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Michael Napolitano Authors, "Court Ruling Seen As a Victory for Sexual Abuse Victims"

Sep 17, 2012

In what is being hailed as a positive result for sexual abuse victims, a federal court judge in Brooklyn recently ruled that a lawsuit against one of Brooklyn’s prep schools detailing decades-old sexual abuse claims may go forward.

On August 28, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block ruled that the statute of limitations didn’t automatically disqualify a case pending against Poly Prep Country Day School, despite the fact that some of the allegations of abuse date back to 1966. The case involves twelve alumni of the private school who allege that they were raped and abused by the football coach whose 25 year career started the same year. The football coach died in 1998. The plaintiffs argued that the statute of limitations did not apply because the school knew about the abuse and covered it up. Further, the school continued to publicly celebrate the coach as an outstanding member of the school which prevented the plaintiffs from timely filing their claims.

New York State has one of the country’s strictest statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims, which can prevent victims of abuse from seeking compensation who come forward too late. The ruling by Justice Block is being seen by many legal experts as the best news out of a court for sexual abuse victims in a long time. Such a ruling can breathe new life into claims that were barred due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

The ruling by Justice Block has the potential to give victims who were minors when they were sexually abused and are now older than 23 years old a chance to pursue their claims. This ruling should be seen as a major victory for sexual abuse victims who have not only been abused by the perpetrators, but have found very little sympathy from the courts of this State.

Hopefully, this decision will persuade the New York State Senate and Assembly to pass a bill pending to change the statute of limitations extending the time for a minor to commence a lawsuit to age 23 plus 5 years or until the victim turns 28 years old.