Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hoboken pays $7,500 to settle police abuse suit

On March 9, 2010, the City of Hoboken (Hudson County) agreed to pay $7,500 to a Hoboken man who sued members of the Hoboken Police Department for allegedly verbally and physically abusing him.

In his suit, Jaime Figueroa said that when he visited the police station for some information on September 27, 2005, Sergeants Michael Costello and Dennis Figueroa were present. Figueroa objected after one of the officers allegedly "talked down" to him, resulting in the officer allegedly telling Figueroa to "get the F--- out of here."

Figueroa claims to have gone to City Hall to complain about the incident but was told to go back to the police station. When he returned to the police station, Sergeant Figueroa allegedly threatened to assault him. He also claimed that Sergeant Costello grabbed him, drug him to the door and "proceeded to throw [him] down three steps in front of the police department." Figueroa further claimed that no charged were filed against him as a result of the September 27, 2005 visit and that the encounter aggravated his pre-existing neck and back injuries.

The case is captioned Figueroa v. Hoboken, Federal Case No. 2:07-cv-04579 and Figueroa's attorney was Steven V. Schuster of Hackensack. Case documents are on-line here.

None of Figueroa's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $7,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Hoboken or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Hoboken or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Figueroa $7,500 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' 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 the defendants 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.