Friday, May 23, 2014

Collingswood and Woodlynne pay $15,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On May 5, 2014, the Boroughs of Collingswood and Woodlynne (Camden County) agreed to pay $15,000 to a Woodlynne man who sued members of the Collingswood Police Department for allegedly assaulting and arresting him without probable cause.

In his suit, Earl Whaley said that on August 25, 2008, he was playing cards with his friends on his front porch in Woodlynne.  He claimed that even though he was creating no disturbance, Police Officer Brian Eidmann falsely stated that a neighbor had filed a noise complaint and told Whaley and his friends to "keep it down."  Whaley claimed that when he "voiced his objections forcefully and with occasional profane word" Eidmann "barged through the closed screen door and onto the screened in porch" and "ripped the chair out from under [Whaley] and then struck him one or more times about the face."  Whaley said he was arrested for disorderly conduct but was later acquitted.

It appears from the lawsuit that Woodlynne contracts its police services out to Collingswood Borough.

The case is captioned Whaley v. Collingswood, Federal Case No. 1:10-cv-04343 and Whaley's attorney was Justin T. Loughry of Camden.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Whaley's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $15,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Collingswood, Woodlynne or any of their officials. All that is known for sure is that Collingswood, Woodlynne or their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Whaley $15,000 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.