Adult Survivors Act to bring new flood of sex claims to New York courts

A new law giving sex-assault victims a shot at justice is about to flood New York’s already bogged-down courts with even more cases.

The legal window for victims 18 and older to bring their claims of sex assault and abuse to court regardless of when the crime occurred, is set to open in the Empire State Thursday, under the Adult Survivors Act. Typically, survivors have less than five years to bring such claims in civil court.

Hundreds of cases are already anticipated to be filed under the new law, with 750 women who claim they were abused in state prisons expected to bring their allegations to court.

Writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused former President Trump of raping her in Manhattan in the 1990s, also plans to use the legal window to bring her claims against Trump to court, her lawyers said last week.

A demonstrator holds a sign in support of the Adult Survivors Act, which takes effect Thursday.

Gov. Hochul
Gov. Hochul signing the Adult Survivors Act into law.

Those who work with sex assault victims praised the new law.

“For those of us who worked with people who have been victimized, this is wonderful to finally get justice in a court. We’ve had quite a few people contacting us,” said lawyer Ann Oliveras. “Hopefully it will trigger other states to do the same thing.”

But some question whether Big Apple courts, struggling to move more than 5,300 sex abuse claims brought under the state’s Child Victims Act through the legal system, can handle it.

“I’ve had two people who have died,” said attorney Thomas Giuffra of two of his clients who have filed under the CVA, which opened a legal window for victims of child sexual abuse to bring their claims forward. “Nobody’s moved the ball down the field. … The Adult Survivors Act, how are they going to handle that?” 

A spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration downplayed concerns.

“We don’t anticipate any issues with these new cases which will be filed electronically,” said Lucian Chalfen. “We will track the filings and should there be an unanticipated number, in any particular county, we are prepared to adjust accordingly.”