Since 2022, thousands of survivors of sexual assault have used New York’s Adult Survivors Act to seek justice for attacks that the state’s statute of limitations would have previously prevented. But that act—which Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed in May 2022—allowed only a year for the new civil suits to be filed. A last-minute surge of lawsuits, many against high-profile actors, musicians, and politicians, was filed just before the Thursday, November 24 deadline.
Some suits involved names already familiar to people who follow misconduct allegations. One example is a lawsuit filed against Bill Cosby Tuesday by a stand-in on The Cosby Show who says the comedian drugged and raped her in the 1980s. Cosby, who’s been accused of sexual assault by over 60 women, was convicted for one such alleged attack in 2018, a conviction overturned in 2021 due to a dispute over an agreement with a prosecutor.
The alleged victim in the case filed this week has not been named; via email, Cosby spokesperson Andrew Wyatt suggested that the Adult Survivors Act was being abused, telling the Associated Press, “When will it stop and who will be the next man to be victimized by these look-back windows?”
Cuba Gooding Jr. is another actor who’s faced previous allegations: in June, he settled a civil case involving an alleged 2013 rape just minutes before jury selection was to begin, Deadline reported at the time. Now two women say that Gooding groped them in separate incidents at New York restaurants in 2018 and 2019. (The lawsuit can be viewed online.) Both incidents resulted in criminal charges, to which Gooding pleaded guilty.
According to attorney Gloria Allred, who represents both victims, Gooding’s penalties in criminal cases were insufficient, hence the suits. “Our clients were deprived of the justice they sought in the criminal case,” Allred said. “They are now seeking justice and accountability in their civil cases. We are proud of their courage and intend to vigorously fight for them until they win the justice that they deserve.” A representative for Gooding has not responded to Vanity Fair’s request for comment as of publication time.
Sean Combs, who settled one sexual assault suit last week, now faces two more. One involves an alleged 1990s-era rape, Deadline reports. The other, filed by Joi Dickerson-Neal, claims the music mogul drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1991, when she was a student at Syracuse University. He later used images from the incident as “revenge porn,” she claims.
A Combs spokesperson denies the claims, saying, “This last-minute lawsuit is an example of how a well-intentioned law can be misused. Ms. Dickerson’s 32-year-old story is false and not credible. Mr. Combs never assaulted her, and she implicates companies that did not exist. This is purely a money grab and nothing more.” In a statement, Dickerson-Neal’s lawyer, Jonathan Goldhirsh, writes, “Our client has not been able to escape the continuing impact of the harm Combs caused her many years ago. Through the Adult Survivors Act, she can avail herself to the courts to finally seek justice.”
Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose was also named in a Wednesday lawsuit from actress and model Sheila Kennedy. According to the suit, which was reported on by CNN, among others, Rose attacked Kennedy in a New York hotel room in 1989. Kennedy has made these allegations before, including in her 2016 memoir and 2021 sexual assault documentary Look Away, the Guardian notes.
Kennedy has not responded to a request for comment; Rose attorney Alan Gutman says, “Simply put, this incident never happened. Notably, these fictional claims were filed the day before the New York State filing deadline expires … Mr. Rose has no recollection of ever meeting or speaking to the Plaintiff. He has never heard about these fictional allegations prior to today.”