Monday, November 30, 2009

West Deptford Township pays $24,000 to woman who claims police used excessive force

On October 26, 2009, Andrea Damiani of Wenonah, New Jersey, accepted $24,000 as full settlement of her excessive force claim against the Township of West Deptford, the City of Woodbury (both in Gloucester County) and members of their municipal police departments. The entire $24,000 was paid by West Deptford and nothing was paid by Woodbury.

Damiani's civil lawsuit, filed August 14, 2008, arose out an August 12, 2005 traffic stop that occurred while Damiani was travelling south on Route 45 in West Deptford Township. She claims that during the stop, West Deptford Police Corporal Stephen Meduri and Officers Michael S. Franks and Michael Cramer, along with Woodbury Police Officer William Palese, using "grossly excessive, unnecessary force" pulled her out of her vehicle cause "serious injury" to her left wrist as well as emotional distress.

The case is captioned Damiani v. West Deptford et al, Case No. 01:07-cv-02884-JEI-AMD. Damiani's lawyers were Randy P. Catalano and F. Michael Daily, Jr. both of Westmont. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Damiani's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $24,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by either the Township or any of the police officers. All that is known for sure is that West Deptford and its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Damiani and her lawyers $24,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps West Deptford'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 West Deptford 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.