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Price v. Phillips

Decided: March 21, 1966.

EDWARD L. PRICE, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOSEPH W. PHILLIPS AND TOWNSHIP OF HOLMDEL, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Sullivan, Lewis and Kolovsky. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kolovsky, J.A.D.

Kolovsky

Defendant Phillips was the chief of the two-man police department of defendant township. This litigation stems from his arrest of plaintiff Edward L. Price on the oral complaint of plaintiff's wife.

Late in the morning of August 23, 1961, following what appears to have been a serious altercation with her husband which had begun during the preceding night, Mrs. Price went to the home of a neighbor, Mrs. Young, and called the police. Phillips responded. This was not the first time police had been called to intervene in the Prices' matrimonial problems, although it was a state trooper who had come to the Price home in connection with a similar incident of August 7 or 8, 1961, when, as plaintiff describes it, his wife "hollered" to a neighbor "to call the police. 'He's beating me.'" That incident led to a formal complaint and hearing in the municipal court.

On August 23, Phillips did not have the wife make a written complaint and have a warrant issue before he arrested plaintiff. Instead, following what he says he understood were instructions given to him by the municipal magistrate whom he telephoned from the Young house, he told Mrs. Price,

"that -- with the children being over there in the house, that she would have to go over there and stay with them while I took Mr. Price up to court, that I would come back and pick her up and have her sign a complaint."

Phillips then went to the Price home, arrested plaintiff and brought him, in handcuffs, to the real estate office which

served also as the court clerk's office. After a series of telephone calls between Phillips, his attorney, the chief and the magistrate, Price was released.

Later that day, Mrs. Price swore to a complaint before the clerk of the municipal court in which she charged that her husband, plaintiff herein, did on August 21, 22 and 23,

"commit assault upon the person of Lorraine Price and did threaten to break down a door in the house at the above address. He did further threaten such violence so as to make her afraid to stay in said house."

No arrest was made on this complaint. Summons was served, and at the subsequent municipal court hearing the complaint was dismissed.

Plaintiff instituted the present action to recover damages arising from the arrest without a warrant, which clearly was without legal justification. Wiegand v. Meade, 108 N.J.L. 471 (Sup. Ct. 1932). The complaint charged Phillips and the township, as his principal, with false imprisonment, assault and battery and negligence. In addition, it charged that the township was negligent in its training and supervision of Phillips.

The jury awarded plaintiff compensatory damages of $10,000 against both defendants and punitive damages of ...


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