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New York Sexual Abuse and Assault Lawyers

Representation in Civil Liability Claims Against Perpetrators and Other Responsible Parties

Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP has extensive experience handling high-profile civil sexual assault cases in New York. Our attorneys offer empathetic, professional, and personalized representation on our clients’ behalf, as we believe every case requires individualized attention and resources.

To ensure our clients receive the bespoke representation they deserve, we retain an array of professionals on staff, such as an accredited psychologist, to guarantee our legal team is equipped to handle cases of this type in a trauma-informed manner.

At our firm, we understand how crucial it is for survivors to remain anonymous to protect their well-being, career trajectories, and reputations, and many of our clients are able to remain anonymous as cases are settled out of court. Additionally, our attorneys believe in doing what is best for the client and provide honest legal advice regarding how to proceed with a case and settlement.

Discussing a civil sexual abuse claim requires courage, but our expert attorneys are skilled in handling these cases with care, compassion, and utmost respect for the survivor. We encourage you to contact our firm for a free, no-obligation, and confidential consultation with our attorneys.

Meet Our Lead Attorney, Thomas P. Giuffra

Our lead sexual abuse attorney, Thomas P. Giuffra, has been described as being “a fearless litigator who insists on obtaining the highest awards for his clients” from his peers. Tom has also obtained international recognition as “outstanding in the field of advocacy.” Tom’s tenacious approach to his clients’ cases has helped him secure numerous record-setting verdicts in the state of New York. He has experience filing cases against high-profile individuals such as Harvey Weinstein, Dr. Robert Kauff, and Dr. Darius Paduch, in addition to powerful institutions such as churches, schools, and corporations.

New York Sexual Abuse Laws: It’s Easier to Come Forward

Survivors of sexual abuse and assault need time to process what happened to them. Many feel shame and guilt, believing they are to blame. New York recently passed two significant pieces of legislation to make it easier for survivors to file civil lawsuits against their sexual abusers by extending the statute of limitations. 

Adult Survivors Act

On May 24, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act (ASA). This legislation created a one-year lookback period dating six months from the signing.

While this “lookback window” has closed, the statute of limitations for some adult sexual abuse and assault cases has been extended to 20 years after the abuse occurred. This expanded statute of limitations only applies to new cases and is not retroactive.

Child Victims Act of 2019

Sexual abuse destabilizes a child. Scars caused by psychological and emotional trauma may never truly heal. It can take decades for a child to process it.

Before the passage of the Child Victims Act of 2019 (CVA), the statute of limitations for child sex abuse survivors to file a lawsuit against their abuser was one to five years after turning 18.

The CVA extends the statute of limitations so that survivors may file civil lawsuits against their abusers until they reach the age of 55. As with the ASA, survivors can file claims against institutions that should have been aware of the abuse.

The New York child sex abuse lawyers at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP can help you receive the justice you deserve.

Legal Options for Survivors of Sexual Abuse in New York

The ASA and the CVA are just two examples of the legal options sexual abuse survivors now have in New York. The New York Injury Attorneys at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP will discuss your legal options based on the specific circumstances surrounding your case. Contact us today to discuss your civil case.

Civil Claims vs. Criminal Charges for Sexual Abuse and Assault

Sexual abuse and assault are criminal offenses. A person who commits either crime can potentially be sentenced to prison or required to register as a sex offender, which carries several restrictions for the offender.

Cases of sexual abuse and assault can also be the subject of civil lawsuits. In civil court, victims of sexual abuse and assault can pursue financial compensation for the damages resulting from the assault. This may include the cost of medical treatment or therapy, but more commonly, it will account for non-economic damages.

Civil claims provide victims with an outlet for recovering compensation for the mental anguish and emotional distress they have endured as a result of sexual abuse or assault. Although money cannot reverse these effects, civil claims are a way for victims to achieve justice outside of criminal court.

Additionally, civil claims related to sexual abuse and assault allow victims to hold parties other than the offender accountable for negligence. Sexual abuse and assault can result when third-party negligence allows abuses to occur and can continue if responsible parties do not respond to reports or complaints.

Liability in Sexual Abuse and Assault Cases

In cases of sexual abuse and assault, the person who commits the offense can face criminal charges and civil liability. However, it is also possible—and common—for the negligence of others to allow abuse and assault to occur.

Businesses and entities that do not implement adequate security measures, do not conduct extensive background checks of their employees, or fail to respond to reports of sexual abuse and assault can be held liable for incidents that result from their negligence. Lawsuits can be filed against these parties to recover damages.

  • Schools and universities
  • Businesses
  • Workplaces
  • Religious institutions
  • Places of residence

Our New York City sexual abuse lawyers can compile the evidence necessary to identify instances of abuse and the actions (or failure to act) of the institutions that enabled the abuse to happen.

Damages and Compensation in Civil Sexual Abuse Cases

A financial settlement or judgment award for a civil lawsuit can never provide adequate compensation for the trauma of sexual abuse. That is not its purpose. Damages and compensation in civil sexual abuse cases acknowledge that a grave injustice was suffered, and society has determined through its laws that some form of criminal and civil remedy should be imposed upon the offending party. They are society’s manner of holding perpetrators and institutions accountable for sexual abuse as well as deterring this behavior toward others in the future.

