Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Burlington pays $3,500 to settle police false arrest suit

On January 2, 2010, the Township of Burlington (Burlington County) agreed to pay $3,500 to a Township man who sued members of the Burlington Police Department and WalMart for an alleged false arrest.

In his suit, Robert E. Willitts said that on April 22, 2008, he was shopping at the WalMart at 2106 Mt.Holly Road in Burlington Township. He said that he was falsely arrested by store security guards Robert Lawrie and Matthew Wyatt and Burlington Township Police Officers Mark S. Corandan and Adam Worrell. He claims to have been handcuffed, placed in a squad car and taken to the police station where he was fingerprinted and photographed. The period of detention allegedly was four to five hours. Willitts alleges that all the charges against him were later dismissed.

It is unknown whether WalMart and its security officers paid additional settlement sums to Willitts.

The case is captioned Willitts v. Burlington Township, Federal Case No. 1:09-cv-05438 and Willitts's attorney was James Logan, Jr. of Mount Holly. Case documents are on-line here.

None of Willitts's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $3,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Burlington or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Burlington or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Willitts $3,500 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.