If you were the victim of sexual abuse or assault, either as a child or an adult, you have the right to bring a civil lawsuit against both your abuser and any school, company, or organization that might be liable for the abuse.
In this post, we will provide a brief overview of sexual abuse lawsuits in New York. We will explain the applicable statute of limitations for sex abuse civil cases in New York and the potential settlement value of these cases. If you have a New York sex abuse case, contact us today for a free consultation at 800-553-8082.
NEWS & UPDATES:
November 29, 2023: The New York Adult Survivors Act window to file older sex abuse lawsuits has now closed. The law ed to a significant influx of over 3,700 lawsuits, as survivors of sexual abuse seized the opportunity to file civil claims, irrespective of when the abuse occurred. High-profile figures and entities implicated include Salesforce in connection with Backpage.com, along with renowned personalities like Cuba Gooding Jr., Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, NYC Mayor Eric Adams, Russell Brand, Jamie Foxx, and Axl Rose. It would make even more sense to open the window again… or keep it open.
November 28, 2023: A man who was allegedly sexually abused at Joe Namath’s youth football camp in 1972 when he was 12 has filed a lawsuit accusing John Foglietta, a former football coach at Brooklyn Poly Prep, of repeatedly assaulting him. Foglietta, who died in 1998, was accused of being a serial pedophile with a history of abusing boys during his coaching tenure from 1966 to 1991.
This New York sex abuse lawsuit claims the abuse began in 1970 and continued for several years. He alleges that Namath and his partner, John Dockery, ignored the abuse happening at the camp. The lawsuit asserts that the plaintiff’s unusual sleeping arrangements at the camp were overlooked by counselors.
November 21, 2023: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany is seeking to resolve and move beyond the recent years’ sex abuse lawsuits that have engulfed the diocese and move toward settlement. It has requested that a New York bankruptcy court refer key issues in its case to mediation, particularly concerning its liability in individual childhood sexual abuse claims. The diocese aims for a court-supervised settlement process.
It is complicated to get everyone on the same page. But this approach is hoped to be more efficient in resolving issues central to the diocese’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan. The settlement mediation is intended to figure out who has viable sex abuse lawsuits and get the insurance companies to put up the money they need to get it done.
This move follows the diocese’s filing for Chapter 11 protection in response to over 400 sexual abuse claims reopened under New York’s Child Victims Act. Prior to bankruptcy proceedings, the diocese had provided settlement payouts for approximately 50 of these claims. Additionally, it has started legal action against its insurers to determine their coverage obligations for these abuse claims. The decision to seek mediation reflects the diocese’s ongoing efforts to address and resolve these complex legal matters.
November 10, 2023: Sean Combs and R&B singer Cassie reached a settlement one day after she filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against Combs in New York federal court. The lawsuit accused Combs of rape, physical abuse, and sex trafficking. Cassie’s sex abuse lawsuit alleges multiple instances of abuse, including rape and physical violence, during her relationship with Combs. The lawsuit, which drew global attention due to Combs’ fame in the music industry and the serious nature of the allegations, also named Bad Boy Entertainment, Epic Records, and Combs Enterprises LLC as defendants. The lawsuit sought unspecified damages and was filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, allowing survivors of sexual offenses to sue beyond the statute of limitations.
November 17, 2023: Columbia University has created a $100 million settlement fund for individuals affected by the sexual abuse committed by a former university obstetrician-gynecologist, Robert Hadden, who was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
University President Minouche Shafik has publicly apologized for the institution’s shortcomings in protecting those harmed. The university will also conduct an independent review to understand how the abuse persisted and is establishing a new center focused on patient safety. Additionally, over 6,500 former patients will be notified about Hadden’s crimes, offered support, and informed of their rights under a New York law that allows them to sue for damages beyond the normal statute of limitations period.
October 2023: The unsecured creditors in the Chapter 11 case of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo are requesting permission from a New York bankruptcy judge to subpoena insurance companies for historical policy information that the diocese claims it cannot locate. This information, particularly records related to coverage before 1972, is crucial for the committee and the diocese to negotiate a Chapter 11 plan. Despite the diocese’s limited success in finding its own insurance coverage records, the committee believes that seeking information from insurance companies is necessary for resolving the case effectively.
In other news, Steven B. Fabrizio, the former general counsel of the Motion Picture Association of America and a former partner at Jenner & Block LLP, has had his law license formally revoked in the state of New York over two years after pleading guilty to felony third-degree sexual abuse and felony blackmail.
What did he do? He paid a woman $400 for sex and then threatened to disclose to her employer and landlord that she had engaged in prostitution. He had already been disbarred in Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania due to his felony convictions.
September 2023: A New York doctor, Stuart Copperman, has been ordered to pay $22 million to a woman who alleged she was sexually abused by him throughout her childhood. The judge ruled that Copperman must pay $22 million in compensatory and punitive damages due to the lasting psychological harm caused by the abuse, which led to anxiety, depression, emotional distress, developmental delays, and difficulties in forming relationships. This case is among the first of around 100 civil child sex abuse lawsuits filed against Copperman to reach a verdict.
