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State Bill Seeks to Dramatically Alter Sexual Abuse Law

New Jersey State Senator Joseph F. Vitale doesn't mince words. "Sexual predators shouldn't be able to hide behind the ambiguity and vagueness of the law to avoid being held accountable for their actions," he says. Vitale backs that strong sentiment with legislation he sponsored along with Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari that would dramatically alter the landscape for predators and their victims in New Jersey.

The senators' bill, S-2405, seeks to better protect personal injury victims by calling for a removal of the statute of limitations in civil actions for sexual abuse. Current state law provides for a two-year limit on civil suits, and often embroils judges in problematic determinations regarding a plaintiff's mental condition, the timing of an incident and other matters.

Under S-2405, none of that would matter. The bill, which was just approved 9-0 by the Senate Judiciary Committee and heads next to a full Senate vote, would allow a civil suit to be brought at any time, even decades after sexual abuse took place. Says Vitale: "It would allow sexual abuse cases to be considered on the merits of the allegations, not the timeline of events."

Importantly, too, new law would allow for a revival of the statute of limitations in any given case, meaning that a plaintiff could bring a suit concerning a claim that has already been dismissed. Further still, the bill expands dramatically the persons who would be liable for abuse or for not halting it. Current law essentially limits liability to a parent or guardian. The new legislation allows for civil damages against any person "with supervisory or disciplinary power of any nature or capacity over the victim."

An experienced New Jersey civil litigation attorney can answer questions and provide further information regarding the bill and related developments.

Related Resource: "Bill to Eliminate Civil Statute of Limitations on Sex Abuse Cases Advances" December 13, 2010

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