Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Beachwood pays $75,000 to settle police excessive force suit

On September 22, 2011, the Borough of Beachwood (Ocean County) agreed to pay $75,000 to a local couple who sued members of the Beachwood Police Department for allegedly applying excessive force during a traffic stop.

In their suit, Kevin and Maria Chabot said that on August 26, 2007, their truck was pulled over by Patrolman Glen DeMarco.  DeMarco allegedly pushed and maced Kevin, with some of the mace getting in Marie's eyes.  At that point, Patrolmen Eric Harris and Sean Langan arrived on the scene and arrested Marie. The complaint alleged that Harris applied the handcuffs so tightly that they lacerated Marie's wrists.  The complaint further alleged that Harris and Langan hurt Marie's back when they pushed her into an ambulance.

Also named in the suit were Beachwood Police Chief William J. Cairns, Leetuenant Robert Tapp and Sergeants Kenneth Halucha, Bruce Harris and Jason Froberg.

The case is captioned Chabot v. Beachwood, Federal Case No. 09-cv-02991 and the Chabots' attorney was Thomas J. Mallon of Freehold.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of the Cabots' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $75,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Beachwood or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Beachwood or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the Cabots $75,000 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.