Saturday, August 31, 2013

Seaside Heights pays $25,000 to settle police assault suit

On July 1, 2013, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a Toms River man who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for assaulting him. 

In his suit, Garyvens Joseph said that on September 19, 2010, he was at a boardwalk amusement park eating ice cream with his son and waiting for his fiance when a woman accused him of "looking at her friend." After denying that he was looking at her friend, he claimed he walked away and put his son on an amusement ride.

Afterwards, Patrolmen Joseph Provaznik and Matthew Meyler allegedly approached him and asked him to leave the park.  When he told the officers that he could not leave the park while his son was still on the ride, the two officers allegedly assaulted him, called him a f***ing n***er and arrested him for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Also named in the suit were Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd, Detective Stephen Korman, Lieutenant Jon Lombardi and Sergeant James Hans.

The case is captioned Joseph v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 3:11-cv-01599 Joseph's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Joseph's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Heights or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Heights or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Joseph $25,000 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.

Seaside Heights pays $20,000 to settle police assault suit

On July 1, 2013, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $20,000 to a Toms River man who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for assaulting him. 

In his suit, James Monahan said that on January 7, 2012, he was arrested at the Bamboo Bar and then taken to the Seaside Heights Police Department where he assaulted with excessive force and without justification Patrolmen Ryan Dunne and Brian McLaughlin.

Also named in the suit were Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd, Detective Stephen Korman and Sergeants James Hans and Richard Roemmele.

The case is captioned Monahan v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-04699 Monahan's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Monahan's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $20,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Heights or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Heights or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Monahan $20,000 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.

Seaside Heights pays $25,000 to settle police assault suit

On July 15, 2013, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a Bronx, New York who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for assaulting him. 

In his suit, Edward Clark said that on May 29, 2011, he was assaulted with excessive force and without justification at the Seaside Heights Police Department by Sergeant Richard Roemmele and Patrolman William Isetts. 

Also named in the suit were Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd, Detective Stephen Korman and Sergeant James Hans.

The case is captioned Clark v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 3:12-cv-03760 Clark's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Clark's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Heights or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Heights or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Clark $25,000 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.

Seaside Heights pays $25,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On July 2, 2013, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a Howell woman who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for assaulting her, taunting her and spraying her with OC spray. 

In her suit, Sabrina Jarmolinski said that on August 14, 2011, she was sitting on a boardwalk bench with four friends when she encountered Patrolman Justin Heffernan.  She claims that Heffernan cursed and screamed at her and her friends, telling them that they have to "f***ing leave" or that they would be "f***ing arrested."  When Jarmolinski informed Heffernan that she was a Criminal Justice major and wanted to know why Heffernan was cursing at her and her friends, Heffernan allegedly grabbed her by the neck, threw her down and put his knee into her back.  Jarmolinski claimed that Heffernan then sprayed her with OC spray while she was on the ground and in handcuffs and whispered in her ear "How does that feel, Criminal Justice major?"

Also named in the suit were Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd, Detective Stephen Korman and Sergeants James Hans and Richard Roemmele and Patrolman John Roth.

The case is captioned Jarmolinski v. Seaside Heights, 3:12-cv-05529 and Jarmolinski's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Jarmolinski's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Heights or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Heights or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Jarmolinski $25,000 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.

Seaside Heights pays $25,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On April 18, 2013, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a Bayville man who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for assaulting and applying excessive force upon him.

In his suit, Dennis Clay said that on July 18, 2009, he was walking to his car when "assaulted" by Seaside Heights Sergeant Richard Roemmele and Patrolmen Joseph Regan, John Clarizio, Richard Sasso and [no first name given] Bellavance. While being transported in a police van, Clay claims that the driver purposefully applied the brakes causing "his body to hit the interior of the vehicle."

Also named in the suit were Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd, Detective Stephen Korman and Sergeant James Hans.

The case is captioned Clay v. Seaside Heights, 3:11-cv-00924 and Clay's attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  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 Clay's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Seaside Heights or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Seaside Heights or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Clay $25,000 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.

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.

Greystone Hospital pays $425,000 to settle patient's claim that she was violently assaulted by another patient.

On July 16, 2013, the State of New Jersey, on behalf of Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, agreed to pay $425,000 to a Lake Hopatcong woman who claimed that she was brutally assaulted during her involuntary commitment there.

In her suit, Desiree Torusio, who was formerly known as Desiree Lines, said that on December 18, 2008, a court declared her a danger to herself and others and committed her to Greystone.  She alleges that in January 2009, she was placed in a a unit with Horace White, who had a "history of violent criminal activity, including armed robbery, aggravated assault of a police officer, and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes." 

According to the suit, White was a Krol patient, i.e. one who was acquitted of criminal offenses by reason of insanity and deemed a danger to themselves or others.  His propensity toward violence was allegedly well known to Greystone's staff and Torusio claimed that White, who is African-American, used to walk up and down the hallway screaming that he was "going to kill all white people" and that "all white women are bitches who should be raped and killed." 

