On February 8, 2009, the City of Elizabeth (Union County) agreed to pay $81,000 to an African-American Linden man who had sued the City claiming that Elizabeth police officers threw him on his jail cell floor while he was handcuffed resulting in multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung. No officers were identified by name in the lawsuit.

In his complaint, Plaintiff Hushel Scott claimed that the incident occurred on June 21, 2005 after his arrest for violating a restraining order. He claimed that he had been cooperative during his encounter with police and that after being thrown to the ground he “laid in pain trying to gasp for air.” He claimed that despite his complaints of injury, he was refused medical treatment until the next day.

The matter is captioned Scott v. City of Elizabeth et al, Civil No. 2:06-cv-02964. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here. Scott was represented by Eric S. Pennington of Newark.

None of Scott’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement expressly states that the $81,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by Elizabeth or any of its officials. All that is known for sure is that defendants and their insurers, for whatever reason, decided that they would rather pay the Scott $81,000 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.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]