These sexual assault lawsuits accuse Copperman, a former pediatrician, of subjecting adolescent girls to years of unthinkable damaging and emotionally scarring abuse within his medical practice. Despite repeated complaints to the state’s medical board, Copperman continued his alleged abuse. Good people doing nothing.
Sex abuse lawsuits like this are possible because New York finally passed the Child Victims Act, extending the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits and allowing previously time-barred claims to be filed. Copperman is facing over 100 complaints alleging decades of child sexual assaults, and this recent verdict involved an unidentified woman who claimed she was abused by him from childhood until the age of 18.
In other news, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg, encompassing 78 parishes and 72,000 Catholics in New York, has filed for Chapter 11 protection to address a surge in sex abuse claims. The move comes as a response to lawsuits filed against the Diocese under the Child Victims Act, with over 100 cases currently pending, dating back to the 1940s through the 1990s.
August 2023: The Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, New York, has agreed to a $100 million global settlement to resolve hundreds of pending sexual abuse lawsuits against the church. The Diocese will establish a settlement trust fund that will be used to make compensation payouts to victims of sexual abuse committed by clergy and church employees. The settlement deal will need to be approved by the bankruptcy court because the Syracuse Diocese is currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In other news, the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club Inc. has received approval to conclude its bankruptcy proceedings with a reorganization plan set to provide approximately $22 million in compensation to abuse claimants. The New York-based chapter of the Boys & Girls Club of America announced that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane has granted approval for its Chapter 11 reorganization plan. This plan aims to address nearly 150 sex abuse claims linked to a now deceased doctor who volunteered as a physician for the organization while being employed by Rockefeller University.
July 2023: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester told a New York bankruptcy judge that the total fund for sexual abuse claims in the diocese’s Chapter 11 plan has surpassed $126 million, as the result of over $50 million in agreements with two of the diocese’s insurers.
This diocese was the first of New York’s eight dioceses to declare bankruptcy four years ago after the Child Victims Act – which we explain below – led to a surge in sexual abuse claims.
May 2023: A jury in Monroe County awarded a man in his 60s $95 million in a sexual abuse lawsuit brought against a catholic priest (Foster Rogers) for sexual abuse that occurred in 1979. The verdict is the largest award ever for a child sex abuse civil lawsuit brought under New York’s new Child Victims Act, which removed legal barriers to enable victims of child sexual abuse to bring civil claims.
November 2022: The New York Adult Survivors Act (ASA) became law this month. The ASA eliminates the statute of limitations on all sex abuse civil lawsuits involving adult victims. The law is temporary, however, and the elimination of the SOL will only last for 1-year.
May 2021: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month after facing over 400 sex abuse claims. The diocese has paid out over $17 million in settlements to survivors.
March 2021: The Diocese of Rockville Centre, which serves Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to the mounting costs of settling sex abuse claims. The diocese has paid out more than $62 million in settlements to over 350 survivors since 2017.
September 2019: Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy due to the growing number of sexual abuse civil lawsuits being brought against it. The Rochester Diocese has assets estimated between $50-100 million, while its financial liabilities range from $100-500 million. A settlement fund will likely need to be created and adequately funded by the diocese for current and future sexual abuse survivors in order for a court to approve the bankruptcy.
What Qualifies as Sexual Abuse in New York?
The legal definition of sexual abuse or sexual assault in New York is essentially the same as it is in other states. Under New York law, any form of unwanted and intentional sexual touching or contact can qualify as sex abuse. The touching can be considered “sexual” when it involves a person’s intimate body parts.
As a practical matter, sex abuse can range from groping to forcible rape. The 2 key elements that must be present to meet the definition of sexual abuse are: (1) physical touching, and (2) lack of consent.
The first element of sex abuse is physical touching. To constitute sexual abuse or assault there must be actual physical contact of a sexual nature. Verbal sexual harassment is not enough.
The second element of sexual abuse or assault is the absence of consent. Lack of consent is the key element that defines all categories of sexual assault. If the sexual touching is not consensual it is automatically abuse or assault. Minors (anyone under the age of 18) lack the legal capacity to give consent, which means any sexual touching by an adult with a minor is necessarily considered sexual abuse.
Who Can Be Liable for Sexual Abuse in New York?
Victims of sexual abuse or assault can obviously sue the individual person that actually committed the acts of abuse. In many cases, however, suing the abusers is somewhat pointless because unless that person is very wealthy, you won’t be able to get any money out of them.
Fortunately, New York law allows abuse victims to file civil lawsuits against third-parties who were negligent in failing to prevent or stop the abuse. Common third party defendants in sex abuse civil lawsuits include schools, churches, or organizations such as the boy scouts. If you can show that the one of these organizations had a duty to prevent or stop the abuse and failed to do so, they can be held legally liable for damages.
Almost any third party (other than the abuser) can be held liable in a sexual assault lawsuit if the third party’s negligence allowed the sexual assault or abuse to occur. One of the most common examples of this is negligent security cases in which a property owner is sued for failing to provide adequate security (e.g., cameras, lighting, etc.).
