SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

SENATE, No. 1651

 

with committee amendments

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED:  JUNE 21, 2012

 

      The Senate Judiciary Committee reports favorably and with committee amendments Senate Bill No. 1651.

      This bill would eliminate the statute of limitations in civil actions for sexual abuse, expand the categories of defendants who are potentially liable in these actions, and codify the liability of public entities in these actions.

      Statute of limitations: Currently, N.J.S.2A:14-2 provides that personal injury suits must be commenced within two years of accrual of the cause of action, except for certain medical malpractice actions on behalf of minors.  Under the bill, this two-year statute of limitations would be eliminated for actions brought under P.L.1992, c.109, s.1 (C.2A:61B-1) (sexual abuse of a child); paragraph (1) of subsection c. of P.L.1959, c.90, s.1 (C.2A:53A-7) (willful, wanton or grossly negligent act of commission or omission, including sexual assault or other crime of a sexual nature, brought against a trustee, director, officer, employee, agent, servant or volunteer of a nonprofit corporation, society or association organized exclusively for religious, charitable or educational purposes); and P.L.2005, c.264, s.1 (C.2A:53A-7.4) (sexual offense committed against a minor due to the negligent hiring, supervision or retention of an employee, agent or servant of a nonprofit corporation, society or association organized exclusively for religious, charitable, educational or hospital purposes).

      Charitable Immunity Act: Willful, Wanton, and Grossly Negligent Acts By Trustees, Employees and Other Individuals.  Under current law, P.L.1959, c.90, s.1 (C.2A:53A-7), part of the Charitable Immunity Act,  the trustees, directors, officers, employees, agents, servants or volunteers of nonprofit corporations, societies or associations organized for religious, charitable, or educational purposes are liable for willful, wanton, or grossly negligent acts including sexual assault or other crimes of a sexual nature. The bill would expand this liability to include sexual abuse as defined in P.L.1992, c.109, s.1 (C.2A:61B-1). (See subparagraph (a) of paragraph (1) of subsection c. of P.L.1959, c.90, s.1 (C.2A:53A-7))

      Charitable Immunity Act: Willful, Wanton, and Grossly Negligent Acts By Organizations. The bill amends the Charitable Immunity Act to provide that the organizations would also be liable for any willful, wanton, or grossly negligent act resulting in the commission of various crimes of a sexual nature or sexual abuse as defined in P.L.1992, c.109, s.1 (C.2A:61B-1).  (See subparagraph (a) of paragraph (1) of subsection c. of P.L.1959, c.90, s.1 (C.2A:53A-7))

      Charitable Immunity Act: Negligent Acts By Trustees, Employees and Other Individuals.  The bill would impose liability for individuals’ negligence under certain circumstances. Under the bill, any trustee, director, officer, employee, agent, servant or volunteer of a nonprofit corporation, society or association organized exclusively for religious, charitable or educational purposes causing damage by any negligent act resulting in the commission of sexual assault, any other crime of a sexual nature or sexual abuse as defined in P.L.1992, c.109, s.1 (C.2A:61B-1) would be liable if that person had a supervisory or oversight role over the person committing the act of sexual assault, other crime of a sexual nature or sexual abuse as defined in P.L.1992, c.109, s.1 (C.2A:61B-1).  (See subparagraph (c) of paragraph (1) of subsection c. of P.L.1959, c.90, s.1 (C.2A:53A-7))

      Charitable Immunity Act: Negligent Acts by Organizations.  Under the bill, organizations would also be liable for any negligent act that results in the commission of sexual assault, the commission of any other crime of a sexual nature or sexual abuse. (See subparagraph (b) of paragraph (1) of subsection c. of P.L.1959, c.90, s.1 (C.2A:53A-7))

      Child Sexual Abuse Act - Liability for Acquiescence: The bill would expand the category of persons who are potentially liable in any civil action alleging the sexual abuse of a child brought pursuant to P.L.1992, c.109, s.1 (C.2A:61B-1).  Under current law, in addition to the person who committed the sexual abuse, a parent, resource family parent (i.e., foster parent), guardian or other person standing in loco parentis within the household who knowingly permitted or acquiesced in the sexual abuse is also civilly liable for the abuse. The bill provides that any person who knowingly permitted or acquiesced in the sexual abuse would be civilly liable.

      Public Entities: The bill provides that, notwithstanding the provisions of the “New Jersey Tort Claims Act,” N.J.S.59:1-1 et seq., or any other law, public entities would be liable in actions for damages alleging the sexual abuse of a child brought pursuant to P.L.1992, c.109, s.1 (C.2A:61B-1), paragraph (1) of subsection c. of P.L.1959, c.90, s.1 (C.2A:53A-7) or P.L.2005, c.264, s.1 (C.2A:53A-7.4).

      Effective Date: The bill would apply to any action filed on or after the effective date, including but not limited to matters where the statute of limitations has expired and matters filed with a court that have not yet been dismissed or finally adjudicated as of the effective date.

      The bill as introduced would also have revived any action that was previously dismissed on grounds that the applicable statute of limitations had expired.  The committee amended this provision. Under the amendment, the bill would revive these actions for a period of two years following the effective date.

      The bill as introduced would not revive any action previously dismissed on grounds other than the statute of limitations or revive any action that has been finally adjudicated. The amendments would not change this provision.

      The committee amendments to the bill:

      - amend section 6, concerning applicability,  to divide the section into subsections a. and b:

      Subsection a. provides that the act would apply to any action filed on or after the effective date, including but not limited to matters where the statute of limitations has expired and matters filed with a court that have not yet been dismissed or finally adjudicated as of the effective date.

      Subsection b. provides that for a period of two years following the effective date of the bill, the provisions of the act would also revive any action previously filed that was dismissed on grounds that the applicable statute of limitations had expired.

      This bill, as amended, is identical to Assembly Bill No. 2405(1R), reported by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on June 14, 2012 and currently on second reading in the General Assembly.