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School Sex Abuse Claims in New Jersey – The Charitable Immunity Act

In New Jersey, sex abuse claims against schools based on negligence in hiring, retaining or otherwise negligently supervising a sexual abuser-employee are allowed by an amendment to a law known as the Charitable Immunity Act. That amendment was passed roughly 8 years ago.

Ten years ago, sex abuse cases against schools based on hiring/retaining/supervising a sexual abuser-employee were relatively limited, due to the Charitable Immunity Act. Most cases of sex abuse within a school were limited to suing the abuser directly.

In order to understand New Jersey law with respect to liability of schools for sexual abuse, it is important to take a look at the Charitable Immunity Act.

What is the Charitable Immunity Act?

The Charitable Immunity Act essentially limits liability of nonprofit organizations which exist exclusively for religious, charitable, educational or hospital purposes. See New Jersey Statutes Annotated Section 2A:53A-7.

In addition, under subsection (c), which was added in 1995, employees were not immune and could be sued directly. Section 2A:53A-7(c) provides:

Nothing in this section shall be deemed to grant immunity to:  (1) any trustee, director, officer, employee, agent, servant or volunteer causing damage by a willful, wanton or grossly negligent act of commission or omission, including sexual assault and other crimes of a sexual nature;  (2) any trustee, director, officer, employee, agent, servant or volunteer causing damage as the result of the negligent operation of a motor vehicle; or (3) an independent contractor of a nonprofit corporation, society or association organized exclusively for religious, charitable, educational or hospital purposes.

The problem is that subsection (c) was silent on whether schools could be sued for negligence in hiring, retaining or otherwise supervising a sexual abuser-employee. Then, roughly 10 years after subsection (c) was added, the New Jersey legislature amended the Charitable Immunity Act, by adding section 2A:53A-7.4. This section specifically allows negligence claims against schools for hiring, retaining or supervising an employee who commits sexual abuse. Section 2A:53A-7.4 provides:

The immunity from civil liability granted to a nonprofit corporation, society or association organized exclusively for religious, charitable, educational or hospital purposes pursuant to the provisions of P.L.1959, c.90 (C.2A:53A-7 to 2A:53A-11) shall not apply to a claim in any civil action that the negligent hiring, supervision or retention of any employee, agent or servant resulted in a sexual offense being committed against a person under the age of 18 who was a beneficiary of the nonprofit organization. As used in this supplementary act, P.L.2005, c.264 (C.2A:53A-7.4 et seq.), “sexual offense” means any actions that would constitute any crime set forth in chapter 14 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes or set forth in paragraph (3) or (4) of subsection b. of N.J.S.2C:24-4.

Click here to read part 1 of this article to learn about the Child Sex Abuse Act and the statute of limitations in a school sex abuse case.

Related Legal Articles:

New Jersey School Sex Abuse Lawyers – Representation by a Former Sex Crimes Unit Prosecutor

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