The New Jersey Roman Catholic dioceses have extended the deadline for claims filed through its Victims Compensation Fund over clergy sexual abuse.
Now, victims who were abused as minors by Priests and other Church members will have until February 29, 2020 to file their claims with the New Jersey Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP) – a fund created last year by the state’s five Catholic dioceses for sex abuse victims who wish to settle their cases privately, without going to court.
Survivors will still retain the right to file clergy sexual abuse claims in the civil justice system under New Jersey’s newly expanded law.
According to one of the fund’s administrators, the two-week extension strikes the previous February 15 deadline, and will allow victims to submit their claims until the end of the month.
The IVCP – which includes the Archdiocese of Newark, and the Dioceses of Camden, Paterson, Trenton, and Metuchen – has already paid over $10 million to settle more than 80 different cases. Administrators say nearly 600 claims are still being reviewed, and that 8 claims were denied for various reasons, including clergy not being diocesan priests, or victims not being minors.
About the IVCP
The New Jersey Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP) was created in February 2019 by the state’s Catholic dioceses as a means for victims to obtain confidential settlements outside of court. It began accepting submissions in June 2019, and has now twice extended its deadline for claims. Similar funds have been established in Pennsylvania, California, Colorado, and New York.
Per the IVCP website, the program is entirely voluntarily. Victims satisfied with settlement offers can choose to accept them on the condition they waive their rights to litigate against the Dioceses.
NJ Clergy Abuse Victims: IVCP or Civil Sex Abuse Lawsuits?
While the Victim Compensation Program may be a viable option for some victims, many critics argue its creation was a calculated move to cut down on the number of civil lawsuits filed against the Church under a newly revised state law (S477 / A3648) signed by Governor Phil Murphy in May 2019.
New Jersey’s new sexual abuse and assault law, which is now in effect, has been hailed as the broadest of its type in the U.S., and provides victims with expanded rights, including:
- A 7-year statute of limitations (increased from 2 years) to file claims over assault or abuse;
- For victims abused as minors, the right to file suit until age 55,or within 7 years from the date victims discovered the link between abuse and their damages, whichever is later; and
- A 2-year statutory window during which abuse victims of all ages can file lawsuits against alleged abusers and / or responsible entities, including non-profit organizations and religious institutions such as the Catholic Church.
With the expanded statutes of limitations, clergy abuse victims now have broader rights to bring claims against Priests, Church members, and Dioceses responsible for abuse, cover-ups, and relocation of known abusers.
Unlike the Independent Victim Compensation Program, lawsuits filed in civil court allow victims’ voices to be heard, evidence to be admitted, and details regarding the Church’s failures to be made public.
Because these claims are adjudicated in the civil justice system, victims may additionally be entitled to a broader scope of compensation for their damages, including compensatory damages related to their economic losses, pain and suffering, and other emotional injuries arising from assault or abuse. There is also the potential for punitive damages, which are awarded only in some cases as a means to further punish wrongdoers and deter others from similar egregious conduct.
Levinson Axelrod: Fighting for Survivors Across New Jersey
Clergy abuse survivors have options when it comes to seeking justice against the Catholic Church, and thanks to New Jersey’s new sex abuse laws, more time to file claims and greater leverage to obtain full and fair compensation for their damages.
The same applies to other sexual abuse survivors with potential claims against institutional defendants, including various religious entities, public or private schools, nursing homes, and organizations like The Boy Scouts of America – which recently filed for bankruptcy following an avalanche of abuse lawsuits.
At Levinson Axelrod, P.A., our award-winning Civil Trial Attorneys are available to help victims and families learn more about their rights for pursuing sexual assault and abuse claims anywhere in the state of New Jersey. Call (732) 440-3089 or contact us online to speak confidentially with an attorney.