NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — In a story Nov. 30 about New Jersey sex abuse limits, The Associated Press reported erroneously the type of clients two attorneys represent. Attorneys Jay Mascolo and Jason Amala represent about 40 plaintiffs, not defendants.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Lawsuit wave expected as New Jersey eases sex abuse limits
An unprecedented number of lawsuits over sexual abuse are expected to hit New Jersey courts beginning Sunday with the relaxation of limits on when those suits can be filed
By DAVID PORTER and MIKE CATALINI
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The loosening of limits on sexual abuse claims in New Jersey is expected to create a tectonic shift in the way those lawsuits are brought, giving hope to victims who have long suffered in silence and exposing a broader spectrum of institutions to potential liability.
A law passed last spring goes into effect Sunday and allows child victims to sue until they turn 55, or within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm. The limit was two years before the new law. Adult victims also have seven years from the discovery of the abuse, and victims who were previously barred by the statute of limitations have a two-year window to file claims.
That’s welcome news for people like Dennis Bachman, a 40-year-old construction worker from Westville, in southern New Jersey, who plans to file a lawsuit alleging a female counselor sexually abused him at a home for juveniles in Salem County. He said last week it took him a long time to recognize he had been abused, in part because of a misguided societal view that says damage done to boys abused by women “isn’t the same” as other kinds of abuse.
“Maybe (it’ll) give me a chance to make things right,” Bachman said. “I caused so much damage in my life in so many different ways. I figured maybe this would give me a chance to settle some things.”
New Jersey’s push for expanding the statute of limitations gained momentum from last year’s release of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that catalogued the experiences of thousands of victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and the church’s cover-up of the scandal.
Many states have overhauled their criminal and civil statutes of limitations in the last 10 or 15 years, but just a handful including California, Delaware, Hawaii and Minnesota have created so-called lookback windows for lawsuits. New York enacted a bill earlier this year that creates a window similar to the one in New Jersey.
The Roman Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts have both already been inundated with sexual abuse lawsuits that were filed when similar laws were passed in other states. The church opposed the law change in New Jersey, saying it wanted to push back the date it became effective. But those two organizations are far from the only defendants.
Attorneys Jay Mascolo and Jason Amala represent about 40 plaintiffs who are set to file lawsuits in New Jersey. They said their clients mostly allege abuse at the hands of people associated with the Catholic church and the Boy Scouts, but that about a quarter of the suits involve other institutions.