Thursday, August 29, 2013

Union City pays $80,000 to settle police assault case

On October 10, 2012, the City of Union City (Hudson County) agreed to pay $80,000 to a man who sued members of the Union City Police Department for allegedly assaulting him after taking him into custody for violating the City's curfew ordinance.

In his suit, Diego Diaz, through his mother, Maria Lopez, said that at 3:43 a.m. on February 6, 2010, while he was 15 years old, he was taken into custody by Union City Police for violating the municipal juvenile curfew ordinance.  He claimed that while in custody, he "engaged in a verbal altercation with Officer Corey Corbo which resulted in Corbo assaulting him.  He also claimed that Officer David Chasmer assisted Corbo in the assault.

The case is captioned Diaz v. Union City, Federal Case No. 11-2365 and Diaz's attorney was Nathaniel M. Davis of Newark.  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 Diaz's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $80,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Union City or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Union City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Diaz $80,000 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.