Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ocean City pays $150,000 to settle police assault/excessive force suit

On December 31, 2014, the City of Ocean City (Cape May County) agreed to pay $150,000 to a local woman who sued the Ocean City Police Department and one of its officers for allegedly assaulting her without justification.

In her suit, Monica Raab said that on May 11, 2010, she observed Ocean City Police Officer Jessie Scott Ruch in front of her home looking at a garden trailer that was parked there.  She said that when she went outside to inquire as to what Ruch was doing, he told her that he "getting rid of the trash on the street," referring to the trailer, which had been parked there for about a month.  The trailer was owned by Raab's brother-in-law who lived about two blocks away. When Ruch said that he intended to tow the trailer, Raab, her daughter and another person offered to put it in Raab's driveway and, by pushing, got it over the curb and into her driveway.

Raab claimed that Ruch then pushed her to the ground without provocation and handcuffed her, injuring her in the process.  He allegedly also "continued to pull and twist [her] right arm over and over again causing her to repeatedly hit her head on the pavement." Ruch also allegedly pushed Raab's daughter into the bushes.

Raab's suit claimed that a second officer named Campbell then arrived and ordered Ruch to take the handcuffs off of her.  Ruch complied and Raab claims that she was not charged with any crime arising from the incident.

The case is captioned Raab v. Ocean City, Federal Case No. 1:11-cv-06818 and Raab's attorney was Paul R. Rizzo of Warren.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Raab's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $150,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Ocean City or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Ocean City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Raab $150,000 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.