Over 400 sex abuse suits filed in New York as litigation window opens
ALBANY, N.Y. — The Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, schools and hospitals, the late financier Jeffrey Epstein are some of the targets named in a flurry of sex abuse lawsuits filed Wednesday in New York as the state began accepting cases once blocked by the statute of limitations.
Hundreds of lawsuits were filed as plaintiffs rushed to take advantage of the one-year litigation window, created by state lawmakers this year to give people who say they were victims a second chance to sue over abuse that, in many cases, happened decades ago.
Those suing Wednesday include a woman who says she was raped by Epstein as a teenager in 2002. She filed against Epstein's estate and three of his associates. Similar lawsuits from other women who say they were abused by Epstein are expected.
Other suits filed Wednesday include one from 45 former Rockefeller University Hospital patients who say a renowned endocrinologist molested hundreds of boys over more than three decades.
Hundreds of others sued the Catholic Church or one of its several New York dioceses. Among them is Peter Vajda, who said a religious brother molested him when he attended a Catholic boarding school in the Bronx in the early 1950s.
"Now it's their turn. Now it's their time," said Vajda, now 75 and a Georgia resident. "And I want them to get everything they deserve in the way of punishment."
Another suit filed Wednesday accused former Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard, who retired in 2014, of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy in the 1990s.
An attorney for Hubbard, 80, denied the claim.
In yet another complaint, a man who has accused ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of molesting him in the 1960s and 70s in New York and New Jersey says the church failed to stop the abuse.
McCarrick, the former archbishop of Newark and Washington, D.C., was defrocked by Pope Francis in February after a church investigation determined he sexually abused minors as well as adult seminarians. McCarrick's misconduct was reported to some U.S. and Vatican higher-ups, but he nevertheless remained an influential cardinal until his downfall last year.
Now 89, McCarrick has denied the allegations made by James Grein, the son of close family friends McCarrick baptized. Grein has told Vatican investigators that McCarrick began abusing him at age 11, sometimes during confession.
In all, 427 sex abuse lawsuits were filed by 5 p.m. Wednesday across New York. Some of the cases have one plaintiff, while others include several dozen.
The state's statute of limitations had been among the nation's most restrictive before state lawmakers extended it earlier this year for new cases. The Child Victims Act gives victims until age 55 to file lawsuits and until age 28 to seek criminal charges, compared with 23 under the old statute.
That law, which passed following more than a decade of debate in Albany, also created the litigation window.
"This is a momentous time for courageous survivors who have waited so long for justice in New York," said Jeff Anderson, an attorney whose firm, New York-based Jeff Anderson & Associates, filed molestation lawsuits Wednesday on behalf of hundreds of clients.
Institutions that have long cared for children — such as the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts, as well as private and public schools and hospitals — are girding for what could be a devastating financial blow. A similar law passed in 2002 in California resulted in Catholic dioceses there paying $1.2 billion in legal settlements.