Monday, May 23, 2016

Englewood pays $125,000 to settle lawsuit filed by man who claimed police shot him in the leg, fabricated evidence.

On April 11, 2016, the City of Englewood (Bergen County) agreed to pay $125,000 to an African-American man who said that a City police officer shot him in the leg and that officers lied and fabricated evidence.

In his suit, Edward M. Smalls said that on December 12, 2009, a female whose home he was visiting falsely reported to police that he was harassing her.  When Officer Michael Hargrave arrived, Smalls, who claimed that he "heard someone approaching him from the rear," ran away without realizing that his pursuer was a a police officer.  Smalls claimed that Hargrave shot him in the leg with his service revolver.

Smalls claimed that Hargrave other Englewood officers concocted a story that Smalls "came toward [Hargrave] with a razor blade" causing him to be arrested and held under $500,000 bail.  He claimed that the Bergen County Prosecutor's office failed to properly investigate and that he was ultimately acquitted of all charges except for a harassment, which is a disorderly persons offense.

Also named in the suit were various officials from Bergen County and Bergen County Prosecutor's office.  It is presently unknown whether the county settled separately with Smalls.

The case is captioned Smalls v. Englewood, et al, Federal Case No. :11-cv-07210 and Smalls' attorney was Robert Blossner of Morristown.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Smalls' 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 Englewood or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Smalls $125,000 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.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Teaneck to pay $275,000 to settle church custodian's police excessive force lawsuit.

On May 20, 2016, the Township of Teaneck (Bergen County) produced a draft settlement agreement that calls for $275,000 to be paid to settle a church custodian's lawsuit that charged Township officers with beating him while he was handcuffed.

In his suit, Donald Farrar claimed that at about one o'clock on the morning of May 25, 2010 he was working as a custodian of St. Paul's Lutheran Church cleaning the church's lounge area.  After hearing sounds outside the church, we went outside and saw Officer Spence Osaigbovo approaching him.  Farrar alleged that when he tried to explain that nothing was wrong and that he was working a late shift, Osaigbovo struck him without provocation "across the face and on the side of [his] head with his flashlight . . . . tackled [Farrar] to the ground causing [him] to hit the back of his head upon the floor and momentarily lose consciousness and sustain personal injuries to his mouth and teeth."

According to the complaint, Officer Craig Luebeck then arrived and kicked Farrar while Osaigbovo held him down.  Osaigbovo and Luebeck then allegedly beat him some more when he was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.  Sergeant Harry Harrison and Officers Glen Coley and Michael Danenza also arrived on scene and allegedly refused Farrar's pleas to verify his identity.

Also named in the suit were Chief Robert Wilson and Officer Kevin Brennan.

The case is captioned Farrar v. County of Teaneck, et al, Federal Case No. 2:12-cv-03096 and Farrar's attorney was Paul Rizzo of Warren.  Case documents are on-line here

None of Farrar'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 Teaneck or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Farrar $275,000 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 Township, 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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Robbinsville to quietly pay former officer $117,500 to settle his discrimination suit.

On May 18, 2016, the Township of Robbinsville (Mercer County) produced a draft settlement agreement that calls for a $117,500 settlement payment to a former Township police officer who claimed that Robbinsville failed to accommodate a disability that caused an on-duty "psychotic episode" during which he allegedly assaulted a woman in a wheelchair and her 4-year-old son.

In his complaint, Mark B. Lee, a 17-year veteran of the police department, said police noticed something was "wrong with him" and that "he didn't act right" after they arrived at a Hutchinson Avenue home in response to a September 17, 2012 911 call reporting an assault in progress.  Officers reportedly found Lee sitting on a couch in his uniform pants and a white T-shirt.

Lee's episode continued while he was being transported to the police station and Chief Martin P. Masseroni heard Lee's screaming over the patrol car radio.  While the officers accompanying Lee in the patrol car considered taking him to a hospital, Masseroni allegedly ordered him returned to the police station.  He was ultimately taken to the hospital and then admitted to the Ann Klein Forensic Center for thirty days.

