Friday, December 5, 2014

Freehold secretly pays $7,500 to settle police negligent arrest case.

On October 10, 2014, the Borough of Freehold (Monmouth County) agreed to pay $7,500 to a Trenton man who sued members of the Freehold Police Department for allegedly not taking his disability into account when arresting him.

In his suit, Jerome White said that he had called 911 on July 8, 2010 to report a dispute he was having with a clerk at a check cashing store.  The police officer who took White's call, who White said was informed that he was wheelchair bound, ran a check on him and learned that he had warrants out for his arrest.  When Officers Eduardo Santana, Sean Healy and and Christopher Colaner came to arrest White, he claims that they did so in an "unreasonable manner."  Despite being allegedly aware of his disability, the officer allegedly forced him out of a vehicle in which he was sitting causing him to fall to the pavement.  The officers were then allegedly "verbally abusive" to him as he lay on the pavement.

Also named in the suit were Freehold Police Chief Mitch Roth.

The case is captioned White v. Freehold, Federal Case No. 11-cv-00722 and White's attorney was Jonathan D. Singer 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 White's 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 Freehold or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Freehold or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay White $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.