Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ocean City pays $75,000 to settle boardwalk trip and fall suit

On March 6, 2014, the City of Ocean City (Cape May County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a Linwood woman who sued the City after tripping and falling on the boardwalk.

In her suit, Sandra Wilkinson said that "dangerous, protruding board(s) and/or nail(s)" on the boardwalk at 6th Street caused her fall on September 21, 2010 and that she suffered serious injury.

The case is captioned Wilkinson v. Ocean City, Superior Court Docket No. CPM-L-383-11 and Wilkinson's attorney was Robert N. Braker of Marlton.  Case documents are on-line here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perth Amboy pays $15,000 to settle breach of contract suit filed by former city official.

On April 9, 2014, the City of Perth Amboy (Middlesex County) resolved to pay $15,000 to its former Executive Director of General Government who sued the City in 2012 for failing or refusing to pay her incremental pay increases that were set forth in her contract.

In her suit, Helga Van Eckert, who now resides in Palm Coast, Florida, said that she worked as the City's Executive Director of General Government, as well as Executive Director of the Perth Amboy Redevelopment Agency, since 2000.  She claimed that during her final four year contract, which covered 2008 through 2012, she had negotiated for "percentage pay increases over her base salary" which were never paid by the City.  She also alleged that during the contract Mayor Wilda Diaz asked her to take on additional responsibilities in exchange for an additional $10,000 in salary.  She said that she performed the extra work but was never paid the additional $10,000.

The case is captioned Van Eckert v. Perth Amboy, Docket No. MID-L-7542-12 and Van Eckert's attorney was Steven D. Chan of Edison.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Van Eckert's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $15,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Perth Amboy or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Perth Amboy or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Van Eckert $15,000 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.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hammonton pays $70,000 to settle claim that police subjected man to dog bite.

On March 25, 2014, the Town of Hammonton (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $70,000 to a Collings Lake man who sued members of the Hammonton Police Department for allegedly directing a police dog "to attack and repeatedly bite" him.

In his suit, Robert Keeler said that on April 8, 2009, he was falsely stopped, searched and detained by Officers Tom Percodani and Richard Jones.  Keeler said that despite a lawful basis to detain or arrest him, the officers turned the dog on him which constituted "police brutality and assault and battery." He alleged that out of the five criminal complaints filed against him, four were downgraded to disorderly persons charges and one was administratively dismissed.

Named in the settlement but not the suit was Hammonton Police Corporal James Pinto.

The case is captioned Keeler v. Hammonton, Federal Case No. 1:11-cv-02745 and Keeler's attorney was Jerry C. Goldhagen of Linwood.  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 Keeler's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $70,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Hammonton or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Hammonton or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Keeler $70,000 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, February 22, 2014

Medford pays $83,000 to settle Construction Official's "whistle blower" suit

On December 10, 2013, the Township of Medford (Burlington County) agreed to pay $83,000 to a former construction official who sued the To0wnship for wrongful termination and for violating his rights under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).

In his suit, Richard Uschmann, a Township employee since 2000 and Medford Construction Code Official since 2007, claimed that he was laid off in 2009 for what the Township claimed to be "budgetary" reasons based on the Township entering into a shared services agreement with Lumberton Township.  Uschmann claimed that the Township's clamed reason for the layoff was inconsistent with a previous letter written to him by Township Manager Michael Ackey that, in addition to economic reasons, alleged "performance based reasons amounting to a lack of professionalism."  Uschmann claimed that he was tenured as a Building Sub-code Official, a position he also held, which disallowed the Township from terminating his employment absent good cause and a fair and impartial hearing.  He claimed to have never received such a hearing and that the Township never actually entered into the shared services agreement with Lumberton.  Rather, Uschmann argued, Medford entered into a shared services agreement with Tabernacle Township for the Building Sub-code position.

Despite the Township's alleged technical and procedural violations, Uschmann claimed that the real motivation behind his termination was Ackey's desire to retaliate against him for doing his job in a way that might have embarrassed Ackey.  He said that he complained on April 9, 2009 that "letters were being sent out by Medford with his signature on them that he had not actually sign" and that he issued a "Notice of Violation and Order to Terminate" to Ulrich Builders who was performing construction work on the Township Clerk's Office.  These actions, according to Uschmann, caused him to receive a layoff notice "a few days later."

Also, he claimed that when went out on July 9, 2009 to the site of a new firehouse construction, he issued a "Stop Construction Order" after learning that no permits had yet been issued for the project despite the fact that construction "was well underway."  He said that at the time of his visit, Fire Marshall Thomas Thorn, who also was the Acting Construction Official, appeared to be the project manager.  The same afternoon, Uschmann claimed that he told Ackey about the lack of permits and asked him "why the project had gone this far without the required working permits."  Ackey allegedly claimed ignorance of the permit problem and later produced Steve Addezio, the Township's Director of Public Safety, who allegedly "immediately owned up to the mistake, stating that he had 'screwed up' and that it was all his 'fault.'"  Despite this admission, Uschmann alleged, he was laid off the following day.  He claimed to have been "escorted out of the building the same day, almost immediately, with only thirty minutes or so to collect his personal belongings."

