While the #MeToo movement has rightly focused attention on civil wrongs and criminal acts (sexual assault) and the outrageous unchecked sexual misconduct of predators such as Harvey Weinstein (23 years in prison), Bill Cosby, Larry Nassar and Jeffrey Epstein, it does have unfortunate side effects on innocent people. Wronko Loewen Benucci is representing numerous individuals falsely accused of improper sexual activities, many of which are alleged to have happened decades if not years ago.
New Jersey has enacted laws which effectively remove the Statute of Limitations and allow civil lawsuits despite the passage of lengthy time periods, including decades.
The legislation listed as P.L. 2019, c.120 “Extends Statute of Limitations in Civil Actions for Sexual Abuse Claims; Expands Categories of Potential Defendants in Civil Action and Creates Two-Year Window for Parties to Bring Previously Time-Barred Actions Based on Sexual Abuse”.
P.L. 2019, c.120 also makes charitable and/or non-profits organizations liable for the negligent or willful, wanton, or grossly negligent conduct of trustees, officers, agents, employees, volunteers, and servants based on sexual assault.
P.L. 2019, c.120 has removed all governmental immunities against claims arising from sexual abuse. The legislature made clear that public organizations are to be sued in the same capacity as private entities.
In short, P.L. 2019, c120 retroactively expands the Statute of Limitations from two (2) years to seven (7) years. P.L. 2019, c120 makes charitable organizations liable for the negligent or willful, wanton, or grossly negligent conduct of trustees, officers, agents, employees, volunteers, and servants. P.L. 2019, c2019 makes inapplicable the Title 59 Notice Provisions of the Tort Claims Act as it relates to sexual abuse litigation. P.L. 2019 has removed all governmental immunities against claims arising from sexual abuse. The legislature has also even made clear that public organizations are to be sued in the same capacity as private entities.
While this legislation will enable legitimate victims of sexual abuse to file lawsuits, it does negatively impact innocent people.
As one example, I was recently retained to represent a widow, whose husband passed away over 15 years ago, as a result of her late husband’s estate being sued in a civil complaint based on an allegation being made against him for acts alleged to have occurred several decades ago. The plaintiff claims she engaged in sexual relations when she was an underage student in middle school and the deceased was a school teacher.
How does one defend a deceased person? How do you deny claims from decades ago? Why does a poor widow have to deal with these types of lawsuits? Why is she punished for actions that are in all likelihood false, and based on facts that she has no knowledge of and no realistic way to dispute. These are difficult questions without simple or fair answers to all parties.
My law firm shall vigorously defend her and the reputation of her late husband in court, but one must examine how and why these types of lawsuits are allowed to proceed. Perhaps the legislature can reexamine the law and prevent these types of lawsuits from being filed.