Recent Court Order Has Wide-Reaching Impact on the Future of Child Victims Act (CVA) litigation


Cassandra Rohme Cassandra Rohme
Associate

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On May 18, 2020 the Hon. Steven M. Jaeger, A.J.S.C., filed an Order in the case ARK3 Doe v. Diocese of Rockville Centre, et. al., (Nassau County Supreme Court, Index 900010/2019), that will likely have wide-reaching impact on the future of claims brought pursuant to the Child Victims Act (CVA) in New York State.

Defendants including the Diocese of Rockville Centre moved to dismiss 44 complaints against them brought pursuant to the lookback provisions of the CVA alleging that the claims failed to state a claim and that they were timebarred because they violated the Due Process Clause of the New York State Constitution.

The CVA’s one-year lookback window which began in August 2019, has recently been extended to January 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The lookback window explicitly allows any child sex abuse victims to file previously timebarred claims.  Defendants’ motion touches on a somewhat obscure area of the law that would in theory allow the Court to strike down a legislatively enacted lookback statute.  It should be noted that no case was presented by Defendants demonstrating a court exercising this power.

Using the analysis presented by the Court of Appeals in Matter of World Trade Ctr., 30 N.Y.3d 381 (2017), and based on the legislative history of the CVA, the Court found that the Child Victims Act is a “reasonable response to remedy the injustice of past child sexual abuse.”  See May 18, 2020, Order of Hon. Steven M. Jaeger, A.J.S.C., at page 4.  As such, the CVA it does not violate Defendants’ Due Process rights secured by the New York State Constitution.  

Defendants also argued that all claims against them should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted [CPLR § 3211(a)(7)], as they do not state a claim under the CVA based on Defendants’ analysis of the statutory language.  The Court denied the remainder of Defendants’ motion in its entirety, holding that “CPLR 214-g expressly revived every ‘claim or cause of action brought against any party’ that alleges ‘intentional or negligent acts or omissions’ stemming from child sexual abuse offenses.”  See May 18, 2020, Order of Hon. Steven M. Jaeger, A.J.S.C., at page 13.  

This holding, the first of its kind, should help to solidify the CVAs power to correct serious injustices like those suffered by survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  Moreover, for the 44 cases in which Defendants have moved to dismiss, they have now expended their single chance to do so.  See CPLR 3211(a).  Defendants have filed a Notice of Appeal.


 

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