Friday, May 15, 2015

Westville quietly pays $180,000 to settle suit by woman who claimed she was forced to pee on cell floor in front of male officers.

On March 29, 2015 the Borough of Westville (Gloucester County) agreed to pay $180,000 to a Brooklawn woman who sued members a Westville Police Department for allegedly forcing her to pee on the floor of her jail cell in full view of male police officers.

In her suit, Rosa Badalamenti said that on March 20, 2010, Officer Michael Denick arrested her at Schileen's Pub on Delsea Drive.  She claimed that although she didn't resist, Denick applied excessive force during the arrest "causing marks and bruising on her chest and arms and wrists."  Denick took Badalamenti to the Westville police station and handcuffed her to a bench inside of a locked jail cell.  After she had been processed and was waiting for a friend to take her home, Badalamenti told Denick "of her urgent need to urinate and requested access to a bathroom."  There was no toilet facility or even a drain in Badalamenti's cell.  Badalamenti alleged that "Denick instructed her to urinate on the floor of her jail cell."  When she protested, Denick allegedly repeated his instruction.   Badalamenti claimed that "due to the excessive painful urgency and pressure" she "unfasten[ed] and lower[ed] her jeans and undergarments, in full view of other individuals and male police officers in the police department station, to squat, while handcuffed to the bench, and urinate on the floor of the jail cell."  She said that she was "unable to avoid soiling her person and clothing with urine."

The case is captioned Badalamenti v. Westville, Federal Case No. 1:11-cv-04399 and Badalamenti's attorney was Stephen R. Dumser of Mount Laurel.  Case documents are on-line here. Also named in the settlement was John Grady.

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 Badalamenti's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $180,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Westville or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Westville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Badalamenti $180,000 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.