Civil Lawsuits for Damages and Compensation

Last updated May 2010

Laws should provide victims and their heirs a civil tort remedy in cases of dowry demands, violence, harassment and death. Legislation should provide dowry-related violence victims with a civil tort remedy for claims of assault, battery, false imprisonment, international or reckless infliction of emotional distress, international interference with child custody, visitation or parent-child relationship, extortion, third-party negligence and wrongful death. See: Brian K. Zoeller and Patrick Schmiedt, Suing the Abuser: Tort Remedies for Domestic Violence, Victim Advocate, Spring 2004.

Laws and the judiciary must allow for flexibility in tort and domestic violence laws that take into account the dynamics of domestic violence and battered women’s syndrome, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. See: Health Effects of Domestic Violence, The Advocates for Human Rights. Laws should allow a victim to sue for all violent acts in one cause of action by stating that the statute of limitations does not start until the domestic violence stops entirely. In Giovine v. Giovine, a New Jersey appellate case, the victim filed a tort action against her abuser. Because the case involved a long history of violence, separations and reunions over several years, the defendant alleged the statute of limitations barred all actions as a defense. Importantly, the court recognized that the statute of limitations may be tolled if the plaintiff can show she suffered from battered women’s syndrome that prevented her from taking action to change her marital circumstances. Thus, all acts of violence could comprise a single cause of action for which the statute of limitations would not begin until the last act of violence. See: 663 A.2d 109, 118 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div 1995).