Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Atlantic City pays $30,000 to settle Moose Lodge bartender's police K-9 attack suit.

On October 16, 2015, the City of Atlantic City (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $30,000 to a Moose Lodge bartender who said that police wrongfully sicced a K-9 on her while she was sleeping in the lodge's banquet room.

In her suit, Kimberly Sharp claimed that after working the evening shift at the Moose Lodge on November 16, 2012, she decided to get some sleep on a table in the Lodge's banquet room. Sharp said that she did this because her home had suffered damage from Superstorm Sandy and didn't have heat or other utilities.

In the early morning hours of November 17, 2012, Police Officer Garry Stowe allegedly sicced his K-9 partner on Sharp as she was sleeping "tearing the flesh, muscles, ligaments and tendons, and severing the nerves and thereby causing severe and permanent injuries."

After a Moose Lodge supervisor told Stow that Sharp was not a trespasser, Stowe opted to file a criminal trespassing charge against Sharp as well as a charge for resisting arrest.  Sharp, who claimed that all charges were ultimately dismissed against her, said that Stowe brought the charges as "a subterfuge to conceal his use of indiscriminate, unnecessary and excessive use of force upon [Sharp]."

This is at least the third settlement involving Officer Stowe.  See the NJ Civil Settlements articles regarding a $160,000 payout on May 15, 2013 and one for $200,000 on April 30, 2014.

The case is captioned Sharp v. Atlantic City City, Federal Case No. 1:14-cv-04256 and Sharp's attorney was John F. X. Fenerty of Haddonfield.  The complaint and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Sharp's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $30,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Atlantic City or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that Atlantic City or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Sharp $30,000 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.