Further, Uschmann claimed that after his termination, Thorn filed for the permits and a Certificate of Occupancy for the firehouse but had "misrepresented that he [Thorn] was the one who had done the electrical work on the project, which was done, upon information and belief, in order to get around the rules requiring the obtaining of inspection permits at the outset."

Finally, Uschmann claimed that Ackey, who had a "relationship" with Hotsons Realty, LLC and/or its principals, which allegedly owned the land on which the firehouse was located, was worried about public embarrassment that would result if "the public should find out about any improprieties relating to this project because, upon information and belief, the project is at least one million dollars over budget and any further improprieties or 'screw ups' would reflect badly on Ackey, Thorn and others."  This, according to Uschmann, was a determinative and motivating factor for Ackey's decision to terminate his employment.

The case is captioned Uschmann v. Township of Medford, Burlington County Superior Court Docket No. BUR-L-3919-10 and Uschmann's attorney was Anthony Valenti 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 or even the existence of the settlement agreement.  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 Uschmann's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $83,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Medford or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Medford or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Uschmann $83,000 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.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

State Police pay $85,000 to settle excessive force suit

On November 23, 2013, the New Jersey State Police agreed to pay $85,000 to an Aston, Pennsylvania man who claimed to have been beaten by a Trooper.

In his suit, Michael French, who also goes by Robert Michael French, said that he was arrested for drunk driving in April 2009 and taken to the State Police Barracks in Berlin Borough, Camden County, New Jersey.  He said that he was in a "physical altercation with another prisoner in the holding cell" when Trooper J. T. Squire-Tibbs "burst into the cell and hit Plaintiff in the face with a billy club, knocking Plaintiff unconscious."  He claimed that Squire-Tibbs then beat, punched and kicked him while he was on the floor unconscious."  As a result of the beating, he claimed to have received "a fractured orbital, a herniated disc and severe concussion." 

The case is captioned French v. Squire-Tibbs, Federal Case No. 1:11-cv-01009 and French's attorney was Matthew B. Weisberg of Pennsauken.  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 French's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $85,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by State or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that State or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay French $85,000 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.

Bound Brook school board pays $250,000 to settle former teaching consultant's harassment suit.

On January 2, 2014, the Bound Brook Board of Education (Somerset County) agreed to pay $250,000 to a former elementary school teacher and Learning Disabilities Teaching Consultant who alleged that her supervisor and other school officials subjected her to "a campaign of harassment and abuse."

In her suit, Shari Duddy, a teacher since 1989, said that despite her excellent job performance, her supervisor, Jasmine Brandt, continually harassed and abused her.  Among her specific allegations were Brandt giving her own work to Duddy, Brandt falsely accusing Duddy of forging a signature on a District document and "falsely and publicly accusing Ms Duddy of having sexual relations with the principal of a District school in the principal’s office."

She claims that even after she was transferred to the Administration Building, Brandt, along with school business administrator Carole Deddy and Superintendent Edward Hoffman, "undertook a course of action apparently designed to impede Ms. Duddy’s ability to perform the assigned task.  Specifically, she accused Deddy of "ordering staff to inspect Ms. Duddy’s computer in her absence and observe when she went to the bathroom."

Also named in the suit were Martin Gleason, Peter Allen, Stephen Clouser, Michele DeFazio, Nicholas DelVecchio, Shawn Hasting, Robert Murray, Rae Siebel and Joseph Tomaselli.

The case is captioned Duddy v. Bound Brook Board of Education, Somerset County Superior Court Docket No. SOM-L-0988-11 and Duddy's attorney was Nicholas Stevens of Roseland.  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 Duddy's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $250,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the school board or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that the Board or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Duddy $250,000 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.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bayonne pays $10,000 to settle DPW workers' racial discrimination suit.

On or about November 14, 2013, the City of Bayonne (Hudson County) agreed to pay a total of $10,000 to four Bayonne Department of Public Works employees  who sued the City for racial discrimination.

In their suit, Lorenzo Alyon, Christian Booker, Donald Jacobson, Keith Moore, Kyron Turner, Randy Williams and Christopher Wright claimed that they were hired as "seasonal employees" but had worked for more than 90 days which automatically entitled them to "permanent employee" status.  They claimed that "Caucasian 'seasonal' employees were transferred to permanent employment status" while they "as well as other similarly situated persons of protected racial classes, were held in permanent 'seasonal' classification."  They also claimed to have endured racial slurs and other discriminatory treatment.  Of the seven defendants, only Donald Jacobson, Keith Moore, Kyron Turner, and Christopher Wright entered into the settlement agreement.

Also named in the suit were Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria and Business Administrator Terrance Malloy.

The case is captioned Alyon et al v. Bayonne, Federal Case No. 2:10-cv-01750 and the plaintiffs' attorneys were Karen DeSoto of Bayonne and Brian F. Curley of Morristown.  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 plaintiffs' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $10,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bayonne or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bayonne or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the plaintiffs $10,000 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.