New York’s Borrowing Statute Keeps the Door Open for Sexual Assault Victims to File Civil Suits for 20 Years

May 28, 2021
Scales of justice
Facing a sex crime allegation in college can alter a young person’s life forever. In addition to potential criminal charges, accused students will face university hearings where they are not afforded many rights. Suspensions or expulsions are often swiftly meted out, negatively impacting the student’s academic record and possible future employment. Further, if the victim hails from New York, a student can face a civil suit long after the incident occurred.

The statute of limitations for filing causes of action for certain sex crimes in New York has recently expanded. This could potentially lead to someone being sued in New York for acts allegedly committed in other states, by way of New York’s borrowing statute. If you are a student in New York who is contending with a sex crime charge from another state, contact a skilled student attorney who can provide strong advocacy in this was of this accusation.

CPLR Section 202: New York Borrowing Statute

New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) Section 202 is referred to as New York’s borrowing statute. According to case law, in situations where a non-resident sues on a cause of action that occurred outside New York, CPLR Section 202 requires the complaint to be timely filed according to the statute of limitations of New York and the jurisdiction where the cause of action accrued (Global Fin. Corp. v. Triac).

In a recent case from August 2020, E.F. v Diocese of Brooklyn, a Florida resident brought a negligence claim in New York court against the defendant for sexual abuse and assault that occurred nearly forty years earlier in Florida. Under New York’s new Child Victims Act (CVA), the plaintiff alleged his claim was timely filed in New York, and the borrowing statute yields to the CVA. The defendant argued that, in applying Section 202, the plaintiff’s claim must be timely filed under both Florida and New York statute of limitations. Since the plaintiff’s claim was not timely under Florida law, they argued the lawsuit must be dismissed.

The court noted that in situations where the cause of action accrues outside New York, and the plaintiff is a non-resident, CPLR Section 202 essentially “borrows” the statute of limitations of the jurisdiction where the claim occurred, if shorter than New York’s, to determine if the cause of action was timely filed (2020 N.Y. Slip Op 32651(U) citing, Norex Petroleum Ltd. v Blavatnik). The court also noted that under Section 202, a person’s cause of action is timely if it met the statute of limitation in both New York and the original state where the incident occurred. The court held that, since the plaintiff’s suit was time-barred under Florida law, that makes it time-barred under New York law. The court then dismissed the suit.).

Extension of Statute of Limitations for Sex Crimes in New York

While this case seems to indicate that the longer statute of limitations will not be used for an out-of-New York claim, this situation involved a plaintiff who was not a resident of New York. Thus, it probably would have been possible to use the longer New York statute of limitations if the plaintiff was a New York resident.

In addition, New York is expanding the rights of sex crime accusers. In September 2019, new legislation was passed to extend the statute of limitations for various sex crimes. The statute of limitations for second-degree rape increased to 20 years; for third-degree rape, the time to file increased to 10 years. Also, an accuser now has 20 years to bring a civil suit for these sexual offenses.

Sexual Harassment

In April 2021, a bill was introduced in New York to elevate sexual harassment to a criminal act punishable by jail time. Currently, sexual harassment is a civil offense punishable by fines or firing. It remains to be seen if the bill has traction to become law.

Consult a Knowledgeable Student Defense Attorney

Despite the recent ruling in E.F. v Diocese of Brooklyn, the culture surrounding sex crime allegations and New York’s statute of limitations expansion seem to indicate future protections for plaintiffs and long-term consequences for the accused. It may be possible that someone accused of sex crimes that occurred in another state could be subject to New York’s longer statute of limitations via the borrowing statute. This could open the door to more civil lawsuits against those accused of sexual abuse, even if it occurred a number of years ago at school.