New Jersey Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Legislature Passes New Law Effective December 1, 2019
A new law (S-477) set to take effect in New Jersey on December 1, 2019 will enable victims of sexual abuse in the state to pursue civil lawsuits against their perpetrators for sexual abuse that was committed years earlier. Until now, victims of sexual abuse were precluded from bringing actions against their abusers because of the constraints of the civil statute of limitations. The legislation gives survivors the opportunity to redress the abuse that they suffered. The highlights of the new law include the following:
- Victims who were previously barred by the statute of limitations may now file lawsuits for damages against their abusers and the institutions that fostered or concealed the abuse for two years. This applies to allegations of either adult or child sexual abuse.
- Any individual under the age of 18 can file an action within two years of the law’s effective date.
- Sexual abuse victims that miss the “two-year window” are permitted to sue their perpetrators until they turn 55 years of age.
- Victims who are 55 years or older may still file an action within seven years of recognizing that they were injured by sexual abuse.
S-477 was signed into law by the Governor of New Jersey on March 13, 2019. Similar legislation has been passed in 11 states as of May 2019, and several other states are considering comparable reform. The legislation follows the announcement that New Jersey’s five Roman Catholic dioceses revealed the identity of 188 priests accused of abusing minors, thereby prompting the creation of a victim’s compensation fund.
Attention: New York and New Jersey Law Provides Additional Time for Sexual Abuse Survivors to Bring Action
New Jersey Independent Victim Compensation Program
The New Jersey Independent Victim Compensation (IVC) program established by New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses began accepting claims from victims of sexual abuse on June 15, 2019. The IVC program was designed to compensate individuals who were sexually abused as children or young adults by diocesan priests of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Newark, Paterson, Metuchen, Trenton and Camden. The fund compensates victims for abuse in churches and schools that largely occurred decades ago. Compensation through the fund comes directly and exclusively from the Church’s finances.
The IVC program is administered by Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, compensation experts who have been instrumental in administering other high-profile compensation programs for victims of the Catholic dioceses and 9/11. The IVC program, like its predecessors, is viewed by many as an effective alternative to litigation. It allows victims to handle their claims in an efficient manner and mandates a lower standard of proof than would be required in a courtroom. Moreover, the church is prohibited from challenging any compensation decisions made by the administrators including determinations of eligibility and compensation amounts. Sexual abuse victims sign a release agreeing not to bring future litigation only if they accept the award offered by the IVC fund. The IVC program will end on December 31, 2019.
Levy Konigsberg LLP is a nationally recognized law firm that has handled all types of negligence cases for more than three decades. If you or a member of your family has been the victim of sexual abuse, please contact our lawyers for a free consultation by calling 1-800-988-8005.