Thursday, May 12, 2016

Salem County confidentially pays $13,500 to settle inmate's jail beat-down lawsuit.

On May 9, 2016, Salem County signed off on a confidential agreement that settled a lawsuit filed in 2014 by a Virginia man who claimed that he was "assaulted and beaten" by several corrections officers at the county's correctional facility.

In his suit, Leon Foreman, who also goes by the name Leon Carter, claimed that on June 1, 2013, while incarcerated at the Salem County Correctional Center in Woodstown, he was beaten by "approximately seven" corrections officers including officers with the surnames Brooks, White and DiMauro.  He said that two of the officers continued to assault him after he was taken to the hospital.

Also named in the suit were Sheriff Charles M. Miller and Warden Raymond C. Skradzinski.

The case is captioned Foreman v. County of Salem, et al, New Jersey Superior Court Docket No. SLM-L-52-14 and Foreman's attorney was Bruce G. Cassidy of Princeton.  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 Foreman's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Salem or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Foreman $13,500 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.