Monday, December 1, 2014

Perth Amboy secretly pays $70,000 to settle police false arrest/excessive force suit

On December 1, 2014, the City of Perth Amboy (Middlesex County) agreed to pay $70,000 to an Old Bridge woman who sued members of the Perth Amboy Police Department for allegedly arresting her without probable cause and with excessive force.

In her suit, Meredith G. Faltings said that on April 1, 2011, Officers Jesus Martinez and Nicholas Millroy assaulted her "without justification and with excessive force" during a domestic disturbance call.  She claimed that the charges against her for Obstructing the Administration of Law and Disorderly Conduct were later dismissed in municipal court.

Also named in the suit was Perth Amboy Police Chief Benjamin Ruiz.

The case is captioned Faltings v. Perth Amboy, Federal Case No. 2:13-cv-1976 and Faltings'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 Faltings's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $70,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Perth Amboy or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Perth Amboy or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Faltings $70,000 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.