August 31 / 2019
In the two weeks since New York reopened the legal window on child molestation cases, 570 lawsuits have been filed — but a Manhattan hospital where a serial predator practiced for decades has settled with more than 200 victims before their claims made it to court.
Rockefeller University Hospital, where late pedophile pediatrician Reginald Archibald may have abused more than 1,000 kids, “resolved” a swath of cases from lawyers Mariann Wang and Paul Mones, the attorneys told The Post. They would not divulge details of the settlements.
The Child Victims Act, passed by the state legislature in February, opened a “look back” window on Aug. 14 — a one-year chance to bring old cases to court. An avalanche of claims has already begun to hit local courts, and more than a dozen states are considering similar measures to extend the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children.
“It’s growing daily,” said Manhattan attorney Jennifer Freeman of the Marsh Law Firm.
While the lion’s share of lawsuits targeted members of big institutions like churches or scouting, some courageous claims were made against deeply personal abusers — five cases were against parents or siblings; a woman accused a neighbor whose child she babysat; and a man accused the female boss he worked for as a teenager.
Even the dead are seeking justice. At least four plaintiffs are the estates of alleged victims.
Cases filed under New York’s CVA date as far back as 1952, according to a Post analysis of 286 filings in the five boroughs, Long Island, Westchester and Albany. The 286 cases involve 394 plaintiffs.
In Manhattan, Rockefeller University was the epicenter of Archibald’s twisted abuse, but he might not have been the only predator there. According to one Child Victims Act lawsuit filed in Manhattan last week, Dr. Barry Dworkin allegedly molested an 11-year-old patient in 1977 while working alongside Archibald.
Dworkin, now a professor emeritus at Penn State, didn’t respond to a request for comment. A Penn State spokesman noted the “deeply troubling” accusation predates Dworkin’s time at the school, but said they would look into his employment history.
Rockefeller U., which declined to comment on either Dworkin or the settlements, is among the big institutions, along with the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, and public and private schools, expected to be slammed with lawsuits under the CVA.
Marsh, which also represents more than 200 alleged Archibald victims and has filed suit on behalf of 45 of them so far, also acknowledged “resolving” a number of claims, but declined to say how many or how much was paid out by the hospital. “We like to take these cases one at a time,” she added.
It’s unclear how much such institutions could be forced to pay out to victims who do end up in court.
“I would not be surprised if it was $1 billion plus,” Freeman said. “This is decades of abuse we’re talking about.”
The financial liability could send smaller organizations into bankruptcy or reshape those with deep pockets, such as the Archdiocese of New York and the Boy Scouts.
Houston-based attorney Tim Kosnoff has 90 clients in New York state alone ready to sue the Boy Scouts, long dogged by claims it sheltered predators.
With the Boy Scouts previously hinting it will file for bankruptcy, Kosnoff started a national television advertising campaign seeking victims. In a few months, he’s signed up 1,000 people from 48 states and two territories, and expects another 200-plus by week’s end, he told The Post.
“It literally dwarfs what we’ve seen in the Catholic Church cases,” Kosnoff said, noting his firm has been able to identify 350 new accused predators.
“Most of the ones that we’re getting, these are just the worst of the worst. Hardcore, violent child rapists,” he said. “Congress really needs to convene hearings and [issue] subpoenas. They [the Boy Scouts] need to be brought to heel and made to answer questions,” he added.
“My clients, they want to kill this beast or have Congress kill it. This is a fraud. This organization that’s held itself out as a moral and safe place for boys, they knew they were infiltrated systemically by child molesters for more than a century,” Kosnoff said. “They have forfeited any right to exist.”
Previously, child sex abuse victims in New York had to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers by the time they turned 23, a frustrating restriction when most people who were victimized as children did not come to grips with their abuse for decades, advocates said.
Now, in addition to the “look back” window for one year, New York victims can bring a claim until they turn 55.
New York’s CVA comes as 19 states including New Jersey, Vermont, Arizona and Hawaii enact some sort of statute of limitation reform.
“Other states are following the lead of New York,” said Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian. “It’s the beginning of laws opening up.”
As victims emerge, foster care providers, public and private schools, and other organizations will likely see an increase in claims, said New York attorney Jeff Herman.
“We find predators where we find children. Why do bank robbers rob banks? It’s where the money is,” he noted.
The Boy Scouts said in a statement they support statute of limitation reform, but the organization has “concerns with reforms that impose retroactive liability on organizations that did not have actual knowledge” of specific misconduct, a spokesman said.
Going to court doesn’t guarantee victory for victims, said Safe Horizon’s Michael Pollenberg, who fought for years to pass the CVA in New York.
“It just means they now have that ability to say, ‘This happened to me and it’s wrong and I want the person who did this to me to come to court and answer for it,’ ”he said.
Garabedian, a leading attorney in Boston’s church sex abuse scandal who was portrayed in the film “Spotlight,” said the legal window doesn’t give a true picture of how many victims there are.
“When the window closes it’s not going to mean all the victims came forward. It means only the ones with the strength to do so did,” he said.