On May 24, 2022, New York's governor signed the Adult Survivors Act, S.66A (the ASA) into law. The ASA will revive sexual abuse claims that have expired under the applicable statute of limitations period. Specifically, the ASA amends New York's Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) to provide a one-year "look back window" to allow adults who were 18 years old or older when certain sexual offenses were committed against them to commence civil claims that would otherwise be time-barred. The one-year window to commence lawsuits under the ASA will begin six months after the law's passage, in late November 2022.
The ASA is modeled after New York's Child Victims Act (CVA) enacted in 2019, which revived otherwise time-barred claims for victims who were minors when certain sexual offenses were committed against them. Like the CVA, the ASA will allow plaintiffs to sue not only their alleged abusers, but also the institutions that were negligent or otherwise "enabled" the abuse to occur. Although the precise scope of the ASA is yet unclear, its statutory language is very broad. Where CVA cases were largely filed against schools, religious institutions, and other children's organizations, we can expect to see plaintiffs sue corporate employers in connection with their claims brought under the ASA.
The administration of cases under the CVA may also be instructive of what is to come. More than 11,000 lawsuits have been commenced under the CVA, and we can expect to see just as many, if not more, lawsuits filed under the ASA. Indeed, the New York legislature contemplates a significant influx of new cases commenced under the ASA and has specifically tasked the New York state judiciary with implementing a system to adjudicate in a timely manner these new claims in New York state courts.
The ASA will undoubtedly present new challenges to employers, who may find themselves defending against decades-old claims that arose under the supervision of long-gone former management or very outdated company policies. The ASA is another reminder to all employers to review and make current their policies and protocols and handle every allegation of misconduct appropriately. We will continue to monitor the ASA and its effect on employers. If your organization has questions about the ASA, employment policies, or handling internal misconduct investigations, please contact the authors of this article or any lawyer in Venable's Labor and Employment Group.