Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cumberland Salem Conservation District pays $10,000 to settle employee's defamation and improper termination suit

On October 12, 2011, the Cumberland Salem Conservation District, located in Upper Deerfield Township in Cumberland County, agreed to pay $10,000 to a former employee who sued the District claiming that the District's Director defamed her and that the District fired her .

In her suit, Bridgeton resident Lisa Carll claimed that she was a 17 year employee who performed administrative work for the  Conservation District.  After her hours were cut back, she applied for partial unemployment benefits.  While receiving the benefits, she claims to have noticed that they were "inconsistent and inaccurate with respect to holidays and vacation days" so she deposited what she felt may have been overpayments "into a savings account and waited for the Division of Unemployment Compensation to correct any overpayment."

In November 2009, Carll claims that she was confronted by Conversation District Director Garry Timberman, who allegedly "accused [Carll] of improperly seeking unemployment benefits for her own benefit and use."  Thereafter, Carll claims to have contacted the Division of Unemployment Compensation, confirmed that she had been overpaid and then paid the overpaid amounts back to the Division.

Carll alleges that Timberman, despite knowing that the overpaid benefits were paid back, "published defamatory remarks accusing [her] of misappropriation or theft."  Based on Timberman's remarked, Carll claims that she was summoned into the District's January 26, 2010 executive session, without proper notice, and "summarily fired."

The case is captioned Carll v. Cumberland Salem Conservation District, Cumberland County Superior Court Docket No. L-67-11 and Carll's attorney was Theodore E. Baker of Bridgeton.  Case documents are on-line here

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Carll's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $10,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Conservation District or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Cumberland Salem or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Carll $10,000 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.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vineland pays $375,000 to settle employment discrimination suit.

On March 16, 2011, the City of Vineland (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $375,000 to a City employee who claimed that he was not transferred to a job he was able to perform.

In his suit, Ryan M. Asselta, who had been employed by the City's Electric Utilities Department since 1988, claims to have suffered a serious work-related spinal injury on March 2, 2005.  After about a year of recovery, Asselta said that he sought to return to work for the City in a different capacity since he was no longer able to work at his former job--an electrical lineman.  He claims that despite the availability of meter reading job, he was not given that job even though he was medically fit to perform it.  In addition to his discrimination claims, Asselta claimed that the City's refusal to re-hire him was in retaliation for him having filed Workers Compensation claims.

The settlement agreement requires Asselta to agree not to ever again seek employment from the City of Vineland.

The case is captioned Asselta v. Vineland, Cumberland County Superior Court Docket No. L-294-07 and Asselta's attorney was Christine P. O'Hearn of Westmont.  Case documents are on-line here.

The settlement agreement contains a confidentiality clause, which prevents the parties to the suit from publicly disclosing the settlement terms.  Fortunately, however, these confidentiality clauses do not trump the public's right to obtain copies of settlement agreements that arise out of lawsuits in which a government agency or official is a defendant.

None of Asselta's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $375,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Vineland or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Vineland or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Asselta $375,000 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.

Bridgeton Board of Education pays $75,000 to settle lawsuit alleging racist, sexually harassing comments.

On January 20, 2012, the Bridgeton Board of Education (Cumberland County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a former Bridgeton school guidance counselor who claimed that her supervisor, Robert Cwik, sexually harassed and racially discriminated against her.  She also claimed that school principal Lynn Williams ignored her complaints about Cwik's alleged conduct.

In her suit, Angela Combs made some very specific and graphic allegations regarding Cwik's conduct and comments.  Those who will not be offended by these allegations are invited to read them in paragraph 23 of Comb's complaint, which is on-line at the link below.

The case is captioned Combs v. Bridgeton Board of Education, Cumberland County Superior Court Docket No. L-1069-08.  Combs' attorney was Kevin M. Costello of Cherry Hill.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Combs' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $75,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bridgeton Board of Education or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bridgeton Board of Education or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Combs $75,000 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.

Monday, June 25, 2012

State pays $1.5 million to settle Bayside Prison inmate lawsuit

Update/Correction: According to the Division of Law Records Custodian: "Settlement was between the plaintiff and a private entity and as part of the settlement all claims against the State of NJ were dismissed as per order above."
On June 22, 2012, the State of New Jersey agreed to pay $1.5 million to an inmate who claimed that he was severely beaten by correction officials at the Bayside State Prison and received insufficient medical attention at both Bayside and South Woods State Prison.  Both prisons are located in Cumberland County, New Jersey.

In his suit, Lewis Williford, who brought his suit through legal guardian Wanda Brigmon of Voorhees, said that on May 2, 2005, prison guards entered his cell and "slammed his head against the wall and beat him."  He claims that beating was "performed, orchestrated, condoned, planned and/or directed" by correctional officials John Clendaniel, Gary Sheppard, Clyde Koerner and Michael Bryan and was in retaliation for an administrative complaint that Williford filed against Clendaniel. 

He further claims that despite his head trauma, Dr. Vitaly G. Steinberg, Registered Nurse Claire Cantrell and Licensed Practical Nurse Beverly Timmons, who provided medical services at Bayside, failed to properly diagnose or treat him. 

Williford claims that he was transferred to South Woods the day after his attack and the medical staff there, consisting of Marci L. MacKenzie, Ph.D., Kevin Frank, R.N., Stephanie Kudla, R.N., Elvira Maldonado, L.P.N., Sharon Akey, R.N., Fran Green, N.P.C., Diane M. Hollenbeck, R.N., Abu Ahsan, M.D., Michele McAdams, R.N. and Narrissa Pierce, R.N., similarly failed to properly diagnose or treat his injuries.

Williford claims that the alleged beating, together with the alleged failure to diagnose and treat his injuries, caused him to suffer a hemorrhagic stroke on May 20, 2005, which left him incapacitated and "unable to ambulate himself, feed himself, dress himself or take care of his bodily functions."  He is allegedly left with a "feeding tube to provide him with nourishment" and is unable to speak or "comprehend anything beyond basic instructions."

The case is captioned Williford v. Bayside State Prison, Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-509-07 Williford's attorneys were Jonathan M. Cohen and James Waldenberger of Philadelphia. Case documents are on-line here.

None of Williford's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Since the case settled, nothing in the record constitutes an admission of wrongdoing by State or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that State or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Williford $1.5 million 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.