According to the complaint, Robbinsville suspended Lee without pay immediately after the incident and conditioned paying his accrued sick time upon him resigning from the department.  Lee later resigned as a condition of the criminal charges against him for which he was admitted to Pretrial Intervention with thirty-six months of supervision.

Lee complained that Robbinsville officials "consistently viewed the incident as a criminal matter, and failed to even concede the possibility, let alone recognize, despite substantial medical evidence, that the unfortunate events of September 17 were due to a serious medical event."  He said that Robbinsville officials impeded his efforts to obtain his accrued time and opposed his application for temporary disability benefits from New Jersey.

The settlement calls for $12,500 of the $117,500 to be held in escrow to pay toward settlements or judgments that the Hutchinson Avenue family or another lawsuit claimant, Bashemah Rountree, may take against Robbinsville.

Also named in the suit was Lieutenant Michael Polaski.

The case is captioned Lee v. Township of Robbinsville, et al, Mercer County Superior Court Docket No. MER-L-2023-14 and Lee's attorney was Edward J. Nolan of Hackensack.  Case documents are on-line here.

The draft settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents Lee from making "any efforts to publicize or publish the terms of" or "initiate oral or written communications about" 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 Lee'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 Robbinsville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Lee $117,500 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.

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, 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.

Rutgers confidentially pays $300,000 to settle varsity basketball player's discrimination and abuse suit.

On April 22, 2016, Rutgers University quietly paid $300,000 to settle a 2013 lawsuit filed by a learning disabled basketball player who claimed that the university's former head basketball coach "chronically and heinously targeted and abused [him], both physically and psychologically."

In his suit, Derrick Randall alleged that coach Michael Rice "violently grabbed, kicked, shoved and berated" him and other players, threw basketballs directly at the players' heads and subjected them to profane language and homophobic slurs.  The alleged abuse was video recorded aired on April 2, 2013 by ESPN's "Outside the Lines" television program.

Rice's abuse allegedly caused Randall to experience a "constant and debilitating stale of anxiety and fear" and caused him to "shut down" and lose all his confidence.

Also named in the the lawsuit were Rutgers former Athletic Director Timothy Pernetti, assistant basketball coach James Martelli, Rutgers CFO for Intercollegiate Athletics Janine Purcaro, Rutgers Board of Governors member Mark P. Hershhorn and Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi.

The lawsuit was reported in the Star Ledger on December 9, 2013.  As part of the settlement, Rutgers also agreed to pay $6,800 for Randall's expert witness fees.

The case is captioned Randall v. Rutgers et al, Federal Case No. 3:13-cv-0735 and Randall's attorney was Daniel S. Kokhba of New York. 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 Randall'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 the Rutgers or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Randall $300,000 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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Perth Amboy school board confidentially pays $48,500 to settle another racial discrimination lawsuit.

On November 19, 2015, the Perth Amboy Board of Education (Middlesex County) quietly paid $48,500 to settle its former transportation manager's lawsuit that claimed that Board members non-reviewed his contract because they were heavily biased in favor of hiring Hispanics. The lawsuit is very similar to the one filed by Bernice Marshall that resulted in a $170,000 settlement and was recently reported by New Jersey Civil Settlements.

In his suit, Edmund Treadaway, who is Caucasian,, said that Board members "openly stated they sought to hire only individuals of Latino or Hispanic descent."  In one instance, Board Member Samuel Lebreault allegedly stated, "[i]f it were up to me, and there were 88 positions in the school district, all 88 positions would be filled by Dominicans."

Treadaway claimed that he was told by several people that "his employment was in jeopardy because the Board of Education wanted to replace him because he was not Hispanics or Latino."  According to the lawsuit, the Board of Education voted to non-renew Treadaway's reappointment effective June 30, 2014.  The settlement agreement calls for the Board to give a "neutral job reference" to Treadaway's prospective employers.

