Saturday, November 26, 2016

Middle Township paid out $47,500 to settle EMT's wrongful discharge lawsuit.

On August 22, 2016, the Township of Middle (Cape May County) agreed to pay $47,500 to an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who claimed that she was fired after the Township refused to make accommodations for her work related back injury.

In her lawsuit, Ann Marie Camp said that she suffered a back injury on April 9, 2015 while lifting a patient who was suffering a cardiac emergency.  Camp alleged that she returned to work on "medium duty" but was fired on August 18, 2015 by Township Human Resources Director Vera Kalish because she could not yet work in a full duty capacity.  Camp said that her pleaded to be tranferred to another position, even if it meant less pay.  According to the lawsuit, Kalish told her that her request "was not open for discussion."

The case is captioned Camp v. Township of Middle, et al, Docket No. CPM-L-79-16 and Camp's attorney was Daniel M. Kurkowski of Cape May. Case documents are on-line here.

None of lawsuit's allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Middle or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Camp $47,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Linden paid out $45,000 to settle wrongful arrest lawsuit.

On July 15, 2016, the City of Linden (Union County) agreed to pay $45,000 to a man who said that he was wrongfully arrested and held in jail for 65 days.

In his lawsuit, Eon Flemming said that Linden Police Detective "M. Rawling" (presumably Maurice S. Rawlins) wrongfully arrested him on December 6, 2011 in Long Branch, New Jersey for a drug offense.  He said that he was jailed for 65 days and that the charges were administratively dismissed.

The case is captioned Flemming v. City of Linden, et al, Docket No. UNN-L-4179-13 and Flemming's attorney was David B. Owens of Jersey City. Case documents are on-line here.

None of lawsuit's allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Linden or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Flemming $45,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Kean University paid out $30,000 to resolve campus cop's discrimination lawsuit.

On September 27, 2016, Kean University (Union County) agreed to pay $30,000 to a former campus police officer who said that he was bullied and harassed because of his Jewish heritage.

In his lawsuit, Randy Diakunczak, who worked for Kean University Campus Police from 2004 until his termination in November 2014, recounted many examples of alleged discrimination and retaliation, including being denied overtime, suggestions that he was gay and trying to poison his ability to get positions with the Marlboro, Edison and Highland Park police departments. 

As one example, Diakunczak alleged that Detective Michael Gorman was suspended for six months without pay after a forensic handwriting analysis showed that he had written words such as "Homo," "Monkey Licker," "Box-o-Tools" and "Cow Chip" on Diakunczak's business cards.  Diakunczak claimed that Gorman was allowed to serve his suspension every other week and was given additional overtime to make up for it.

According to the lawsuit, three disciplinary charges were lodged against Diakunczak and he was ultimately terminated in November 2014.    The release called for Diakunczak to dismiss two pending Administrative Law matters and for the University to dismiss its lawsuit against Diakunczak that sought reimbursement of $29,999.18.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit were Chief David Parks, Sergeant Carlos Gonzalez, Detective Michael Gorman, Affirmative Action official Charlie Williams, Detective Sergeant Annie Coll and Lieutenant Vincent Kearney.

The case is captioned Diakunczak v. Kean University, et al, Docket No. UNN-L-0267-11 and Diakunczak's attorney was Nancy A. Valentino of Marlton. Case documents are on-line here.

None of lawsuit's allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Kean or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Diakunczak $30,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Perth Amboy paid out $150,000 to settle sexual harassment complaint filed against former police chief.

In September 2016, the City of Perth Amboy (Middlesex County) agreed to pay $150,000 to a female secretary who said that the City's former police chief would incessantly "stare at her breasts and feet" which made the woman "feel disgusting and repulsed."

In her lawsuit, Nalda Capo said that former police chief Benjamin Ruiz stared at her and harassed her from 2007 until 2014.  According to the complaint, Ruiz told Capo to "start dressing up and get your nails and hair done."  She claimed that he would come to her office uninvited and "rub her neck and shoulders," would introduce her to citizens as his wife and stand in front of her desk and "stare at her breasts for long periods of time."  She said that she "lived in fear every time the door opened to her office" and that she "would jump out of her chair in fear that Defendant Ruiz would try to touch her again."

Capo said that she reported Ruiz's behavior to her union president Ruth Vega but that Vega "violated her rights" by reporting to Ruiz Capo's intention of filing a sexual harassment charge against him.

Capo also said that Ruiz gave her unfairly poor performance reviews and that she was passed over for a Detective Bureau secretary position in favor of someone who was less qualified and had less seniority.  She said that at a grievance hearing, her union representative, Debra Parks, told her that Ruiz "put [Capo] down like a piece of garbage."

Ruiz no longer works for the City.  According to news reports, he was suspended without pay in December 2014 and was later terminated after having been indicted on official misconduct and other charges.  In September 2016, Ruiz was acquitted by a jury on all charges.

