New Jersey Extends Civil Statute of Limitations in Sexual Abuse Cases

Today, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law extending the statute of limitations in civil actions for sexual abuse. It also creates a two-year period for parties to bring lawsuits based upon sexual abuse that would have been time-barred, even with the new statute of limitations.

In his signing statement, Gov. Murphy noted that the legislation was the subject of a lengthy and emotional battle between victims and religious leaders, stating:

I recognize that this issue has evoked strong passions on both sides, as supporters of the bill rightly note that it greatly increases the ability of victims of sexual abuse to pursue justice through the court system.  Opponents argue that by exposing religious and nonprofit organizations to potentially massive financial liabilities, the bill may have the unintended effect of inhibiting these organizations from providing the services that many vulnerable New Jerseyans rely on. I take these concerns seriously, but I cannot deny victims the ability to seek redress in court for sexual abuse that often leaves trauma lasting a lifetime. I am confident that our judicial system is the right forum to assess these claims fairly and impartially.

The new law takes effect on December 1, 2019. Once in effect, it will permit alleged victims to bring a civil suit up until the age of 55 or seven years after they make “the discovery” connecting their emotional and psychological injury to the sexual abuse. It will also permit previously time-barred alleged victims to file suit from December 1, 2019, until November 30, 2021. Text of the legislation is available here.

We thank Gov. Murphy and the bill’s sponsors for their leadership on this issue and ensuring that the victims of sexual abuse can seek justice.