On November 24, 2022, the New York State Survivors Act went into effect allowing lawsuits alleging sexual abuse to be brought regardless of how long ago the act occurred. This law is in effect until November 24, 2023, a one-year period, and already hundreds of lawsuits are underway. There are numerous law firms who are advertising on the internet to find clients to bring these lawsuits as the potential monetary awards can be massive, and the law firm will usually take a one-third share of any verdict or settlement. We, here at Walker Medical Law, have been on both sides of these types of issues, and, therefore, we are uniquely situated to represent people and/or organizations sued by plaintiffs in this type of situation. We fully understand the perspective of the person making a claim, and the perspective of the person defending the claim. Accordingly, if you end up in the unfortunate position of being a defendant in one of these lawsuits, you need to understand the issues that face you, and some of those issues are as follows:
- These claims have absolutely no time limit so you can be sued for events that are claimed to have happened in the 2000s, the 1990s, the 1980s, the 1970s, the 1960s, etc. The number of years that have passed is of no consequence. For example, Donald Trump has just been sued under this law by Ms. C. Jean Carroll for an allegation of rape that happened 27 years ago.
- The plaintiff does not need any expert testimony to win the case against you; it can be simply a “she said/he said” contest and the jury decides who to believe.
- You probably will not have insurance coverage to pay any settlement and to pay for your defense lawyer. For the most part, you are on your own from a financial point of view.
- You have to understand, from the beginning, what assets you have might be in danger from a massive verdict against you and how to legally best shield yourself from that verdict.
- It will be mandatory that as soon as you realize that you are a target of this type of lawsuit you attempt to find documentary evidence that might be of help to you. This includes credit card transactions from many years ago, your passport information that might show you were out of the country on the date in question, text messages, emails, letters, and any other kind of hard evidence that is available. This type of information is often difficult to find after the passage of many years, but if located it can make all the difference in the world with regard to the outcome of the case.
- You must investigate the plaintiff thoroughly and this includes a search of all social media going back in time as far as possible, and a search of everything available, from any source, as you never know where you can find data that will change the trajectory of the case.
- The plaintiff will often attempt to bolster his/her case by having witnesses state that the plaintiff told them about the event soon after it occurred. This has been part of the proof in several high-profile cases that have gone to trial recently and, accordingly, you have to be prepared to investigate these witnesses in addition to the plaintiff.
In defending yourself, you must appreciate the seriousness of these claims as the verdicts can be sustained by the courts in millions of dollars. After all, some of the claims will be that you raped the plaintiff and if that is believed by a jury, the verdict, obviously, can be massive. Even if the claim is some type of sexual event that is less than rape, a jury can award a huge amount of damages for the physical event and any psychological damage that is found to have flowed from the event.