The passage of the Child Victims Act has kept receptionists at law firms across New York State busy.
The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo Thursday morning, extends the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases, and creates a one-year look-back window for anybody currently too old to bring a civil case.
The new statute of limitations in such cases expires when the victim turns 23-years-old for criminal cases, and 55-years-old in civil cases.
Since the bill was passed by the New York State Legislature on January 28th, attorneys at HoganWillig have received about two dozen calls from people inquiring about bringing a case forward, said attorney Will Lorenz. Lorenz has personally spoken to 11 of those people, and has more meetings planned this week.
“The day after the bill passed in the New York State Legislature, our office became flooded with calls,” Lorenz said.
Vanessa DeRosa, one of Lorenz’s clients, has spent several years pushing for the Child Victims Act to pass. She says she was harassed by a teacher at her school, St. Dominic Salvo in Niagara Falls, in the early 2000s. That teacher, Christian Butler, later served time behind bars after being arrested on a child porn charge.
“I was harassed by him on a daily basis during school and after school the entire year,” said DeRosa. “When it ws brought to the administration’s attention, the vice principal and the principal both ignored it.
“(Butler) was responsible for what he did, but there were a lot of other people who were responsible for allowing it to happen.”
Now with the Child Victims Act signed into law, DeRosa and Lorenz will have to determine whether a lawsuit is appropriate in her case. When Cuomo signed the bill, he said it rights previous wrongs.
“This is society’s way of saying we are sorry,” Cuomo said. “We are sorry for what happened to you.”
Lorenz is now urging those who were abused as children to consider coming forward now.
“It’s important that survivors begin working now so that their cases are some of the first ones heard when that window opens,” he said.
The one-year look-back window will open on August 14th, and expire one year later.