New Jersey Latest State Set to Open Statute of Limitations in Child Sex Abuse Cases

Last week, the New Jersey Senate passed a bill to reform the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse. The Senate approved the measure, 32-1. It now goes back for a vote in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, where it has already passed through committee.

The new law will allow victims of child sexual abuse to sue any time before they turn 55, or within seven years of when they first realize that the abuse caused them harm. The new law will also open a two-year window for victims who were previously barred by the statute of limitations.

The new law will allow victims to pursue claims against individual perpetrators of abuse and institutions that allowed the abuse to happen, such as the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church, as well as other churches, schools, and youth-serving organizations.

Previous attempts to reform New Jersey’s statute of limitations, which would have eliminated the statute of limitations altogether, failed in 2010 and 2012. Those earlier bills did not have the support of the governor and faced strong opposition from the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts.

Gov. Murphy backed the bill just passed by the New Jersey Senate. Support for this and similar bills has been growing since the 2018 release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report about clergy abuse and the recent defrocking of Theodore McCarrick.

The legislative action comes in the wake of New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses jointly announcing that they will offer a compensation program, similar to the ones in New York and Pennsylvania, to all survivors of Catholic priest sexual abuse regardless of when it happened.

The compensation programs in New York and Pennsylvania have been controversial.  To participate, people must waive all rights to bring future claims against the Catholic Church, and the settlement offers are determined by a third party, not negotiated.  Many see these programs as a calculated effort by the Church to settle claims cheaply before New York and Pennsylvania reformed their statutes of limitations and opened windows for old claims. New York passed such a window last month.

 

 

 

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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