Monday, March 14, 2016
J.P. VS. GREGORY J. SMITH, ET AL. A-0055-15T1
J.P. VS. GREGORY J. SMITH, ET AL.
This case involves claims of sexual abuse brought by plaintiff J.P. against defendants Southern Regional High School and Southern Regional School Board (collectively, "the School"). In her complaint, filed in September 2014, plaintiff alleged that, in 2004, she was subjected to repeated sexual abuse by the School's assistant band director, defendant Gregory Smith. The acts of abuse allegedly occurred (1) at the School, where plaintiff was a student; (2) during two School-organized overnight trips; and (3) in plaintiff's home. Plaintiff sought damages pursuant to the Child Sexual Abuse Act (CSAA), N.J.S.A. 2A:61B-1, and under various common law theories of tort liability.
The CSAA's definition of passive sexual abuse limits the class of persons who are potentially liable to those who are "within the household." Distinguishing Hardwicke v. American Boychoir School, 188 N.J. 69 (2006), we conclude that the School, a public day school, is not liable as a passive abuser under the CSAA because it does not fit within that statutory definition. Accordingly, we affirm the dismissal of plaintiff's CSAA claim against the School.
We further conclude that plaintiff's common law claims accrued no later than July 2013, when plaintiff's expert opined that she fully understood she had been abused and the consequences of that abuse. Hence, no Lopez hearing is necessary to determine the date the common law claims accrued. Those claims are in turn barred due to plaintiff's failure to comply with the notice provisions of the Tort Claims Act. We therefore reverse that portion of the order under review that reinstated the common law claims and ordered a Lopez hearing.