Friday, October 30, 2009

Manchester pays $10,000 to settle malicious prosecution suit

On August 18, 2009, James Wall of Jackson, New Jersey, accepted $10,000 in settlement of his malicious prosecution lawsuit against the Township of Manchester (Ocean County), its Mayor and Zoning Officer.

In his suit, which was filed on June 5, 2008, Wall alleged that Manchester Zoning Officer Donald Cain, with an improper motivation, issued sixty-seven zoning citations against him during a nine-month period in 2006 and 2007.  Of the sixty-seven complaints, all of which regarded Wall's property at 3051 Highway 547, Wall claims that six resulted in administrative dismissals by the prosecutor, sixty were dismissed by the court and one resulted in a negotiated plea agreement.

Wall alleged that the ticket writing blitz was a "common scheme" developed by Cain and Manchester Mayor Michael Fressola "to harass [Wall] and constituted "an orchestrated attempt to force [Wall] to sell [his] property to a neighboring property owner."

The case is captioned Wall v. Manchester Township, Case No. 3:08-cv-02801-AET-TJB . Wall's lawyer was Tennant D. Magee, Sr. of Brielle. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Wall's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $10,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Township or any of its officers. All that is known for sure is that Manchester, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Wall and his lawyer $10,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Manchester'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 the claims were true and Manchester 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.