Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Princeton pays $67,500 to woman denied access to toilet during traffic stop

On August 1, 2009, Princeton resident Linda Fahmie-Arnold accepted $67,500 in settlement of her lawsuit against Princeton Borough and the Borough's police department.

In her lawsuit, filed on August 13, 2008, Arnold alleged that she was "brutally treated" by Police Officer Adam Basatemur during an April 30, 2007 traffic stop on Route 206 South. She alleges that after being stopped, she told Basatemur that she "was having severe stomach cramps and that she needed to use a bathroom quickly and that she lived a short distance away." According to her complaint, Basatemur told her "on two separate occasions that if he had to use the bathroom that she should go behind a tree." Further, she alleges that "Basatemur humiliated, embarrassed and/or treated her inhumanely by watching her go to the bathroom in direct and clear violation of her federally and state protected constriction rights." She claimed that Basatemur issued her a motor vehicle ticket which was later dismissed.

According to the filed complaint, Police Chief Anthony V. Federico, after learning of the incident told Arnold that Basatemur's conduct was "inexcusable and unprofessional" and violated numerous police department rules. Arnold alleges that Basatemur was suspended for two months due to the incident.

The case is captioned Arnold v. Borough of Princeton, Case No. 3:08-cv-04125-MLC-TJB. Arnold's lawyer was Todd J. Leonard of Morristown. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Arnold's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Township or any of its officers. All that is known for sure is that Princeton, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Arnold and her lawyer $67,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Princeton'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 Princeton 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.