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| 2 minutes read

Youth Organizations Need to Prepare for a New Wave of Lawsuits

New York governor Kathy Hochul has signed a bill designed to give adult survivors of abuse the right to file suit, regardless of how long ago the statue of limitations expired. The statute will be in effect for one year, beginning six months from the date that the governor signed the bill. It is patterned after the 2019 Child Victims Act, which also was supposed to last for only one year. The legislature, however, extended it for an additional year. During those two years, more than 10,000 plaintiffs filed suit. The vast majority of those cases were filed against youth-serving organizations rather than perpetrators.

Lawsuits under this new law are likely to follow the same trend, and other states are likely to follow suit. Youth organizations need to start taking steps now to prepare for what might happen in their states.

  1. Find all of your insurance policies, dating as far back as you can.  Search your computer and paper files for any information you can find about insurance policies that may cover you. Even if the company is out of business, there may be a successor company or state fund that you can access.  
  2. Locate as many archival records for your organization as possible. Save everything that you can find about the historic operations. You may need to know, for example, when your group employed a particular in individual or when a particular child attended the program. If you haven’t already destroyed these records, arrange for them to be at least digitally scanned and preserved.
  3. Know your document retention policy. Every youth organization needs a policy for which records it keeps and for how long. Know what your policy has been through the years, so that if you are missing records, you have some idea of why you don’t have them.
  4. Review your current document retention policy. Unfortunately, since you can no longer count on the statute of limitations in your state, you may need to keep more records than ever before and you may need to keep them longer than ever before. The good new is that digital storage is relatively cheap, but be certain that your digital files are (1) backed up and (2) thoroughly indexed.
  5. Finally, plan who in your organization will handle which task if you receive a claim. You may need to involve outside professionals, such as public relations experts or lawyers.  Plan now so that you aren’t having to scramble at the last minute to find people.

The legal landscape for abuse claims is changing, and the burden of compensation will fall on organizations who may have only a peripheral responsibility. Start planning now for disaster while hoping you never need your plan. If you need specific advice, call on our Taylor English attorneys who have guided countless organizations through similar crises.

The law applies to survivors of sexual offenses that occurred when they were over the age of 18, with the one-year window beginning six months from the bill signing and allowing claims regardless of the statute of limitations.

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youth services law, child abuse, ausburn_deborah, insights