Thursday, August 23, 2012

Little Egg Harbor pays $15,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On June 15, 2012, the Township of Little Egg Harbor (Ocean County) agreed to pay $15,000 to a diabetic heart transplant patient who sued members of the Township's Police Department for allegedly forcefully throwing him on the ground and putting handcuffs on him too tightly.

In his suit, Ciro Esposito said that he was in a local Rite Aid Pharmacy on December 28, 2007 to pick up a prescription.  A dispute arose between the pharmacist and Esposito and Esposito "insisted that the pharmacist call the police."  Officers Eric Nelson and Kevin Hogan, who allegedly knew of Esposito's medical condition, arrived at the scene and allegedly "forcibly grabbed [Esposito] by the arm and roughly escorted him out of the premises" where Esposito claims that the officers "threw him to the ground in an excessively forceful manner, striking his face on the floor."  He said that the officers handcuffed him "with such force that his arms and wrists were bruised."  Also named in the suit were Little Egg Harbor Police Chief Mark Siino.

The case is captioned Esposito v. Little Egg Harbor, Federal Case No. 3:08-cv-03725 and Esposito's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Esposito's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $15,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Little Egg Harbor or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Little Egg Harbor or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Esposito $15,000 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.