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August 29, 2012

Re:  League supports A-2681 and opposes A-2405/S-1651 concerning the statute of limitations on civil actions for sexual abuse

Dear Mayor:

On August 3rd, we wrote you concerning this legislation which could have serious financial impact on local governments as well as officials and volunteers personally.  The League is working closely with the Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund (MEL) to oppose this legislation.  We understand that the bill will probably be posted for a final vote in the next month or so.  Therefore, we urge you to adopt the attached resolution and contact your legislators. 

The League and the MEL understand and applaud the sponsor’s intent.  Sexual abuse of a child is a terrible crime that can have repercussions for years.  We also agree that the current statute of limitations of 2 years on all claims is too short  We support Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald’s bill, A-2681, which would extend the statute of limitations from 2 to 7 years for suits against public bodies, and remove the statute of limitations entirely on the actual perpetrators.

We cannot, however, support A-2405/S-1651 as currently drafted.  If this bill passes, any claim of sexual abuse, no matter how far in the past, can be revived, and may go forward.  The bill also exposes public officials, employees and volunteers to personal liability for the actions committed by other employees and volunteers.  Specifically, they can be sued personally by someone claiming that they failed to exercise oversight of an employee or volunteer who allegedly committed sexual abuse decades earlier.

Under this bill, municipalities as well as their officials, employees and volunteers could be faced with the near impossible task of defending a claim of sexual abuse that may be decades old.  In fact, the bill may encourage such lawsuits by including the same attorney fee shifting provision that was a significant factor in the ten fold increase of employee practices lawsuits against municipalities over the last decade. 

The unintended consequence of this legislation may be to discourage local governments from offering youth oriented programs and/or to discourage volunteers from becoming involved in these programs.  We have urged legislative leadership to refer both bills to their respective budget committees to obtain a fuller picture of the potential financial issues the bill may pose.

We urge you to adopt the attached resolution and contact your state legislators to express the potential fiscal impact to towns if this bill passes.  You can also find copies of the resolution online

at http://www.njslom.org/resolutions/resolution-A2691-A2404-S1651.pdf
or at http://www.njslom.org/resolutions/resolution-A2691-A2404-S1651.doc

If you have any questions or require further information, please contact League Staff Attorney Matthew Weng at mweng@njslom.com or at 609-695-3481 ext 137.

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.                  
Executive Director, NJLM              

David N. Grubb, Executive Director
Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund

 

 

 

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