The case is captioned Capo v. City of Perth Amboy, et al, Docket No. MID-L-7267-15 and Capo's attorney was Stephen E. Klausner of Manville. Case documents are on-line here.


The settlement agreement specifically reserves for Capo the right to pursue three orthopedic Workers Compensation claims against the City while calling for "a claim for psychiatric or psychological injury" to be dismissed.

None of lawsuit's allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Perth Amboy or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Capo $150,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Elizabeth agrees to pay $30,000 to resolve police excessive force lawsuit.

On September 18, 2016, the Elizabeth City Council (Union County) agreed to pay $30,000 to a Roselle Park man who said that he suffered a fractured back after having been stomped by police.

In his lawsuit, Luis A. Padua said that on April 8, 2011 he was waiting for a ride outside of a parking garage on West Grand Street when he was approached by Captain Torner (presumably Tyrone E. Torner) and Officers A. Vrohidis and Marcos Diaz.  Padua claimed that the officers, who had been notified of a vehicle theft at the parking garage, "began to beat and kick [Padua], pushing him against a wall and stomping on his back, to the point where his back was fractured."  Padua claimed that the officers fabricated Obstruction, Resisting and Criminal Trespass charges against him that were eventually dismissed.

Also named in the suit were Police Chief Patrick Shannon and Police Director James Cosgrove.

The case is captioned Padua v. City of Elizabeth, et al, Federal Case No. 13-cv-04645 and Padua's attorney was Shelley L. Stangler of Springfield. Case documents are on-line here

None of lawsuit's allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is vthat Elizabeth or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Padua $30,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Somerset County paid $699,000 to resolve deceased jail inmate's parents' gross negligence lawsuit.

On September 21, 2016, the parents of a South Bound Brook man who committed suicide while incarcerated at the Somerset County Jail agreed to accept $699,000 to settle their lawsuit against County.  The parents had claimed that despite jail officials having been warned of the 33-year-old man's suicidal tendencies, no action was taken to prevent the man from hanging himself with his shoelaces on December 13, 2012.

The lawsuit was brought by Daniel J. and Emily-Jo Klein of Clifton on behalf of their son Daniel J. Klein, III.  According to a June 8, 2015 newspaper article, "Family blames Somerset County Jail after inmate hangs himself with shoelace," Klein was incarcerated after having been arrested for drunk driving on December 11, 2012.  According to the lawsuit, Klein had made several past suicide attempts and his girlfriend had called jail officials to warn them of these attempts.  He was found alive on December 13, 2012 with shoelaces around his neck.  The lawsuit said that Klein was "eventually" transported to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital which is "not the closest medical center to the jail."  He died seven days later on December 20, 2012.

Named as defendants were Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano, Sr., Warden Charles O'Neill, Deputy Warden Thomas Kelly, Chief Gary Hoats and Captain John Quinn along with the Somerville Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello, Bedminster Township and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.  The $699,000 settlement released only the County defendants from the suit.

The case is captioned Estate of Klein v. O'Neill, et al, Federal Case No. 3:14-cv-03361 and the Estate's attorney was Edward P. Capozzi of Roseland. Case documents are on-line here

None of lawsuit's allegations have been proven or disproven in court.  Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Somerset County or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Estate $699,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Bridgeton Board of Education to confidentially pay $60,000 to settle former employee's race-based harassment lawsuit.

On November 3, 2016, the Bridgeton Board of Education (Cumberland County) produced a draft agreement that calls for $60,000 to be paid to a former, African-American teacher who said that she was forced out of her job by a hostile, racially charged work environment.

In her lawsuit, Sakina Davis claimed that Christine Barlas, the Caucasian principal at the Geraldyn O. Foster Early Childhood Center on Buckshutem Road, put Davis in charge of disciplining African-American students "because the school did not want African-American parents coming in and becoming 'aggressive' with Caucasian administrators and teachers."

Davis alleges that Barlas made racially derogatory comments to her such as opining that "African-American parents did not have the same level of care for their students' educational experience as did Caucasian and Hispanic Parents" and that Black mothers often had "drug dealing boyfriends" that exposed young African-American males to violence.  Davis also says that Barlas did not intervene when special education teacher Jane Krokos "implied that African-American students were disproportionately disruptive" and should be put in their own class so as to not "ruin" the educational experience for Caucasian and Hispanic students. Davis said that she was forced to resign because the "retaliatory harassment and non-response to the racial harassment became too much for her."

The case is captioned Davis v. Bridgeton Board of Education, Docket No. CUM-L-439-13 and Davis' attorney was Kevin Costello of Mount Laurel.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Davis' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that the Bridgeton school board or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Davis $60,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Note: The court marked the case as having settled.  While it is possible that a dispute will arise prior to the settlement agreement being signed by the Board of Education, this rarely happens because the settlement has been negotiated and agreed to by all the parties.  Readers who wish to be absolutely sure that this case settled according to the terms stated above should submit an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for the final, signed settlement agreement.+