On May 24, 2022 the Adult Survivors Act (Act) (S.668A/A.648) was signed into law and took effect immediately. The new law creates a one-year window for the revival of time-barred civil lawsuits based on sex crimes committed against individuals who were 18 years of age or older. Prior to the Adult Survivors Act, victims who were at least 18 years old at the time of a sexual assault generally had only one year to file a lawsuit.
The period for filing civil suits will begin six months after the effect date (May 24, 2022), on or about November 24, 2022. During this period, adult survivors of sexual assault will be able to sue their abusers. The Act also establishes a special trial preference for cases which have been revived and timely adjudication of claims.
There are two types of legal allegations which may apply to lawsuits filed under the Act: (1) intentional and (2) negligent. In the employment context, employers may be more likely to be named as negligent. To prove negligence, in most cases, a Plaintiff is required to demonstrate that an employer knew or should have known that the person sued had a propensity to commit sexual assault to the extent that the sexual assault was anticipated or foreseeable.
Next Steps for Employers
Employers should be mindful that there is no limit on how far back in time claims for offenses can go. This means that claims can go back several years, and employers may be presented with some challenges in their defense, particularly, in situations where parties are no longer with the organization, the business is no longer open, pertinent documents, including employer liability insurance coverage documents may no longer be available, etc. As a result, it is imperative that employers who are named in a civil action under this law work with their legal counsel to address any claims.
As a best practice, it is also a suitable time for employers to revisit their internal harassment policies and procedures, including their investigation processes and harassment training materials and make updates as needed.