The New York Child Victims Act (“the CVA”) established a one-time, one-year window in which previously time-barred claims of child sexual abuse could be “revived” and sued in New York State courts. The one-year window opened at midnight on August 14, 2019, and by the end of the first day over 400 cases were already on file with courts across the entire state.
In anticipation of an onslaught of lawsuits, New York State Courts implemented new procedures that are unique to handling revived child abuse claims. Newly-created Uniform Rule § 202.72 implements new mechanisms by which New York State Courts can adjudicate cases in the most efficient manner possible. These items include:
- Creation of a dedicated Part of the Supreme Court in each Judicial District to hear the revived childhood sexual assault cases;
- Mandated training of Justices, hearing officers, referees and ADR neutrals in relevant points of law, pursuant to a curriculum approved by the Office of Court Administration;
- A recommended schedule for pre-trial proceedings in such cases; and
- Specific requirements for engaged counsel to follow prior to preliminary or status conferences on revived abuse cases.
The recommended schedule for cases envisions immediate assignment of each child sexual abuse case to the newly formed Part of the Supreme Court. Within 30 days of the request for judicial intervention, a preliminary conference would occur with an assigned judge, followed by a status conference 60 days later. Discovery would conclude within a year of the initial preliminary conference. Any dispositive motions – i.e., motions seeking to dismiss the case prior to trial – would be fully submitted within 90 days of the end of discovery, with decisions to be made 30 days thereafter. A trial would be scheduled within 60 days of the note of issue, or 60 days after the decision of any motions – an accelerated timeline not mandated by the courts on other civil tort matters. This is an accelerated timetable at every phase: in most cases, the litigants in a Supreme Court case conduct discovery and other pre-trial proceedings on their own, seeking judicial intervention only as necessary to resolve disputes or to advise the Court that discovery is complete and the matter is ready for trial.
On August 13, 2019 The New York State Court system issued a press release to advise that public that it has formally appointed and trained 45 judges statewide to hear CVA cases. Recent training of these judges (as envisioned by the rules) was also conducted, and the designated new Supreme Court Parts were established and are in place. According to the press release, pretrial proceedings will be heard by a small set of designated judges: Justice George Silver (New York City’s 5 boroughs), Justice Michael Mackey (Third and Fourth Judicial Districts, located in the eastern portion of Upstate New York), Justice Michael V. Coccoma (Fifth and Sixth Judicial Districts, located in the central portion of Upstate New York), Justice Deborah Chimes (Seventh and Eighth Judicial Districts, located in the western portion of Upstate New York), and Justice Terry Jane Ruderman (Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts, located in Long Island and counties immediately north of New York City), with the Hon. Vito Caruso overseeing the process outside of New York City. The August 13 press release also noted that when a CVA case is in the pretrial phase, it will be automatically assigned to a parallel alternative dispute resolution track to expedite potential settlements. The press release advises that the court administrators are also developing a uniform “case management order,” similar to the type of scheduling order used for asbestos-related lawsuits.
The most important takeaway from the new Court procedures is that the Court system intends to pursue prompt adjudication and resolution of cases brought under the one-year CVA revival window.