Plaintiff’s Claim against School District based upon Sexual Abuse by Teacher Barred Due to Failure to Timely File Tort Claims Notice

Plaintiff (“J.D.”) alleged that his high school teacher sexually abused him between 1983 and 1987. J.D. began having panic attacks in June 2013, which led to his hospitalization. He was diagnosed with panic disorder and either major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. In May 2015, in psychotherapy, he disclosed his high school teacher’s relationship and his anger for the first time. In April 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a late notice of claim against his high school teacher and the school district. In J.D. v. D.R., 2017 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2528 (App. Div. Oct. 6, 2017), the issue was whether plaintiff demonstrated extraordinary circumstances to justify the late filing.

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 59:8-8, to pursue a tort claim against a public entity, a plaintiff must file a notice of his claim within 90 days of its accrual. If the plaintiff fails to timely file his notice within the 90 days, the plaintiff may seek leave with the court up to one year after the accrual of his claim if he can provide sufficient reasons constituting extraordinary circumstances for his failure to file a notice of claim within this statutory time period. (N.J.S.A. 59:8-9.)

Plaintiff claimed that his psychological impairments constituted sufficient reasons to excuse the late filing. The trial court judge found this reason inadequate to meet the “extraordinary circumstances” requirement and denied his request to file a late notice of tort claim.

The Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s decision to deny the motion for leave to file a late notice of tort claim. The “extraordinary circumstances” standard was added by the Legislature in 1994 to replace the “fairly permissive standard” to this “more demanding” standard. The plaintiff’s reasons for not filing a timely notice of claim were insufficient to overcome this demanding standard. Thus, the Appellate Division found that the trial court judge correctly denied his motion.