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$350K settlement removes Howell from litigation

HOWELL – The township’s insurer will pay $350,000 to the estate of a man whose relatives asserted in a lawsuit that he died as a result of excessive force applied by police officers and other individuals during a music festival in Howell.

In a lawsuit, Timothy J. Harden’s sister, Theresa Taylor, who is the administratrix of her brother’s estate, claimed Harden, 38, was working as a volunteer at the Souper Groove music festival on Sept. 3, 2015, held on the grounds of the New Jersey Latvian Society, Route 33, Howell.

During the event, Harden allegedly had a medical and/or psychiatric episode that resulted in police being called and Harden being restrained by festival staff members and security personnel. The lawsuit asserted Harden was restrained “with excessive and unreasonable force.” Harden was transported to a hospital and died that day.

The lawsuit asserted the actions and inactions of the festival staff members and police officers caused Harden’s death.

After the $350,000 settlement was recently disclosed, Howell Director of Law Joseph Clark said, “The township and the police department believe there were valid and sustainable defenses to the allegations in the lawsuit … However, an agreement to resolve the lawsuit represented a way to end the litigation, regain control over mounting legal costs and avoid the risk of an unfounded and unreasonable jury verdict.

“While the township and police department believe they would have ultimately prevailed, even the cost of this best-case scenario would have been far more expensive than terminating the litigation. Consequently, the township’s insurer authorized a negotiated resolution. Had the township continued to defend against the allegations in the lawsuit, it would have done so by itself. In the unlikely event a verdict was entered against the township or the police department, payment of the judgment would have been with taxpayer money,” he said.

Clark said that “to protect the township and its taxpayers from mounting legal bills and a potentially fickle jury decision, the matter was resolved.”

“The township’s decision does not mean the township or the police department was in any way liable for any of the claims in the lawsuit. In fact, all of the Howell police officers were cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury, by the Professional Responsibilities Unit of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and by the Internal Affairs Unit of the Howell Police Department,” he said.

The $350,000 payment noted by Clark only pertains to the township defendants. The other defendants named in the lawsuit were the Priedaine New Jersey Latvian Society, Souper Groove, LLP, and the LLP’s owners.

Attorney Thomas Mallon, who represents Harden’s relatives, could not be reached for comment.

Mallon previously said an autopsy determined Harden had a fractured thyroid cartilage in his neck. He said an examination determined Harden had a blood alcohol content of 0.11 percent and cocaine in his system at the time of his death.

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