Tuesday, July 9, 2013

High Bridge pays $81,250 to settle police excessive force suit

On October 28, 2011, the Borough of High Bridge (Hunterdon County) agreed to pay $81,250 to a local woman who sued an officer of the High Bridge Police Department for allegedly applying excessive for upon her.

In her suit, Barbara L. Drake of Sunset Drive said that on August 30, 2006, she received a knock on her door by Police Officer Jeffrey P. Andruczyk who was dispatched to investigate a pile of brush at the end of her driveway.  After explaining to Andruczyk that the pile would be removed the next day, Drake alleged that Andruczyk became increasing angry with her, intimidated her into allowing him into her house, demanded identification and then arrested her for obstruction of justice and resisting arrest.  During the arrest, Andruczyk allegedly roughed up Drake and "slammed her head several times against the [kitchen] countertop."  She further alleged that High Bridge Police Chief Edward K. Spinks arrived at the scene but did nothing to intervene.  According to the lawsuit, Drake was ultimately acquitted of all charges.

The case is captioned Drake v. Andruczyk, Federal Case No. 3:08-cv-04249 and Drake's attorney was Timothy J. Jaeger of Somerville.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Drake's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $81,250 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by High Bridge or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that High Bridge or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Drake $81,250 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.