Adult victims of sexual abuse in New York can sue over decades-old incidents

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By Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Del (Reuters) – Adult sex abuse victims in New York will have a chance to sue over decades-old allegations starting Thursday, when a law breathes new life into a range of cases, including those against hospitals, Wall Street banks and former US President Donald Trump.

New York’s Adult Survivors Act creates a one-year window for victims to file lawsuits that would otherwise have been ruled out because the case was too old.

Former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll is expected to sue Trump under the new law over an alleged rape 27 years ago in the locker room of a Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman department store, according to a court filing.

Trump has denied raping Carroll or knowing her at the time, saying she was “not my type”.

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The law will revive claims against perpetrators and companies for workplace abuse in the 1980s and 1990s, when employers were more tolerant of misconduct, said Doug Wigdor, an attorney specializing in sexual harassment claims.

“A lot of people didn’t come forward because women might be worried about their careers and the stigma that comes with it,” says Wigdor, who will begin filing cases next week. “And now the landscape has changed significantly.”

Many states have extended or temporarily lifted statutes of limitations for abuse claims in the wake of the #MeToo movement and sexual misconduct scandals like the one involving USA Gymnastics.

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One person who will not be charged is Harvey Weinstein, a former film producer serving a 23-year sentence for sex crimes in New York and the face of the #MeToo movement, as claims about his abuse were settled last year.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the law into law in May. It was modeled after the state’s Child Victims Act, which revived old claims of child sexual abuse and led to thousands of lawsuits against schools, churches and youth organizations.

According to Jeff Herman, a lawyer who represents victims of sexual abuse, the number of cases involving adults is likely lower than cases involving children.

A challenge for adult abuse cases is determining consent, Herman said. “With adults, it’s really a ‘he said, she said’.”

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Herman said he will file a class action on behalf of victims of abuse by Robert Hadden, a former gynecologist at hospitals affiliated with New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University.

The hospital group reached a $165 million settlement with nearly 150 patients in October and settled in December with a separate group of 79 women for $71.5 million.

Hadden pleaded guilty in 2016 to two New York State charges of a third-degree criminal sexual act and forcible touching and now awaits trial in federal court.

New York-Presbyterian declined to comment. A Hadden lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; editing by Josie Kao)

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