Wednesday at midnight, a year long window opened up for people to file lawsuits about abuses they had suffered as children who previously, had been unable to take legal action due to different statutes of limitations.
In the first day, 427 lawsuits were filed by the close of business.
Before the new Child Victims Act that was passed in January, victims had to report abuses before the age of 23 in both civil and criminal cases. With the new legislation taking effect Wednesday, victims can now file civil cases until the age of 55, or criminal cases until the age of 28.
The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan issued a video statement on Twitter Wednesday morning in which he stated, "Today, I don't mind admitting to you, is a dark time for the church. As you have probably been hearing, this is the first day of the opening of the statute of limitations. So we are going to hear a lot today about people bringing a suit against the Catholic church and other organizations -- public schools, government organizations, Boy Scouts, hospitals, you name it -- for past sexual abuse. I just want to say that it is a tough time, it is a dark time, it's especially difficult for our beloved victims and their families to see all this dug up again, to have these wounds open. It's a tough time for our victims, survivors and families. and I'd ask you to pray for them."
Last month, in preparation for the deluge of lawsuits that are anticipated within this one year window, the New York Archdiocese filed its own suit against its insurance company to ensure that it would be covered in the forthcoming cases.
Victims that are already being monetarily compensated through the New York Archdiocese compensation fund waived their right to further litigation so will not be able to file any new lawsuits. In 2016 alone, that fund paid out $65 million to 323 victims.
While many of the cases are focusing on various Catholic dioceses, they are not the only institution caught in the cross-hairs.
Gail Coleman, now 45, has filed suit against Rockefeller University concerning misconduct of one of the university doctors. When she was a child, she alleges that Dr Reginald Archibald, who died in 2007, had her strip and took images of her, including several closeup images of her genitalia. She reached out to the University in 2003 in an attempt to recover the images, but was told at that time that Dr Archibald had retired and may have passed away. "He was a monster and he died thinking that his secret died with him," Coleman said.
In 2018 the university began to reach out to former patients of Archibald after "reports from several former patients regarding Dr. Archibald's interactions with them," but gave no details on what other people were reporting. Subsequent letters though, made it clear that there were other patients reporting sexual misconduct by the doctor. Coleman says that her goal in filing this suit is to raise awareness for other survivors and hopefully, get her pictures back.
James Grein, a gentleman in his 60s now, filed suit against the catholic church on Wednesday. Grein sued the church for negligence amid allegations of suffering abuse at the hands of the priest that baptized him, Theodore McCarrick who went on to serve as the Archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006. After finding McCarrick guilty of sexually abusing children and adults, the Vatican officially defrocked him in February of this year.
Another lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 36 year old woman identified as Jane Doe. In her suit, she alleges that she was raped as a minor by Father Ricardo Fajardo, who “used his position as a dignified religious leader to ingratiate himself with [Doe’s] family as a trusted and respected individual.”
What is clear is that these cases are just the tip of the iceberg as a single law firm that often represents victims of clergy abuse in New York has stated that it already has 200 more cases to file. A similar window of opportunity that occurred in California in 2003 generated more than 1,000 lawsuits according to a New York Times article.