Financial compensation and settlements also ease the burden of medical care, mental health counseling, and other costly services that help sexual abuse victims process their abuse and move forward toward healing. Let’s look at the different types of damages that are possible in New York civil sexual abuse claims:

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are monies awarded to a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit. They are meant to compensate them for physical injuries and other losses resulting from another party’s unlawful or negligent conduct. Compensatory damages may be categorized as economic damages or non-economic damages.

Economic damages (or actual damages) reflect the losses that are quantifiable, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Hospitalization
  • Physical therapy
  • Medical equipment
  • Medicine and prescription drugs
  • Property repair or replacement
  • Current and future lost wages

Non-economic damages (or general damages) reflect losses that do not involve actual, monetary expenses, including:

  • Mental anguish
  • Long-term pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of opportunity

The plaintiff must show that a loss occurred to recover compensatory damages. Our experienced New York sexual abuse lawyers understand how to determine and calculate both economic and non-economic damages, including the retention of experts when necessary.

Punitive Damages

In the state of New York, punitive damages are strictly construed to be defined as willful and wanton negligence on the part of the defendant(s) with an accompanying degree of high moral turpitude.

The threshold to obtain punitive damages is higher than for compensatory damages. The plaintiff must provide clear and convincing proof that shows the defendant acted with extreme negligence.

Because sexual abuse is intentionally and maliciously harmful, punitive damages may make sense in these cases, especially when they involve minors, the elderly, and other vulnerable individuals. Punitive damages are only considered when the behavior is particularly egregious and are characterized as “outrageous,” such as would be found in a criminal case. Prozeralik v. Capital Cities Comm’ns, Inc., 82 N.Y.2d 466, 479 (1993).

A compelling case supported by factual evidence and expert testimony is essential for increasing the likelihood of substantial compensation in sexual abuse claims. Always save medical records, written and digital communications, and other documentation that may benefit your case and share them with your lawyer.

Article 130: NY Penal Law

The following provides information about sexual offenses recognized under New York State Penal Law and includes:

  • Rape (NYS § 130.25/.30/.35)— occurs when a person engages in sexual intercourse with a person who is incapable of consent.
  • Forcible Touching (NYS § 130.52)—Includes groping and other touching of an unwilling victim.
  • Aggravated Sexual Abuse (NYS § 130.65-A/.66/.67/.70) —Involves the insertion of a finger or foreign object in the vagina, urethra, penis, or rectum of a person who is incapable of consent.
  • Predatory Sexual Assault (NYS § 130.95)— Occurs when a person commits the crime of rape in the first degree, criminal sexual act in the first degree, aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree, or course of sexual conduct against a child.
  • Facilitated Sex Offense with a Controlled Substance(NYS § 130.90) —Using medication or other controlled substances without consent to commit a sex offense against another person.

This is not a comprehensive list, but some of the more common examples of sexual abuse and assault. If you are unsure of what you experienced rises to the level of a sex crime, speak with an experienced New York sexual assault lawyer who can help you understand your rights.

SECTION 130.05: Consent

A critical aspect of any sexual assault or abuse charge is that the victim did not consent to the sexual activity. Under New York law, a person is deemed unable to consent if they are:

  • Under the age of 17
  • Mentally disabled or mentally incapacitated
  • Physically helpless
  • Committed to the care and custody or supervision of the State Department of Corrections and community supervision or a hospital.

In the context of child sexual abuse, victims are never able to consent, as they lack the emotional and intellectual capacity to understand what is happening.

Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA)

The Sex Offender Registration Act, signed into law by Governor George E. Pataki on July 25, 1995, requires those who have been convicted of certain sexual offenses to register as sex offenders with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). The state maintains a searchable registry available to the public. The presence of a sex registry can alert people to the presence of potential predators and help schools, religious organizations, and other institutions avoid hiring people who place others at risk.

Reporting Sexual Abuse in New York

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office offers a number of resources to victims of sexual abuse and people acting on behalf of victims. Victims are encouraged to report any incident of abuse, even if they are unsure of the perpetrator, never saw their face, or if they are unsure a crime was committed.

Making such a report may be challenging, and it is natural to want to put such a sensitive matter off till a later time. However, the sooner you get the authorities involved, the better their chance of obtaining the evidence they need to build a case.

If you are reluctant to come forward with a claim of abuse, remember that the authorities are trained to handle these situations and will treat you with the care and respect you deserve.

New York Sexual Abuse and Assault Statute of Limitations

Sexual abuse and assault claims must be filed within a certain amount of time. The statute of limitations is a law that establishes that timeline. Adherence to the statute of limitations is crucial for a claim to be approved.

In the state of New York, victims of childhood sexual abuse and assault can file lawsuits against offenders and liable third parties until they are 55 years old.

How Our Team Helps Survivors Seek Justice

While the trauma of sexual abuse may never fade completely, our team helps survivors seek justice by filing civil lawsuits against the perpetrators. While these are not criminal proceedings, a civil lawsuit will hold abusers–and potentially the institutions that enabled it–monetarily responsible.

In a civil trial, the standard of proof is the preponderance of the evidence, an easier standard to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal trials. Our case results speak for themselves.

Contact Us for a Free and Confidential Consultation

Our sexual abuse attorneys in New York can help you navigate a sexual abuse lawsuit. We are dedicated to achieving justice and protecting the rights of survivors.

Call (212) 684-1880 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation with our sexual abuse and assault lawyers in New York.