Prior to the assault, Torusio claimed that she told hospital staff that she was afraid of White and that she and fellow patients submitted a petition seeking to have White transferred. Despite these efforts, hospital staff allegedly told Torusio to "stay away from White" but they did put White under closer supervision.

On February 5, 2009, White was supposed to be under "one-to-one arm's length monitoring" by staff member Linda Wright who, according to the suit, had previously been suspended for five days without pay "for abandoning a one-to-one monitoring assignment in 2008."  Wright allegedly left White unmonitored in the cafeteria while she took a personal call on her cell phone.  During Wright's absence, White, who is 100 pounds heavier and foot taller than Torusio, allegedly started an incident with her that resulted in him punching her in the face and head "causing multiple fractures and other severe damage to the right side of her face and to her right eye."  Torusio claimed that she was hospitalized for four days and underwent a six hours trauma surgery.

After her release from the hospital, Torusio said that she was, over her objections, placed back in the same unit as White.  There, she was allegedly taunted and harassed by the other patients and White reportedly threatened "Keep it up and I'll get the other eye."  She claimed that her injuries caused her to undergo four reconstructive and rehabilitative surgeries on her eye and face.

Linda Wright was named in the suit along with Greystone Executive Officer Janet Monroe, Clinical Psychologist Denise Paulson and Olufunmila Ojediran, the Section Chief who directly supervised Wright.

The case is captioned Torusio v. Monroe, et al, Federal Case No. 2:11-cv-00452 and Torusio's attorneys were Paul G. Hunczak, Todd M. Hooker and Douglas C. Gray of Newton.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Torusio's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $425,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Greystone or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Greystone or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Torusio $425,000 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, August 26, 2013

Denville pays $400,000 to settle police fatal shooting suit

On June 10, 2013, the Township of Denville (Morris County) agreed to pay $400,000 to the estate of a 21-year-old man who was fatally shot in 2008 by Township police.

In its suit, the Estate of Reuben W. Martinez, II claimed that Martinez was pulled over for speeding by Patrolmen Richard Byrne and Daniel Fernandez on June 26, 2008.  Byrne allegedly jumped into the passenger seat of Martinez's car with his weapon drawn after Martinez refused to obey verbal commands.  At the same time, Fernandez allegedly grabbed Martinez's head through the driver window and "bashed it repeatedly on the door frame."  This caused Martinez to put the car in gear and drive away while Byrne was still in the car.  According to the lawsuit, "[u]ltimately Officer Byrne shot plaintiff's decedent Martinez multiple times after Martinez failed to stop the car."

Also named in the suit were Denville Police Chief Christopher Wagner.

The case is captioned Miles v. Denville, Federal Case No. 2:10-cv-0310 and Martinez's attorney was Shelley L. Stangler of Springfield.  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 Martinez's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $400,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Denville or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Denville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Martinez $400,000 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.

Union City pays $25,000 to settle police false arrest suit

On October 30, 2012, the City of Union City (Hudson County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a local man who sued members of the Union City Police Department for arresting him for drunk driving despite there being no evidence that he was driving.

In his suit, Estaban Castro said that on November 9, 2009, after having an argument with his girlfriend, he went outside to sit in his car "to defuse the situation."  He alleged that after having slept in his car for two and a half hours, he was awoken by Union City Police who arrested him for drunk driving despite Castro's explanation that he had not driven the car.

Castro's suit alleged that the Union City Police are not adequately trained to conduct drunk driving investigations, and that this lack of training resulted in his false arrest.

The case is captioned Castro v. Union City, Federal Case No. 2:09-cv-06176 and Castro's attorney was Louis A. Zayas 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 Castro's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $25,000 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 Castro $25,000 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.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gloucester Township pays $167,765.38 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On July 12, 2013, the Township of Gloucester (Camden County) agreed to pay $167,765.38 to two roommates who sued members of the Gloucester Township Police Department for allegedly entering their home without a warrant, falsely charging and beating them.

In their suit, Marc Pizzo and Jamie Slimm said that on October 17, 2010, Slimm had called the Gloucester Township Police Department's non-emergency number to make an inquiry "regarding Pizzo including but not limited to the status of a past citation."  This call allegedly caused Sergeant Mark Benton and Police Officers Dwayne Pietzsch and Paul Bertini to respond. 

Upon arrival, the officers allegedly demanded entry and broke down the front door after Slimm had told them that they were not needed and while she was on the telephone with an attorney.  Slimm alleges that the police officers ordered her to lie on the floor where they "used unnecessary force against her" and charged her with "false and unsustainable criminal charges."  Pizzo claims that the officers "repeatedly and aggressively struck [him] with their legs and arms" and carried him out of the home handcuffed "while he could barely walk and was going in and out of consciousness."

