Sunday, January 4, 2009

East Brunswick pays $7,500 to woman after euthanizing her Rottweiler

In October 2008, East Brunswick Township officials agreed to pay a local woman $7,500 to settle her civil suit claiming that the Township's Animal Control Officer used "duress and coercion" to get her consent to euthanize Turbo, her pet Rottweiler.

In her lawsuit, the woman, Lillian Passaro of East Brunswick claimed that she was injured on December 9, 2006 "while interacting with Turbo." After receiving medical treatment for her injury, she alleges that Animal Control Officer David Blumig, who apparently was notified of the injury by the treating physician, arrived at her door two days later. According to the suit, Blumig obtained Passaro's signature on a "surrender form" even though he allegedly could plainly see that she was "under the influence of a prescribed narcotic pain medication which impaired her ability to process information or to make a knowing and willful decision."

According to the lawsuit, filed by Toms River Attorney Isabelle R. Strauss, Blumig left Passaro's home with Turbo and then had the dog euthanized without holding a hearing. Passaro had Turbo since he was 8 weeks old and described him as friendly and loved by Passaro, her friends and family.

The settlement agreement specifies that the $7,500 payment includes the Passaro's attorney fees and costs of court and requires her and her lawyer to refrain from "any speech or conduct that disparages" the Township or Blumig.

The Township and Blumig were represented in the case by Brian J. Chabarek of Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas of New Brunswick.

The civil complaint and the settlement agreement are on-line at
http://www.lpcnj.org/OGTF/EastBrunswickPassaro.pdf

All of the above allegations above were taken from Passaro's civil complaint and none of them have been proven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Blumig, who is referred to as "the non-settling Defendant" or the Township. All that is known for sure is that East Brunswick and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Passaro and her lawyer $7,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the Township's 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 Passaro's claims were true and the Township 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.

ABOUT ME AND WHY I'M POSTING THIS.

I chair the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project which seeks to increase governmental transparency and accountability, particularly at a local level. As part of my work, I routinely check civil court cases where at least one of the parties is a government agency or official. Sometimes I run across settlements that may be of interest to citizens and taxpayers. For more information on the Libertarian Party, visit www.njlp.org

John Paff
Somerset, New Jersey