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Recent Court Decisions in NJ and PA Impact Childhood Sexual Abuse Claims/Litigation

Childhood sexual abuse claims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Due to a variety of factors, in recent years, many state governments across the U.S. enacted legislation designed to protect and enhance the legal rights of survivors of sexual abuse to bring civil claims against those responsible for their abuse. This is true in the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where state and federal courts recently issued rulings that interpret relatively new laws in both jurisdictions.

For companies, organizations, religious institutions, schools, and employers operating in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, these decisions will have an immediate impact on child sexual abuse civil litigation. I examined the impact in two recent articles:

  • In a February 27, 2024 article for The Legal Intelligencer, I examined three recent opinions in two different cases by Chief Judge Matthew W. Brann for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The decisions found that negligence claims against political subdivisions arising from a child’s abuse by another minor student will not survive unless the plaintiff alleges penetration by his/her assailant. Although an appellate court has not yet ruled on the waiver of sovereign immunity where the assailant is not a government agent, these opinions from the Middle District of Pennsylvania provide practitioners insight into how trial courts throughout the commonwealth may view similar fact patterns. Click here for the full article.
  • In a January 31, 2024 article, my colleague Ambriana Wade and I examined published opinions by the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, that establish new law concerning whether a nonresident diocese is subject to personal jurisdiction in New Jersey for past sexual abuse by a priest. New Jersey has seen an increase in lawsuits where childhood sexual abuse is alleged following the enactment of the State’s Child Victims Act in 2019, which allows for retroactive liability against assailants and their employers. The decisions place legal practitioners on notice that cases filed under New Jersey’s Child Victims Act still require a strict showing of personal jurisdiction for nonresident defendants. Click here to read the full article.

Likely, the courts have just begun interpreting recently passed laws related to childhood sexual abuse claims. We will continue to monitor both changes in the law and related court decisions to keep you apprised of the impact on the defense of these claims.

Disclaimer: This post does not offer specific legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. You should not reach any legal conclusions based on the information contained in this post without first seeking the advice of counsel.

About the Author

Joel H. Feigenbaum is a Principal in the firm's Casualty Litigation Department and Hospitality & Retail Practice Group. He defends clients in diverse matters involving general and premises liability, assault/battery, negligent security, product, and automobile liability claims. His practice includes defending entities, such as schools, childcare centers, and mentorship programs, where sexual torts are alleged, such as child sexual abuse and misconduct. 

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