Of the settlement amount, Slimm received $10,000 and Pizzo received $62,234.62 with the remainder going to their attorney.

The cases are captioned Pizzo v. Gloucester and Slimm v. Gloucester, Federal Case Nos. 1:11-cv-00673 and 1:11-cv-06207 and Pizzo and Slimm's attorney was Ari R. Karpf of Bensalem, PA. 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 Pizzo's or Slimm's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $167,765.38 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Gloucester or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Gloucester or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Pizzo and Slimm $167,765.38 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.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bayonne pays $16,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On July 30, 2012, the City of Bayonne (Hudson County) agreed to pay $16,000 to a couple who sued a Bayonne Police Detective for allegedly beating the husband and arresting him without probable cause.

In their suit, Stan and Barbara Kabrt said that on December 17, 2008, Barbara was involved in an automobile accident with the wife of Hoboken Police Detective David Macri.  According to the complaint, Macri's wife summoned Macri to the accident scene at which time Detective Macri "became agitated" and arrested Stan "for a disorderly persons offense and resisting arrest."  Macri allegedly "slammed [Stan's] head into the police vehicle."  The couple claims that Stan, who "is partially disabled on the left side of his body" suffered injury and was found not guilty on all charges.

The case is captioned Kabrt v. Bayonne, Federal Case No. 2:11-cv-02849 and the Kabrts' attorney was Karen F. DeSoto of Pluckamin.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of the Kabrts' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $16,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Bayonne or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Bayonne or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Kabrts $16,000 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.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Paterson pays $200,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On July 9, 2013, the City of Paterson (Passaic County) agreed to pay $200,000 to a local woman who sued members of the Paterson Police Department for allegedly beating her and arresting her without probable cause.

In her suit, Linette Vazquez said that in the early morning hours of March 15, 2011 she and three friends were at the Egg Platter Diner when Paterson Police Officers Andre Jackson, Michael Avila and Michael Mezey were sitting in the next booth. She claims that even though she did nothing to provoke them, the officers "began slurring sexually explicit, degrading, and sexist epithets" as well as "profane, abusive, and threatening language" toward her. 

According to the lawsuit, Officer Juan C. Rodriguez came to the diner and threatened to arrest Vazquez without reason.  She claims that she was ultimately arrested "without probable cause" and, which at the police station, "was repeatedly struck, beaten and choked" by Officer Avila.

Also named in the suit were Paterson Police Chief James F. Wittig and Sergeant A. Grovato.

The case is captioned Vazquez v. Paterson, Federal Case No. 13-433 (WJH) and Vazquez's attorney was Nancy E. Lucianna of Fort Lee.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Vazquez's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $200,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Paterson or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Paterson or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Vazquez $200,000 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. Ther is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.

Cumberland County pays $650,000 to settle inmate beating death suit

On July 11, 2013, the County of Cumberland agreed to pay $650,000 to the estate and heirs of a Vineland man who the heirs claim was beaten to death in the Cumberland County Jail on January 1, 2008.

In its suit, the Estate of Steven Charles Bell said that on December 31, 2007 Bell was arrested after an "apparent domestic altercation."  According to the complaint, he was "alive and healthy" when admitted to the jail but was found "unconcious and unresponsive" in his cell at about 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 1, 2008.  The estate claims that he "had severe head injuries consistent with being viciously and brutally beaten."

The estate claims that prison officials "unreasonably delayed in calling 911" and that when paramedics finally arrived, Bell "was near death."  He died in a hospital on January 10, 2008.  According to the suit, the Medical Examiner determined his death to be a homicide.

Also named in the suit was CFG Health Systems, LLC, jail warden Glenn Saunders and jail official Kenneth Lamcken.

The case is captioned Bell v. Cumberland County, Federal Case No. 1:09-cv-0648 and the estate's attorney was Nancy J. Winkler of Cherry Hill.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of the estate's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $650,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Cumberland or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Cumberland or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the estate $650,000 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.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lavallette pays $7,500 to settle police false arrest suit

On June 7, 2012, the Borough of Lavallette (Ocean County) agreed to pay $7,500 to a Chester husband and wife who sued members of the Lavallette Police Department for allegedly arresting the husband without probable cause.

In their suit, Michael and Ann Cotalo said that Michael was "accosted" by Lavallette Police Sergeant Jon Andrews and Officer Russell Charles on July 25, 2009.  He claims that the officers arrested him without probable cause.  The apparent charge against Cotalo was under the Borough's "Loud and Unusual Noise" ordinance, which Cotalo claimed was unconstitutional.  The couple also alleged that Andrews and Charles seized a juvenile who was staying with them without probable cause.

The case is captioned Cotalo v. Lavallette, Federal Case No. 11-cv-3449 and Cotalo's attorney was Craig V. O'Connor of Morristown.  Case documents are on-line here

None of the Cotalos' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $7,500 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Lavallette or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Lavallette or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Cotalos $7,500 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.