Update: Second Teen Locked in Police Van Sues Borough, Fort Lee Police
A second teenager left locked in a police transport van two years ago filed a civil lawsuit in Newark.
A second Fort Lee teen, Liam Eisenberg, who was among five minors left locked in a police transport van outside the Fort Lee Police Department in March 2011, has filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court against the borough, the police department and twelve police officers.
The suit claims a violation of federal civil rights laws, negligence, excessive force, false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, negligent hiring and retention and failure to implement appropriate policies.
The plaintiff's parents, Martin Eisenberg and Nancy Dougherty, are also named plaintiffs claiming psychological injury due to negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. All plaintiffs are seeking pecuniary and punitive damages, including attorneys fees and associated costs.
Liam Eisenberg was 17 years old on March 26, 2011 when he and four other teenagers were left in the van for more than 14 hours in freezing temperatures and without food, water or bathroom facilities after police broke up a party. The complaint charges that Eisenberg was arrested without probable cause.
Patch reported that in the early morning hours of March 26, 2011, police responded to a home on Arcadian Way to break up what officials called a "raucous" house party. Several minors were taken into custody, according to interviews with parents and teens after the incident, but five were forgotten in a police van outside headquarters until 3 p.m. when a man passing by saw them and called authorities.
The Complaint alleges that upon arriving at the house, police allowed anyone who was 18 years or older to leave while the approximately 12 minors who remained were arrested without probable cause.
Police Chief Keith Bendul told Patch that when juveniles are brought into police headquarters they are released to a responsible adult, which often is one or both parents.
The suit alleges that upon arrival at Police Headquarters, teenagers from one cage were released from the van, while the others remained.
Bendul said that he cannot comment to the merits of the complaint, but as with the first lawsuit, it has been turned over to the Borough Attorney.
"A full Internal Affairs investigation was conducted at the time of the incident and disciplinary action was taken," Bendul reported.
Borough Administrator Peggy Thomas told Patch in June 2011, that after a complete investigation, three officers received “major disciplinary action,” while “about five more got minor disciplinary action."
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said in 2011 that at least one demotion was involved, along with “multiple days of suspension without pay.”
“A conclusion was reached as to what occurred, and it was determined that it was human error—nonetheless, an error,” Sokolich said at the time that the internal investigation was completed.
Former Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas Ripoli, who retired in December after reaching the state-mandated retirement age of 65, is named in the lawsuit, along with 12 Fort Lee police officers.
The complaint, filed by plaintiffs' attorney Frederick Gerson, requests a jury trial.
Mayor Mark Sokolich declined to comment due to pending litigation.
This article was updated at 2:20 pm.