By Matt Friedman (NJ Star Ledger)
August 15, 2012
TRENTON — The state Senate on Monday is scheduled to vote on a bill that would lift the statute of limitations on civil sexual abuse claims.
Under current law, victims have a maximum of two years to file suit from the point when they realize the abuse has damaged them. The bill (S1651) would allow them unlimited time, and make institutions — including those in the nonprofit, religious and charity sectors — liable if they knew an employee was engaging in abuse and did nothing to stop it.
“It’s important to victims of child sex rape that they are provided with access to the courtroom in civil matters against those individuals or institutions who are culpable in their abuse,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex).
The legislation, which draws support from many childhood sexual abuse victims and is opposed by Catholic bishops, cleared committee in both the Senate and Assembly in the last legislative session but stalled before either house voted on it.
Its prospects are unclear in the Assembly, where an identical version passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee in June. But Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) introduced competing legislation (A2681) that critics deride as too weak because it would apply to institutions and only lifts the statute of limitations on future cases of abuse.
The Senate is scheduled to take up 15 other bills, including one that would provide immunity from prosecution for drug users seeking medical attention after an overdose. The Senate will also reconsider the “Angel Investor Tax Credit Act” (S581) which cuts tax breaks for investors in emerging technology businesses. It passed both houses of the Legislature last year but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it.