Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Merchantville pays $11,000 to settle suit alleging illegal MV stop

On May 11, 2011, the Borough of Merchantville (Camden County) agreed to pay $11,000 to a Pennsauken man who sued members of the Merchantville Police Department for allegedly stopping his vehicle and arresting him for Driving While Intoxicated without probable cause.

In his suit, Alan Donia said that on September 23, 2007, he was stopped in Pennsauken by Merchantville Police Sergeant Jeffrey Brocious, Sergeant Michael Reilly and Officer Matthew Rull and arrested for drunk driving, refusing to submit to a breath test and careless driving. After being convicted in municipal court, Donia claimed that Superior Court Judge William J. Cook reversed his conviction, finding that "there was no probable cause for the police to stop Alan Donia's vehicle and arrest him."

The case is captioned Donia v. Merchantville, Superior Court Docket No. CAM-L-2623-09 and Donia's attorney was Kimberly Stuart Kluchnick of Cherry Hill. Case documents are on-line here.

None of Donia's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $11,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Merchantville or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Merchantville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Donia $11,000 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.