A 2010 lawsuit filed against the borough for allegedly not offering stationhouse adjustments, or reducing a charge for underage possession or use of alcohol to a citation, has been settled, according to borough officials.
The settlement will pay a total of $45,000 to three plaintiffs in the suit who were charged with underage drinking and not offered the adjustment, which is in line with a directive from the state attorney general on such matters. The plaintiff's names were not immediately mentioned and their attorney, Matthew Wolf, said he couldn't comment on the case because of a confidentiality agreement.
The settlement money will be paid out of the borough's joint insurance fund (JIF). Haddonfield and dozens of other municipalities pay annually for insurance against liability lawsuits such as this.
Wolf did confirm Monday that a similar lawsuit against the borough school board is continuing. That suit challenges the district's 24/7 rules, which penalized students charged with alcohol or drug offenses by restricting their extracurricular activities, such as participation in sports, bands or clubs.
A state Appellate Court ruled this year that such policies are illegal. Subsequently, the Haddonfield BOE suspended its 24/7 policy in June. Wolf said he expects the suit to go to trial.
"They apparently rather pay an attorney than settle the case," he said Monday.
The BOE is also covered with liability insurance. Wolf said he expects the suit against the school board will net a "six-figure" damage award for allegedly violating the rights of more than 90 students.
A school-district attorney did not immediately return a call for comment on Monday evening.
Ed Borden, a borough commissioner and the director of public safety now and when the suit was filed, said the cost of further litigation was a factor in settling the suit against the borough. But he and other borough officials, such as, Tish Colombi, a fellow commissioner and the mayor, said a tough enforcement policy was needed at the time to curb underage drinking.
"The policy worked," Colombi said. "No one has died since then."
For more on Haddonfield's 24/7 policy, read:
- Unruly Behavior Curbed By School Policy
- Lawsuit Challenging School Alcohol Rules Continues
- Haddonfield '24/7' Policy Still Challenged in Court
- Haddonfield's 24/7 Student Discipline Policy Could Be in Jeopardy
- Lawyer Accuses Haddonfield Police of 'Vigilante Justice'
- Judge Orders Changes to Haddonfield's 24/7 Policy
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