NORTHFIELD - A Somers Point man who accused an off-duty Northfield police officer of kicking him in the head while handcuffed will receive $25,000 in the settlement of his lawsuit against the Police Department.

The money will be paid out through the Atlantic County Joint Insurance Fund, or JIF, according to court documents.

Northfield does not have to contribute a co-payment on any part of the settlement, though like all JIF payouts the amount could have an effect on the city's general liability premiums. The city is responsible for a portion of the legal defense costs.

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The lawsuit by Stephon Lawton listed Northfield police Lt. Daniel Mitchell Jr., the Northfield and Atlantic City police departments and their respective chiefs, Robert James and John Mooney, and individual Atlantic City police officers as defendants.

The cases against Mitchell, James and Mooney were listed as being "dismissed with prejudice" in court filings, - meaning that the complaint cannot be refiled against them - prior to the settlement with Northfield.

Lawton, 29 at the time of the filing, was seeking punitive and exemplary damages stemming from "severe personal injuries" and a loss of employment due to the June 2008 incident at an Atlantic City McDonald's.

According to the suit, Lawton and friend Robert Henderson were holding up the line at the drive-through on North Arkansas Avenue at 5 a.m. when a security guard asked them to move.

The suit states that they complied and moved the car, at which point Mitchell "exited his vehicle ... and instigated a verbal altercation" with Lawton. The complaint claimed that Mitchell kicked Lawton "while the plaintiff was face down on the ground with his hands handcuffed behind his back."

Attorneys for Mitchell and the other defendents did not file any official briefs laying out their versions of the incident, only filing answers to Lawton's complaint in which they denied all of Lawton's claims.

According to the terms of the settlement, Lawton and his attorney, Linda Campbell, give up any claims concerning personal injury or property damage resulting from the incident.

The $25,000 payment, the settlement states, "is not to be construed as an admission of liability ... but is for the sole purpose of terminating the expense and distraction of litigation."

Michael Barker, the attorney for James and the Northfield Police Department, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but said in December that the case was "close to being resolved" and that James "should never have been named in the suit."

Mitchell's attorney, Tom Reynolds, repeatedly could not be reached for comment.

The Northfield and Atlantic City police departments were listed as defendants for their alleged "negligence" in training their officers.

The suit also named six Atlantic City police officers as defendants for "negligence and carelessness in not protecting their prisoner" during the arrest. Lawton initially was charged with resisting arrest before pleading guilty to a lesser charge of obstruction and was fined $207.

Contact Steven Lemongello:

609-272-7275

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