A class action lawsuit is filed by a sex abuse survivor against the Catholic archdiocese of New York after Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the Child Victims Act into law.
A class action lawsuit has been filed against the Catholic archdiocese of New York. The case almost immediately follows Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing of the Child Victims Act into law. Just few hours after the act received the Governor’s blessing, Emmett Caldwell filed his complaint in Manhattan Supreme Court at the advice of his attorney.
The new act expands the rights of sexual abuse survivors to include “a one-year ‘window of opportunity’ for those of any age to file civil claims against their abusers and the institutions that covered up the abuse, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. A right to file civil lawsuits against their abuser until the victim’s 55th birthday, and the ability of authorities to prosecute sex abuse cases as felonies until the victim is 28 years old.”
During a press conference, attorney Jeff Herman said the lawsuit against the archdiocese was filed on behalf of Caldwell who alleged he was the victim of sexual abuse while still a child in the Catholic Church. He and several other victims claim the archdiocese “tricked them into waiving their right to sue the church for abuse.”
Herman added that his client was encouraged to join the church’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) without an independent attorney. He ultimately agreed to a $75,000 settlement over claims that Father Kevin Kelly assaulted him two or three times every week over the course of three months. In agreeing to be part of the program, Caldwell was tricked into waiving his right for further litigation.
Kelly was a priest at St. Thomas the Apostle at the time of the alleged abuse. Herman said the program was designed to “eliminate claims of victims before the Child Victims Act was passed and became law.”
“A contract, like a release, may be voided where one party is taken advantage of,” Herman said, adding that it comes as no surprise the lawyers who used in the IRCP settlement process were not really there to represent the victims. They were being loyal to the church.
“The Archdiocese of New York deceived victims of clergy child sexual abuse and exploited their vulnerabilities arising from that abuse, causing their re-victimization,” he said. “Since the New York legislature passed the Child Victims Act, I have heard from numerous victims of clergy child sexual abuse in New York who feel they were tricked into giving up their rights.”
Herman hopes his client’s bravery and decision to move forward with a lawsuit will give other victims a voice and encourage them to join the class action.
Archdiocese spokesperson Joe Zwilling and IRCP administrator Camille Biros said, “every person who agreed to a cash settlement under the IRCP’s terms was advised by a lawyer that they were waiving their right to further claims.” Herman is arguing these waivers should be voided.
“We require every single claimant who comes into the program to have a lawyer discuss and explain the meaning of the release and the rights they’re relinquishing,” Biros said. “That happens with everyone.”