Friday, October 3, 2014

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

On August 4, 2014, the Borough of Seaside Heights (Ocean County) agreed to pay $25,000 to a Voorhees woman who sued members of the Seaside Heights Police Department for allegedly assaulting her and applying excessive force.

In her suit, Nicole A. Lamb said that on August 5, 2012, she and her family were in a parking lot loading thier car after a visit to Seaside Heights.  A woman whose car Lamb apparently scratched confronted her which led to a physical altercation between the two women.  When Officers Erik Hershey and Daniel Bloomquist arrived on scene, they allegedly "assaulted her without justification and with excessive force" and brought her to the police station where she was charged with simple assault and resisting arrest.

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

The case is captioned Lamb v. Seaside Heights, Federal Case No. 3:13-ov-04715 and Lamb'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 Lamb'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 Lamb $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.