Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sussex County pays $25,830 to jail inmates who were "ankle deep" in sewage

On September 10, 2009, five men who were inmates in the Sussex County Jail accepted a total of $25,830 as full settlement of their lawsuit for damages resulting from raw sewage backing up into their cells. Of the sum, the inmates each received $3,340, for a total of $16,700, while the remainder went for their attorney's fee and other costs.

The backup, which occurred on June 12, 2005, entered into the cells of inmates Jeffrey Bissonnette, Matthew Everhart, Shawn Laverty, Thomas Piscotty and Jack Asencio, all of whom were being held in isolation in the jail's disciplinary unit. In their lawsuit, the men claimed that jail officials refused their requests to be removed from their cells and were forced to eat their meals there and to clean up the mess.  The backup was apparently caused by another inmate flushing a blanket down a toilet.

The case is captioned Everhart et al v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Sussex, Case No. 07-cv-02650-FSH . The inmates' lawyer was Damiano M. Fracasso of Mount Olive.  A June 12, 2007 news article regarding the lawsuit's filing and the settlement agreements are on-line here.

The settlement agreements require the inmates to keep the settlement terms "as confidential as possible under the circumstances."  Such confidentiality agreements, however, do not supersede the public's right to know under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

None of the mens' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $25,830 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the County or the its jail officials. All that is known for sure is that Sussex County, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay the men and their lawyer $25,830 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Sussex County'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 Sussex County 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.

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.

Seaside Park pays $225,000 to police abuse claimant

On September 16, 2009, Alexander Casey, who receives mail at a post office box in New Vernon, New Jersey, accepted $225,000 as full settlement of his excessive force claim against the Borough of Seaside Park (Ocean County) and several members of its police department.

Casey's civil lawsuit, filed in June 2007, arose out his encounter with Seaside Police Officers Christopher Bonner, Jillian Dworzanski, Michael Garvey, Matthew Brady, Christopher R. Graham, Joseph M. Luna, Ryan Jenkins and Rafiq Abdul-Ghafur during the early morning hours of June 10, 2005. 

Casey alleges that walked from the Terrace Motel to the beach across the street via the sand dunes and was approached by officers while lying on the beach.  He claims that Officer Abdul-Ghafur told him that he was under arrest and that he offered no resistance to the arrest. 

During his arrest, Casey claimed that the six officers verbally and physically abused him by punching and kicking him in the face and head, spraying him with OC spray, hitting him in the head with police batons, kicking sand in his eyes and rubbing his injured face in the sand and handcuffing him so tightly as to cause injury. 

Casey further alleged that after he arrived at the Seaside Park Police Headquarters, the six officers continued to spray him in face with OC spray while he was handcuffed in his cell and denied him medical treatment for his injuries. He claims that his injuries were so severe that the Ocean County Jail refused to admit him and required him to be transported to Community Medical Center for medical treatment.

The case is captioned Casey v. Borough of Seaside Park, Case No. 3:07-cv-02704-JAP-DEA . Casey's lawyer was Michael J. Fioretti of Bridgeton.. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Casey's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $225,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Borough of any of the police officers. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Park, and perhaps its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay Casey and his lawyer $225,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps Seaside Park'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 Seaside Park 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.