An intoxicated woman who sustained a broken hip after repeatedly falling off a chair while in police custody can continue her lawsuit alleging two police officers failed to exercise reasonable care, an appellate panel ruled.
A Superior Court judge in Monmouth County had thrown out Linda Leone's suit, saying that Belmar police officers Michael Allen and Sgt. Sean Pringle were immune from liability under provisions of the state's Tort Claims Act.
But the appeals panel, in an Oct. 1 opinion, found that police do not have blanket immunity.
Leone said she was "highly intoxicated" after her 2010 arrest. While in police custody, she fell off a metal folding chair several times while waiting to take a breath test before she was placed on the floor, according to court papers.
Leone claimed she had no memory of the arrest or falling, but was treated for hip fractures days later, the judges said in their appellate court decision.
She later claimed in the April 2012 lawsuit that the borough and its police department failed to provide proper equipment to assure the safety of a highly intoxicated arrestee.
The suit alleged that the absence of such equipment created a dangerous condition.
Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty told the Asbury Park Press that the suit is "completely ridiculous."
"If she can sue over this, where is the line? People have to take responsibility for their own actions," Doherty said.