New York courts brace for hundreds of lawsuits by victims of child sex abuse

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York courts have assigned 45 judges to handle the expected lawsuits by hundreds of people who were sexually abused as children when a state law takes effect on Wednesday that temporarily lifts the statute of limitations on decades-old allegations.

The Child Victims Act scraps, for one year, the statute of limitations that had barred older complaints.

Of the 45 judges assigned to the cases, 12 will be in New York City, and the court system has provided training for judges and put in new rules to speed up the resolution of the lawsuits.

"The revived Child Victims Act cases are critically important cases, raising numerous challenging legal issues, that must be adjudicated as consistently and expeditiously as possible across the State," Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said in a statement. "We are fully committed to providing appropriate and sufficient resources to achieve that goal."

One law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, said it would be filing 400 lawsuits just in New York City, with plaintiffs ranging from teenagers to people in their 90s.

A separate group of law firms, including Seeger Weiss, said it be representing at least 170 plaintiffs across the state, many with complaints against the Catholic Church.

"The institutions and the schools that have been covering this up for decades, it's over, it's now," Jonathan Sedgh, a lawyer at Weitz, said at a news conference on the steps of the Supreme Court building in Manhattan on Tuesday. "Now we have the chance to bring them to justice."

His firm said more than 400 cases will be filed in the coming weeks against churches, schools, hospitals and other institutions across New York City. State-wide, the firm said it is representing more than 1,200 people who were sexually abused as children.

Sedgh declined to identify specific entities his firm plans to sue, but said the defendants would include plaintiffs' relatives and neighbors, as well as members of the clergy.

The Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church in particular have braced themselves for a wave of new litigation made possible by the relaxing of New York's statute of limitations, which had previously been among the most stringent in the country.

After the law was signed, both organizations encouraged victims to come forward, and law firms have run advertisements encouraging the same.

(Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

08/13/2019 16:49

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