Categories
NJ Civil Settlements

Robbinsville paid out another $200,000 to settle final lawsuit arising out of police sergeant’s “psychotic episode.”

A Robbinsville Township (Mercer County) police sergeant’s 2012 “psychotic episode” has so far resulted in the Township paying a $117,500 settlement to the cop who had the episode and a $100,000 settlement to a disabled couple’s caretaker who claimed to have been injured during the episode.  At its May 10, 2018 meeting, the Township Council approved another $200,000 settlement to be paid to the disabled couple and their minor child who also claimed to have been injured by the sergeant.

A complete background on this matter is set forth in a March 3, 2018 article on this blog.  To summarize, Robbinsville Police Sergeant Mark Lee had a “psychotic episode” on September 17, 2012 during which he reportedly took his clothes off in a Township apartment and violently attacked a couple, who were both confined to wheelchairs, the couple’s caretaker and their minor child.  On March 18, 2016, Robbinsville paid Lee $117,500 to settle his lawsuit in which he claimed that Township officials failed to accommodate a disability–calcium deposits on his brain–that caused him to suffer the “psychotic episode” that led to the assault.  On January 11, 2018, Robbinsville paid $100,000 to settle caretaker Bashemah Rountree’s lawsuit that claimed that Lee threw her against a wall when she tried to protect the child from harm. 

In the settlement approved on May 10, 2018, Robbinsville agreed to pay $130,000 to the couple’s child and $70,000 to the couple themselves for injuries they reportedly suffered as a result of Lee’s actions.  The couple and their then 4-year-old child are identified in court papers by their initials but the husband/father has been identified in previous news stories by his full name.

The couple and child’s lawsuit is is captioned N.S. and S.S as guardian for J.S. v. Township of Robbinsville, et al, Mercer County Superior Court Docket No. MER-L-1988-14 and their attorneys were Clifford D. Bidlingmaier, III and Robin Kay Lord both of Trenton.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of the the lawsuit’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 Robbinsville or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay the couple and their child $200,00 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.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project