“Thanks for saving my life. That’ll cost you $5 million.”

by Walter Olson on June 26, 2012

Ellen Shane, 62, of Carteret, N.J., was taken hostage at knifepoint by a parolee at Woodbridge Center Mall and was freed only when a police officer shot the criminal dead. Now she “plans to sue the township for $5 million, claiming it failed to protect public safety and that she was injured as a result of the officer’s acts. Both Shane and her husband, Ronald Shane, ‘are suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome and both have been dramatized from this incident,’ according to the tort claim notice filed by their lawyer, David Corrigan of Eatontown’.” It alleges that the officer should “attempt[ed] to resolve the situation” by other means before shooting. [Tom Haydon, Newark Star-Ledger via AnnMarie McDonald, NJLRA, from which the headline is taken]

{ 12 comments }

1 doug 06.26.12 at 12:52 am

they are the poster children for the reason this blog is here.

2 Matthew Brown 06.26.12 at 1:09 am

Dramatized? I guess that is one of the possible hazards associated with being the victim of a crime, but I’m not sure you can sue your town if a cop show uses your case as inspiration …

3 L. C. Burgundy 06.26.12 at 1:35 am

The government has generally been found not to owe any particular citizen a duty of any particular level of police protection at all, so I’m not sure how far this lawsuit will get.

4 wfjag 06.26.12 at 9:29 am

Not that long ago something like this was part of the plot of the cartoon, comedy movie “The Incredibles”. Then we laughed at the absurdity of the idea of suing your savior who should be regarded as a hero. Life imitates art, as it moves from humor, to absurdity, to sorrow.

5 Don 06.26.12 at 10:06 am

Held hostage by a prisoner? I think they might have suffered post-tramatic stress no matter what the cops did to resolve it.

Whether the police officer ended it with a gunshot or hug is irrelevant

6 AMcA 06.26.12 at 10:51 am

Yes, this one’s a motion to dismiss, and maybe even sanctions for the bottom feeding publicity seeking lawyer. the public duty rule is pretty much absolute, unless the gov’t defendant somehow seized control of the plaintiff and prevented her from looking after her own safety. That that might have occurred at a shopping mall does not seem likely.

Let’s hope the judge has the courage of his convictions and awards sanctions. These kinds of “get-my-name-in-the-paper” suits must be stopped. Lawyers this sleazy need publicity only when they are slapped down forcefully.

7 mojo 06.26.12 at 11:04 am

“Dramatized”?

Where’d this legal eagle go to school? Walmart?

8 Ron Miller 06.26.12 at 11:37 am

Before we get too carried away here, let’s note that you have to provide notice to see the municipality. No lawsuit has been filed and may never be filed. It is unjust that such notice requirements exist in the first place.

That said, I think almost everyone would agree that such a lawsuit, if filed, would be utterly insane.

Fun fact: the woman’s lawyer is a former prosecutor.

9 Marni 06.26.12 at 12:29 pm

Dramatized.

Best, most apt typo ever!!

10 CTrees 06.26.12 at 1:38 pm

Come to think of it, this would make a pretty good Law and Order episode. First half, tracking down the kidnapper. Second half, the officers getting sued.

11 William Nuesslein 06.27.12 at 12:03 pm

My hobby horse: 40 years times $50,000 per year equals $2 million. How can Shane’s stress equal the lifetime earnings of two and a half average people. The demand insults all working and retired people, including me.

Some cleaver agent should be able to package the Shane’s story. A combination of Mrs. Shane with the police officer would be a talk show sensation.

12 AMcA 06.27.12 at 12:50 pm

@CTrees – wouldn’t that be fun if TV would recognize that an integral part of a policeman’s job these days is getting sued? I could concoct a great plotline, with an impatient civil judge, a slothful criminal judge, and scheming lawyers using the defendant’s civil rights as sword against the cops.

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