Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NJ Department of Human Services pays $10,000 to settle whistleblower suit

On January 31, 2012, the New Jersey Department of Human Services agreed to pay $10,000 to a Millville woman who sued the Vineland Developmental Center for allegedly retaliating against her after she reported "patient abuse and neglect."

In her suit, Yolanda Howard said that during 2009, she reported various rule infractions to her supervisors.  Her reporting, she claims, resulted in "a barrage of retaliatory and harassing actions [including] a brief period of unemployment from March 6, 2009 through April 11, 2009."

The case is captioned Howard v. State of New Jersey, Cumberland County Superior Court Docket No. CUM-L-256-10 and Howard's attorney was Alan J. Cohen of Northfield.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Howard'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 Human Services or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Human Services or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Howard $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.