New Jersey Verdicts

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Police officer alleged retaliation after he flagged improper acts

Amount:

$1,444,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

New Jersey

Venue:

Sussex County

Court:

Sussex County Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

mental/psychological-emotional distress

Case Type:

Employment – Whistleblower; Civil Rights – Police as Defendant; Employment – Conscientious Employee Protection Act

Case Name:

Daniel Farruggio v. Borough of Hamburg,
No. SSX-L-0063-14

Date:

July 5, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Daniel Farruggio (Male)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Louis M. Barbone;
Jacobs & Barbone, P.A.;
Atlantic City,
NJ,
for
Daniel Farruggio

Defendant(s):

Borough of Hamburg

Defense Attorney(s):

John M. Bowens;
Purcell, Ries, Shannon, Mulcahy & O’Neill;
Florham Park,
NJ,
for
Borough of Hamburg

Facts:

In 2009, plaintiff Daniel Farruggio joined the Hamburg Police Department. He worked at the department until his resignation, in May 2013. On Feb. 6, 2014, Farruggio filed a civil suit against the Borough of Hamburg, under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA), a whistleblower law, claiming that he was forced out of his job for complaining about improper activity in the department. Farruggio asserted that he was subjected to mistreatment after he refused to dismiss a parking ticket given to the wife of a corrections officer when told to do so by Sgt. David McNulty and Police Director Wayne Yahm. Farruggio alleged that McNulty once slapped him across the back of his head and that he was made to clean bathrooms and the police station kitchen. He was also put on 12-hour night shifts for several months. Farruggio maintained that McNulty harassed him both personally and by making derogatory remarks about Farruggio’s wife. In addition, Farruggio said that he was harassed after making complaints to Sgt. McNulty, who was then the officer in charge of the department, about Director Yahm’s improperly accessing internal affairs documents and making changes to files. Farruggio also complained to Yahm about his treatment by McNulty. The borough’s counsel denied the allegations and argued that Farruggio did not have to resign, but chose to, and that his motive was to bring to an end an investigation into his past by the county prosecutor. According to the defense, Farruggio, in his initial job application, put down information that contradicted earlier statements. Specifically, his pistol permit application showed Farruggio answered “no” to a question of whether he had ever been convicted of a disorderly persons charge. In two earlier pistol permit applications, he had answered “yes” to a similar question. When Farruggio was in high school, he pleaded guilty to a petty theft charge for which he paid a fine and did community service. That offense did not show up on a criminal background check, conducted when he applied to become a Hamburg police officer. Also missing from the application was an affirmative answer to whether he had been “confined or committed” to a mental hospital or institution. He had answered “yes” on the earlier permits. As a 14-year-old, Farruggio began having anxiety issues, and spent one night in a hospital for what he thought was a program for coping. He was discharged the next morning. At trial, Farruggio’s attorney argued there were explanations for the inconsistent answers and that Farruggio had been open and truthful about overcoming his mental health issues, both in his employment and firearms applications as well with co-workers and the former police chief, who had recommended he be hired.

Injury:

Farruggio’s lawsuit sought both compensatory and punitive damages pursuant to CEPA. Although his lawsuit stated he was seeking re-employment, by the time of trial he was not seeking re-employment.

Result:

The jury found in favor of Farruggio and awarded him $1,444,000 in damages.

Daniel Farruggio: $800,000 Personal Injury: Punitive Exemplary Damages; $144,000 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $500,000 Personal Injury: Emotional Distress

Trial Information:

Judge:

Frank J. DeAngelis

Trial Length:

4
 days

Trial Deliberations:

5
 hours

Jury Vote:

6-0

Post Trial:

The defense counsel filed a notice of appeal.

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel