effort to support the rights of sexual abuse survivors, it is temporary. November 23, 2023 is the deadline for filing a claim, but if you’re interested in filing a recovery under the law, you should act now. Finding the right attorney for you can take time, and your attorney will need additional time to put your case together. If you and your attorney decide to seek a non-judicial resolution, this process may take even longer.

Ten months sounds like a long time, but in the legal world things can go very quickly. Consider claiming the ASA and contact an attorney as soon as possible.

What happens after I submit?

This will boil down to discussions with your lawyer. Submission is the first major step in this process. Going through this process may involve a discovery, further court filings, and hearings before a judge or jury.

What else should I consider?

Take care of yourself as you consider your next steps. Consult trusted family members and mental health professionals. It is crucial that you base yourself on what is best for you.

[1] New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the ASA into law on May 24, 2022. The ASA passed the New York Convention by a majority of 140 to 3 after receiving unanimous support in the state Senate a month earlier.

[2] Article 130 of the New York Criminal Code lists offenses covered by the ASA.

[3] The CVA went into effect in 2019 and provides a two-year lookback window for individuals who experienced abuse when they were minors. The CVA amends NYCPLR Section 208 (2019), allowing victims to bring civil actions against their abusers and supportive agencies. With respect to victims who were barred from civil action prior to the CVA’s enactment, NYCPLR 214-g (2020) provides a traceability period to file a claim. Since 2019, over 10,000 people in New York have filed lawsuits against perpetrators and the institutions protecting them.

[4] The ASA can only reinstate your claim if it is dismissed for missing the statutory time limit. If your claim was dismissed for any other reason, this law cannot remedy that.