Do you remember what you had for lunch yesterday? How about 2 weeks ago? How about 10 years ago? Even if you do remember, do you think you could come up with evidence – like witnesses or receipts – to back up your story, or do we just have to take your word for it?
The task of proving or defending any type of claim becomes more difficult as time passes. Witnesses become difficult to locate or pass away, records are lost or discarded, and memories fade. The ordinary “he-said-she-said” of litigation can turn into a one-sided allegation by a plaintiff that an event happened because the person says it happened, while the defendant lacks the ability to appear or muster facts that might disprove the allegation. That’s why statutes of limitations are important.
All civil claims are subject to statutes of limitations, which are basically a legal “countdown” that begins when someone is injured. When the time period expires, a claim may no longer be brought. These laws promote justice, discourage unnecessary delay, and preclude the prosecution of stale or fraudulent claims. They are essential to a fair and well-ordered civil justice system.
The New Jersey Civil Justice Institute supports strong statutes of limitations for all types of claims to ensure that defendants are not denied due process simply because time has passed and mounting a defense is impossible.
New Jersey must retain the strong statutes of limitations it currently has, and work to strengthen the law in areas where the laws in surrounding states puts New Jersey at a competitive disadvantage.
Current Action on this Issue
NJCJI Opposes Legislation That Would Weaken or Eliminate Existing Statutes of Limitation
NJCJI opposes legislation that would eliminate the civil statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse, revive previously barred claims, and vastly expand who may be found liable for abuse. While these proposals seem compassionate in theory, they would wreak havoc on any business, school or non-profit that works with children. New Jersey’s honest charities and volunteers would be left exposed to a plethora of indefinite, unintended consequences, and opportunities for the dishonest to take advantage of the law’s newly-expanded opportunities to sue.
Establish a Uniform Statute of Limitations for All Professionals
Right now, there is no standard statute of limitations for claims against professionals. This causes confusion for both plaintiffs and defendants. Some plaintiffs have even missed their opportunity to file a malpractice suit because there was confusion over the applicable statute of limitations. New Jersey should adopt a uniform, two-year statute of limitations for licensed professionals.