Law firm tallies 2,800 suits filed against Catholic entities under NY Child Victims Act

New York state capitol, Albany./ Nina Alizada / Shutterstock

A law firm that frequently represents victims of clerical sexual abuse announced April 6 that it had counted at least 2,800 lawsuits filed so far against Catholic institutions in New York under the 2019 Child Victims Act.

Of those lawsuits, over 700 have been filed against the Archdiocese of New York.

New York’s 2019 Child Victims Act created a one-year “lookback” window where alleged abuse victims could file lawsuits long after their statute of limitations had ended.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has since extended the window for filing lawsuits until Aug. 14, 2021, due to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

From the opening of the window on Aug. 13, 2019, until Dec. 31, 2020, alleged victims have filed a total number of 2,801 civil complaints against Catholic institutions in New York, according to data from Jeff Anderson and Associates, a California-based firm.

The total number of alleged perpetrators, according to Anderson and Associates, is 1,427, including 959 priests statewide.

Of the 1,427 alleged perpetrators, only 28 have been accused of committing abuse in or after the year 2000, according to the data.

Clergy and religious total 1,135 of the alleged perpetrators, with 299 non-religious lay perpetrators, such as teachers, the firm says.

The New York priest with the most lawsuits filed against him— 52, according to the law firm— is Father Francis Vogt, a deceased Rochester priest who was accused of abuse in 2002 and subsequently ordered to a life of prayer and penance. He died in 2006.

The breakdown by diocese includes 710 cases against the Archdiocese of New York; Diocese of Albany, 266 cases; Diocese of Brooklyn, 571 cases; Diocese of Buffalo, 498 cases; Diocese of Ogdensburg, 80 cases; Diocese of Rockville Centre, 228 cases; and the Diocese of Syracuse, 157 cases.

Anderson and Associates says they are representing the plaintiffs in 1,007 of those cases.

Four of New York’s dioceses— Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rockville Centre — have declared bankruptcy amid the lawsuits brought under the Child Victims Act.

Although the New York Catholic Conference initially opposed the Child Victims Act, the conference eventually dropped its opposition, the archdiocesan spokesman told CNA in January. When the bill was amended to allow lawsuits by alleged victims of not only religious clergy, but also alleged victims of public employees such as public school teachers, the conference stopped opposing it.

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