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Jersey City Settles Police Negligence Suit for $300,000

by Christopher Zoukis

After suing the city of Jersey City, New Jersey, over the negligent actions of one of its police officers that led to an assault and robbery, 60-year-old Martin Murray settled for $300,000.

     On June 8, 2004, Murray's vehicle was struck when another vehicle ran through a stop sign at Sip and Emerson Avenues. Murray's vehicle sustained around $4,400 in damages, but there were no injuries. Murray called the police to report the incident and, while waiting, wrote down the license-plate number of the other vehicle, the name of the driver and the name of the owner. The driver of the other car, Jose Emanuelli, made a phone call to the vehicle's owner, Anthony Velez, who arrived at the scene before the police.

     When a police officer, Robert J. Franco, arrived, he allegedly pulled up to Emanuelli and Velez and spoke to them through his passenger window. Emanuelli allegedly told Franco that he was not needed. Murray said he called for the officer to stop, but Franco just drove around him and left.

    After Officer Franco had driven away, Murray said he was attacked by Emanuelli and Velez. Emanuelli struck him in the back of the head with a pipe-like object and the two men beat him until he was unconscious. Then they entered Murray's car and took the paper that had their names and license plate number from the glove compartment.

     Franco claimed that he left the accident scene because he couldn't find a parking spot, so he drove a quarter-mile away to a bagel store where he parked and then walked back to the scene of the accident. Franco said when he returned, he found Murray laying on the sidewalk bleeding. According to Franco, Emanuelli and Velez told him that they were the only two involved in the accident, with no injuries, and that Murray was some passerby who had fallen down. Shortly thereafter, Franco, Emanuelli and Velez allegedly left the scene.

     Neighbors, drivers and a sheriff's prisoner transport van all made calls requesting help for the injured Murray. An ambulance arrived and took Murray to the Jersey City Medical Center. Several neighborhood witnesses helped investigators who later investigated the crime scene, leading to the arrest of Emanuelli and Velez. Emanuelli, who had seven prior felony convictions, was sentenced to 42 months in prison for aggravated assault. Officer Franco lost five days of "comp time" for violating police department policy.

     Murray sued Jersey City and Officer Franco for negligence. He argued that if Franco had investigated the accident properly by completing the motor vehicle accident report, there would have been no incentive for Emanuelli and Velez to assault him.

     Murray sustained numerous injuries from the attack: His right eardrum was ruptured, his right ear was deformed, he had lacerations behind his ear and over his left eye, and he suffered a traumatic brain injury. His frontal lobe was damaged, resulting in short-term memory loss, emotional changes and an inability to remember sequences. His injuries made it difficult and unsafe to perform his job duties as an electrician on the public train system, and his family relations suffered when he could not remember directives, tasks, messages, and even his grandchildren's names. His activities at home required monitoring by family members. He also claimed to have suffered an economic loss after having to retire two years early.

     The city and Franco argued that they did not cause any of Murray's injuries. Jersey City filed a third-party suit against Emanuelli and Velez, claiming that they were responsible. David Gallina, the psychiatric expert for the defense, claimed that Murray had no brain injuries, but rather suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

     Shortly before closing arguments were to be made at trial, the city and Franco agreed to a $300,000 settlement with Murray. The city's claim against Velez was dismissed for lack of evidence showing what injuries could be attributed to Velez. Murray was represented by Hackensack, New Jersey, attorney D. Gayle Loftis.

See: Murray v. City of Jersey City, et al.; City of Jersey City v. Jose Emanuelli, et al., Hudson County Superior Court, Case No. HUD-L-100-06 (June 24, 2008).


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Related legal case

Murray v. City of Jersey City, et al.; City of Jersey City v. Jose Emanuelli, et al