Appeals Panel Allows Lawsuit to Continue Between DUI Arrestee & Local Police

By Greg Kohn

Is there any recourse available for an individual injured while in police custody or while incarcerated?

The laws of negligence apply in many settings and situations – including being in police custody or in prison. As one recent headline revealed, it is not uncommon for those awaiting arraignment to experience less-than-hospitable treatment in the county jail. While the vast majority of these incidents do not give rise to a finding of liability, a New Jersey appeals court recently gave the green light to a Monmouth woman alleging negligence at the hands of two officers tasked with monitoring her after an arrest for driving under the influence, thereby allowing her to continue with her claim against the Balmar Police Department.

According to the preliminary details, the plaintiff was arrested in 2010 for DUI after officers pulled over her vehicle for swerving and erratic driving. From there, the woman was transported to the police department, where she had difficulty exiting the patrol car or walking on her own. She was then placed in a metal folding chair, and left alone while officers filled out paperwork. During this time, the woman suit alleges that she fell out of the chair at least twice, and was eventually placed on the floor. As a result of the falls, the woman alleges she suffered multiple hip fractures, and had to undergo surgery to correct the damage.

Initially, the suit was dismissed after the officers won their argument based on sovereign immunity for governmental entities. On appeal, however, her attorneys that immunity is only invoked when the government actors are performing their jobs within the scope of their employment. In this case, the officers were acting outside the scope of their employment by negligently failing to monitor her safety while clearly under the influence, resulting in injuries.

The appeals court ultimately decided to reverse the lower court’s dismissal of the action, and is allowing the case to continue on the merits. In sum, the woman could recover damages from the police department if it can be shown that the officers breached their duty to provide her a safe environment complete with medical treatment – as is required in any penal institution or police station.

If you have suffered an injury while in police custody, an attorney can help you obtain a monetary award.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.