Friday, July 19, 2013

Ocean City pays $60,000 to settle police dog bite case.

On April 19, 2013, the City of Ocean City (Cape May County) agreed to pay $60,000 to a local man who sued members of the Ocean City Police Department for allegedly having a police dog unnecessarily bite him in the groin.

In his suit, Jeffrey Moyer said that on September 3, 2009, Sergeant John Mazzuca and Officer John Vogt brought their police canine, Deuce, to his home on a reported disturbance.  Moyer claimed that even though he had no weapons and was not acting in a violent or threatening manner, Deuce was turned loose on him and bit him in the groin causing "severe injury."

The case is captioned Moyer v. Ocean City, Cape May Superior Court Docket No. L-773-10 and Moyer's attorney was Joseph C. Grassi of Wildwood.  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 Moyer's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $60,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Ocean City or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Ocean City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Moyer $60,000 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.