Proving the Church, School or Employers Is Responsible
The criminal who actually committed the abuse rarely has the deep pockets necessary to cover civil liabilities. So the primary challenge for sex abuse attorneys is proving that the church or employer who was responsible for supervising the perpetrator “knew or should have known” – the standard under New York law – about the perpetrator’s behavior and propensity for abusing minors.
Because such abuse often happens in private, it can sometimes be difficult to establish the employer’s knowledge or negligence. But it is usually pretty easy. Because what our sex abuse lawyers see in these cases is most perpetrators leave tons of breadcrumbs that are ignored. The evidence in these cases is often loaded with inappropriate behavior by the perpetrator, meetings with children in private, or giving gifts and attention to children would make anyone who cared enough want to investigate further.
Even if the employer claims no knowledge of the abuse, they can still be held liable if they were negligent in their hiring or supervision of the perpetrator. To establish liability, an attorney should investigate whether there were protocols in place to prevent abuse and whether staff followed these protocols.
New York Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Lawsuits
A statute of limitations is simply a legal deadline for how long a potential plaintiff can wait before filing a lawsuit. If the lawsuit is not filed before the statute of limitations expires, the plaintiff loses their right to sue. The statute of limitations is frequently a big issue in sex abuse cases because many victims do not have the courage to file suit until years after the abuse.
New York has some of the most favorable statute of limitations rules for sex abuse civil lawsuits. If the sexual abuse occurred when the victim was a child (under the age of 18), New York law allows the victim to file a civil lawsuit anytime before they reach the age of 55.
For cases in which the sexual abuse or assault occurred when the victim was an adult (over age 18), New York recently passed the Adult Survivors Act (ASA). The ASA essentially eliminates the statute of limitations for sex abuse claims involving adult victims, if the victims file their civil lawsuit before November 23, 2023.
Settlement Value of New York Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Civil lawsuits for sex abuse can have a very high potential settlement value. This is especially true if the plaintiff has a strong liability claim against any responsible third party such as a school, church or organization. New York law permits successful plaintiffs in sex abuse lawsuits to recover damages for pain & suffering, lost wages, and medical expenses.
In a sexual abuse lawsuit, most of the damages a plaintiff will get will be for pain and suffering. Although sexual abuse or assault can cause physical injuries, the damages from this are primarily mental pain and aguish. In most sexual abuse lawsuits, pain & suffering accounts for more than 80% of the damages awarded.
Sexual Abuse Verdicts and Settlements
Below are examples of New York sexual abuse lawsuits that resulted in verdicts and settlements in favor of plaintiffs. This gives you some idea of the potential range of settlement amounts and jury payouts in these cases. You should not expect your case to look like one of these cases, but they can help you get a sense of what is possible.
- $95,000,000 Verdict (New York 2023): The survivor, who is currently in his early sixties, was only 15 when he was abused by the ex-priest Foster P. Rogers in his vehicle in July 1979. At the time, the boy had no connection with the church; Rogers had merely offered him a lift home in Rochester. A jury granted him a $95 million compensation, marking one of the most substantial awards in New York following the introduction of the Child Victims Act.
- $10,000, Verdict (New York 2022): The plaintiff, a publicist in the film industry, alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Paul Haggis, an award-winning screenwriter, director and producer. She claimed that Haggis induced her back to his house after a movie premier and forced her to perform oral sex then raped her. The verdict included $2.5 million in punitive damages.
- $26,838 Verdict (New York 2022): The plaintiff was a passenger in a Yellow Taxi Co. cab when the driver allegedly grabbed the plaintiff’s hand and pushed it into his lap, where his pants were unzipped and he was exposed. She filed a civil suit against the cab company for the sexual assault.
- $10,000,000 Verdict (New York 2020): A federal jury in Manhattan awarded $10 million to a woman who was sexually abused by her high school guidance counselor in the 1990s. The counselor, John Joseph, pleaded guilty in 1999 to sexually abusing the plaintiff and served four years in prison.
- $17,500,000 Settlements (New York 2019): The Diocese of Buffalo paid $17,500,000 to over 100 victims of clergy sexual abuse. The settlement amounts ranged from $2000 to $650,000 depending on the severity and length of the abuse.
- $350,000 Settlement (New York 2019): A pair of developmentally disabled 13-year-old male victims alleged that they were sexually abuse by a counselor/therapist assigned to work with them by the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) organization. The lawsuit was filed against UCP.
- $27,500,000 Settlement (New York 2018): The Brooklyn Diocese reached a $27,500,000 settlement with four boys who were abused by Angelo Serrano starting in 2003. The abuse occurred over a six-year span and happened at St. Lucy-St. Patrick Church offices, Serrano’s apartment, and a brick schoolhouse converted to low-cost housing by Catholic Charities. In 2011, Serrano was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
- $11,450,000 Verdict (New York 2007): A jury in Long Island awarded two survivors $11,450,000 after hearing testimony related to rape by their former youth minister starting in the late 1990s. The Diocese of Rockville Centre, St. Raphael’s Church in East Meadow, and its pastor were all found negligent in hiring Matthew Maiello, who later served two years in prison for statutory rape related to the two victims.