Over the past 10 months, the New York Adult Survivors Act has allowed hundreds of accusers to file lawsuits against alleged sexual abusers even after the statute of limitations on their claims had run out. But the groundbreaking legislation is set to expire at midnight on Nov. 23—and lawyers are now scrambling to file as many complaints as possible before then.
“I have cleared my schedule for the week of Thanksgiving and am on call for anyone who wants to discuss filing an [Adult Survivors Act] claim before the window closes,” Megan Goddard, who has at least three lawsuits under the act, told The Daily Beast. “Abusers have been hiding behind statutes of limitations, arbitration clauses, and threats of retribution forever. The [Adult Survivors Act] flipped the script.”
The state law signed last May granted survivors a one-year window to sue alleged abusers or their estates for incidents that occurred when they were over the age of 18. The act, which mirrored the 2019 Child Victims Act for those abused as minors, also allowed New Yorkers to sue businesses, institutions, hospitals, or even jails that they allege enabled the conduct, regardless of when it happened.
New York State Office of Court Administration data obtained by The Daily Beast shows that, as of Oct. 18, more than 697 cases were filed after the act came into effect on Nov. 24, 2022. More than 270 of those cases had been filed in the last two weeks. Several attorneys told The Daily Beast they also expect the case total to skyrocket as they rush to file suits before the Thanksgiving deadline.
“We have a number of things percolating,” Valdi Licul, an attorney who filed a lawsuit under the act against the New York State attorney general on behalf of a former aide, told The Daily Beast. “We still have a few weeks left, and if any victim out there has any potential claim, go get the advice of [legal] counsel before the window closes. People can reach out to lawyers until the last day.”
The law has already spurred high-profile lawsuits. Among the first survivors to file a claim under it was writer E. Jean Carroll, who alleged former President Donald Trump raped her inside a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the mid-1990s and defamed her when he crudely denied it. In May, a Manhattan jury found Trump liable and awarded Carroll $5 million in damages. (A second defamation trial is slated for January because Trump called Carroll a “whack job” after the verdict.)
The act has also yielded lawsuits against billionaire Leon Black, who is accused of raping a woman over two decades ago in Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan mansion, and actor Kevin Spacey, who allegedly sexually assaulted a massage therapist during a 2016 appointment at a New York hotel. This week, actress Julia Ormond used the ASA to sue Harvey Weinstein over an alleged 1995 assault.
“E. Jean Carroll successfully holding Donald Trump accountable under the ASA for sexual assault was a watershed moment, as much for abusers and the institutions that have protected them as for survivors,” Goddard said. “Can you imagine the fear that abusers must be experiencing this year, wondering if they will be the next named defendant in an Adult Survivor’s Act case before Thanksgiving?”
Thomas P. Giuffra, an attorney who has filed dozens of cases under the ASA, noted that the legislation exposed years-long abuse in the New York medical community. Obstetrician Robert Hadden has been accused by hundreds of patients who claim the former Columbia University of sexually abusing them for decades. Among his accusers is Evelyn Yang, the wife of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who alleges Hadden assaulted her in 2012 while she was seven months pregnant. Hadden was sentenced in July to 20 years in federal prison for sexually assaulting female patients.
Dozens of victims have also filed legal claims against disgraced urologist Dr. Darius Paduch for sexually assaulting male patients, including boys, under the guise of medical treatment. Paduch was indicted in April on federal charges for allegedly abusing patients during urology examinations between 2015 and 2019.
“Before Dr. Hadden, when you get calls on these doctors, you know, abusing patients under the guise of a medical care, nobody would believe them, right?” Giuffra, who has filed litigation against Paduch, told The Daily Beast. “And since everything has come out, and then the ASA, I have started cases against three different doctors. It really changed.”
Giuffra said that he and other lawyers are warning the public that the clock is running out. To drum up business, some attorneys have launched social media campaigns and promoted the ASA on their websites.
“Time is on our side. But it’s not unlimited. The Adult Survivors’ Act expires November 23rd. Check your eligibility to file a claim against Columbia University and Robert Hadden,” the DiPietro Law Firm, which has filed lawsuits against Paduch and Hadden, urged in a tweet. In other tweets, the firm stressed that victims can contact them anonymously and that “whistleblowers” are protected.
Lawyers believe some survivors need more time to speak out.
“It really is such a challenge for people to recognize that they were abused. It’s a really hard thing to put a label on yourself, and I think that holds people back a lot. There is a lot of shame attached to this,” Giuffra added. “And sometimes, when people do come to terms with what happened, it may be too late.”