New Jersey and New York See an Influx of Lawsuits as the States’ New Sexual Abuse Laws Take Hold

On May 13, 2019, New Jersey adopted legislation to relax the limitations for child sexual abuse victims to file civil lawsuits for damages. The law was in response to the ongoing criticism of the Catholic Church’s handling of clergy abuse of minors and the New Jersey Attorney General’s task force created to investigate sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy. New York adopted a similar statute on February 14, 2019. The new laws target both individuals and the organizations for whom they worked, including churches, schools, and athletic and community organizations.

New Jersey’s law contains three key provisions that allow previously barred claims to be filed. First, the legislation extends the statute of limitations to allow victims to bring civil cases until they turn age 55. Second, the legislation extends the statute of limitations from two years to seven years after the realization that the abuse harmed the victim. Third, the legislation provides a two-year window for victims to sue private or public institutions for offenses that were previously time barred. The two-year window opened on December 1, 2019.

New York’s law also amended the statute of limitations to give victims until age 55 to bring a suit. Different from New Jersey’s law, the New York law created a one-year window to file claims. That window opened on August 14, 2019.

As was widely anticipated, New York saw the filing of more than 400 suits within days of the one-year window opening. And, just after midnight on December 1, 2019, approximately forty lawsuits were filed under the law in New Jersey. Given the breadth of the statute and the ability for victims to now bring civil lawsuits for events that may go back decades, we anticipate the number of lawsuits to grow substantially in both states.

O’Toole Scrivo is uniquely equipped to address lawsuits arising from these new laws. Managing Partner Thomas P. Scrivo will be a panelist at Perrin Conferences program Coverage and Litigation Issues Surrounding Sexual Harassment, Assault and Abuse Claims on January 29, 2020. Managing Partner Kevin O’Toole, Steven Weiner, Joseph McGlone, Laura Studwell, Jessica Carroll, and numerous other attorneys at O’Toole Scrivo have experience defending civil lawsuits containing allegations of sexual abuse on behalf of both insurance carriers and private defendants. Also, among those various relevant matters, O’Toole Scrivo attorneys Dennis Carletta and Andrew Gimigliano successfully completed an internal compliance review and audit for an entity in relation to the New Jersey Attorney General’s task force.

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