Thursday, February 18, 2016

Atlantic City confidentially pays $195,000 to resolve police excessive force lawsuit.

On December 23, 2015, the City of Atlantic City (Atlantic County) agreed to pay $195,000 to a man who claimed that police assaulted him in his motel room.

In his complaint, Tyler Graver said that on March 9, 2013, which attending a high school wrestling state tournment, he stayed at the Super 8 Motel near the Tropicana Casino.  He claimed that on that date Officer Matthew Schmidt entered his room and "assaulted him without justification and with excessive force."  He claimed that he was taken to police headquarters and released and that no charges were ever filed against him.

The case is captioned Graver v. City of Atlantic City, et al, Federal Case No. 1:14-cv-05520 and Graver'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 Graver's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $195,000 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 Graver $195,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision 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 resolve before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.