State urges insurers to dig up, preserve policies relevant to CVA cases

By Cayla Harris
Times Union
September 12, 2019

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media following an announcement at Albany International Airport on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, in Colonie, N.Y.
Photo by Will Waldron

Gary Greenberg, a New York businessman and founder of Fighting for Children PAC, center, speaks during a press conference to bring attention to the Child Victims Act on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, N.Y. Greenberg has waged a years-long effort advocating New York lawmakers to pass the Child Victims Act. He said he was raped as a 7-year-old boy by a hospital worker. The Child Victims Act expected to pass this month after being blocked by Senate GOP for years.
Photo by Will Waldron

Institutions seek help from insurers after Child Victims Act went into effect Aug. 14

The Department of Financial Services on Thursday pushed insurers across the state to quickly resolve claims stemming from cases filed under the Child Victims Act.

The guidance, issued at the direction of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, notes that insurance companies may be liable for some damages awarded to survivors who pursue legal action under the CVA's recently enacted one-year look-back period. The window temporarily eliminates the state's statute of limitations, allowing survivors of all ages to pursue civil claims against their alleged offenders, reviving cases that are sometimes decades old.

More than 95 percent of the more than 600 cases filed in the state since the statute went into effect last month target institutions, primarily the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America, who have invoked insurance policies to help cover settlements, according to attorneys familiar with the matter.

"We expect our regulated entities to exercise best practices with their prior and current policyholders, and their respective claimants, including properly performing any and all duties to defend CVA-related claims, so that survivors receive the long-overdue relief provided under the Child Victims Act," Linda Lacewell, superintendent of the financial services department, said in a press release.

Thursday's notice encourages insurance companies to "promptly" research and preserve policies that are or will likely be relevant to pending or future cases. Insurers should review the coverage, "interpreting such contracts so as to resolve any ambiguities in the policyholders' favor," according to the guidance.

"We enacted the Child Victims Act so that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a path to justice," Cuomo added in the release. "With this action, we are helping ensure the claims process works efficiently and effectively by reminding insurers they have an obligation to move quickly so that these survivors finally get some measure of peace."


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