NJ Law Journal reports
An affidavit of merit is not needed in a suit accusing a psychologist of negligence in failing to report suspected sexual abuse of his juvenile client, a U.S. judge ruled Wednesday. The case is exempt from the Affidavit of Merit Statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27, because jurors’ own lay knowledge is sufficient to determine a psychologist’s negligence, District Judge Joel Pisano said in denying a motion to dismiss.
The suit, Carter v. Estate of Lewis, 08-cv-1301, accuses the psychologist of violating N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10, which requires anyone with cause to believe a child is being abused to notify the Division of Youth and Family Services. Pisano found that statute does not impose a higher standard of care on doctors, so that the alleged breach could only be ordinary negligence.
Brian Carter, now 26, claims he was sexually abused from ages 8 to 15 by George Baldwin Lewis Jr., a minister with the Shrewsbury AME Zion Church with whom Carter had been sent to live after the 1992 death of his parents.
At age 11, Carter was accused of sexually abusing a 5-year-old boy and was placed on probation and ordered to undergo therapy for his offense. During those sessions, the suit claims, psychologist Jeffrey Allen of Trenton learned Carter had been sexually abused by Lewis, but he did not notify authorities.
When Carter was 12, Lewis was investigated by church leaders for the sexual abuse of another congregant and was ordered to leave the church, but he was allowed to take Carter with him, according to the suit.
Carter says he did not comprehend the impact of Lewis’ actions until December 2007, when he was 23.
In 2008, Carter sued Allen, Lewis’s estate, the New Jersey Conference of AME Zion Churches and the Division of Youth and Family Services. The suit was filed in federal court on diversity grounds, since Carter lives in New York.”