Lawmakers push for extension of Child Victim's Act window

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Photo credit Diocese of Buffalo with two dozen protesters calling for Bishop Malone's resignation. September 10, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - More than 1,300 civil suits have been filed since the one-year look-back window for the Child Victim's Act took effect last August. Now, there is a push in Albany to extend the window for another year.

The current look-back window for victims to file civil claims on old cases expires on August 14. That means as of that date, past instances of sexual abuse against a minor cannot have any civil litigation, unless it is within the statute of limitations. New instances of abuse can have civil suits brought up to the age of 55.

VIEW THE BILL TO EXTEND THE CHILD VICTIM'S ACT BY CLICKING HERE 

Extending the Child Victim's Act look-back window has received near unanimous praise from those who pushed for its original passage. The Catholic Church and insurance companies lobbied against the original bill because of its financial impact on lawsuits and settlements.

"This first year of the CVA window in New York State has been liberating for a lot of survivors of not just clergy abuse but of all kinds of different types of institutional sexual abuse," James Faluszczak, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, said.  "It takes a little bit of time, especially for those who are maybe unaware of that possibility of seeking discovery or restitution or whatever the goal is, to come to terms with the fact that I might have to talk to someone now. It's not an easy decision to make."

Clergy victims advocate Robert Hoatson is also supportive of the one-year extension, saying it matches what other states, like New Jersey, have done.

"One year is never enough because it takes decades for people to come forward, if ever," Hoatson said.

The Diocese of Buffalo deferred judgement of the extension to Albany lawmakers.

"The legislature should do what it needs to do to protect children and give justice to survivors," Diocesean spokesperson Greg Tucker said in a statement. "If they believe that an extension is warranted, we would defer to their judgment. With or without an extension, however, it is the policy of the Diocese of Buffalo that we will always have an open door to survivors and they will always receive assistance from us, regardless of when their abuse occurred."

Bankruptcy at the Diocese of Buffalo will have a significant impact on the lawsuits. Attorney Steve Boyd told WBEN on Friday that the bankruptcy would set a deadline for those filing claims.

"After that bar date, no more claims can be brought, even if the Child Victim's Act were extended," Boyd said.  "If they file for bankruptcy, all of the cases will have to bring their claims in during this one bankruptcy proceeding, whereas all cases in the future will be extinguished."

While victims of sex abuse by members of the Catholic Church may have more obstacles, Faluszczak points out that survivors of other institutions, like Boy Scouts, schools, and more, will benefit from the extension.

"Whether or not the Diocese of Buffalo would declare bankruptcy, I still favor an extension of the Child Victim's Act because it will impact all kinds of different people," Faluszczak said.

State Senator Tim Kennedy said that extending the look-back window is the right thing to do because it will give more survivors more opportunities to hold their abusers accountable.

"I would absolutely be supportive," Kennedy said.

Criminal prosecutions of individuals under the Child Victim's Act has a statute of limitations up to age 28 for victims.