Named in the suit were Acting Superintendent Vivian Rodriguez and individual Board members Obdulia Gonzalez, Israel Varela, Milady Tejeda, Samuel Lebreault, and Business Administrator Derek Jess.

The case is captioned Treadaway v. Perth Amboy Board of Education, et al, New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. MID-L-5622-14 and Treadaway's attorney was Christopher M. Leddy of Freehold.  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 Treadaway'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 the Perth Amboy school district or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Treadaway $48,500 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.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Lindenwold interracial couple receives confidential $80,000 settlement plus $30,000 more when they leave town. Couple also agrees to "cease and desist" using basketball hoops in violation of Borough code.

On April 14, 2016, a member of the Lindenwold Borough Council (Camden County) signed off on a $110,000 settlement agreement that resolved a selective enforcement and racial discrimination lawsuit filed by an interracial couple whose yard is visible from the Council member's home.  The agreement called for the Borough's insurer to pay the couple $80,000 within thirty days with the remaining $30,000 to be held until after the couple leaves town.

In their lawsuit, Alfred D. and Deborah A. Patterson claimed that Strippoli had it out for them since their 2003 move to Elm Avenue which is within view of Strippoli's home.  Strippoli allegedly expressed his displeasure to Deborah that she had married an African-American man and "singled [them] out for unfair and harassing treatment by other Borough of Lindenwold governmental authorities."  The Pattersons alleged that Strippoli used his position as Councilman to have the police sent to their home seventeen times and code enforcement officials sent there fifteen times.

According to the complaint, some of the police and code enforcement officers grew so weary of Strippoli's campaign that they "refus[ed] to do Council Strippoli's bidding."  The lawsuit goes on to allege that Strippoli "forced the resignation" of one of these recalcitrant employees and threatened to fire others.  The couple also accuses Strippoli of trying to amend the Borough Code to prevent Alfred from conducting his used merchandise business from the family's home.

The Pattersons filed their lawsuit in 2012 against the Borough and Strippoli.  After their lawsuit was dismissed in 2014, an appeals court reinstated the claims against Strippoli on February 11, 2016 but did not disturb the dismissal against the Borough.

The case is captioned Patterson v. Strippoli, et al, Federal Case No. 1:12-cv-04688 and the Pattersons' attorney was Thomas Bruno, II of Philadelphia.  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 the Pattersons' 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 Lindenwold or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Pattersons $110,000 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, May 12, 2016

Perth Amboy school board confidentially pays $170,000 to settle HR Manager's racial discrimination lawsuit.

On November 19, 2015, the Perth Amboy Board of Education (Middlesex County) quietly paid $170,000 to settle its former human resources manager's lawsuit that claimed that Board members were so biased in favor of Hispanics that they "paid for Administrators of the Perth Amboy School District to travel to Puerto Rico to recruit Hispanic individuals."

In her suit, Bernice Marshall, who is African-American, said that the Board voted on May 7, 2014 to abolish her position of Human Resources Manager and created another similar position called Director of Personnel and Evaluations.  The newly created position, which Marshall said was later offered to two individuals of Hispanic descent, required a certification that Marshall said she was working to receive and would have attained within two months.

Marshall claims that she was "berated in Spanish" and subjected to a pattern of intimidation and harassment by Acting Superintendent Vivian Rodriguez. According to the suit, Board member Israel Varela said that Rodriguez's alleged treatment of Marshall was to "teach her a lesson."

Marshall's racial discrimination claims were featured in an October 9, 2014 newspaper article entitled "School workers say they were fired because they weren't Hispanic."

Named in the suit were Rodriguez and individual Board members Obdulia Gonzalez, Israel Varela, Dianne Roman, Kenneth Puccio, Milady Tejeda, Maria Garcia, Anthony Bermudez, Samuel Lebreault, and William Ortiz.

The case is captioned Marshall v. Perth Amboy Board of Education, et al, New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. MID-L-5615-14 and Marshall's attorney was Christopher M. Leddy of Freehold.  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 Marshall'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 the Perth Amboy school district or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Marshall $170,000 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.