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Case Name Hickox v. Christie PN-NJ-0008
Docket / Court 2:15-cv-07647 ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Policing
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
In October 2015, this lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against the Governor of New Jersey and New Jersey Department of Health officials. Plaintiff, a U.S. citizen represented by the ACLU and private counsel, brought claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging ... read more >
In October 2015, this lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against the Governor of New Jersey and New Jersey Department of Health officials. Plaintiff, a U.S. citizen represented by the ACLU and private counsel, brought claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that, upon her return to the United States from a foreign country, Defendants had unlawfully detained and quarantined her in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. She also alleged false imprisonment and invasion of privacy.

Prior to the incidents giving rise to these allegations, Plaintiff, a nurse specializing in public health, spent approximately one month in Sierra Leone supervising the treatment of patients infected with the Ebola virus. During this time, she followed strict protocol to avoid exposure to the disease. Prior to her return to the U.S., New Jersey Governor Christie signed an Executive Order putting into effect an "Ebola Preparedness Plan" for the state. When she arrived in New Jersey, state and CDC officials escorted Plaintiff to a Quarantine Station, where she was examined and questioned and apparently found to be in good health. Nonetheless, New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) officials and Governor Christie decided to quarantine Plaintiff. Without explaining what was happening and without a signed quarantine order, officials transported Plaintiff in an ambulance to an isolation tent. While there, her temperature was checked several times with two different thermometers, one indicating a normal temperature and the other indicating an elevated temperature. Although Plaintiff tested negative for Ebola and had no symptoms, she was kept in quarantine for a total of 80 hours. During this time, no one gave her an explanation for her detention. In the meantime, Governor Christie addressed the situation on public television, describing Plaintiff as "obviously ill."

On January 15, 2016, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. The motion to dismiss argued that Plaintiff's constitutional claims should be dismissed because Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. It also argued that Plaintiff had failed to state a claim for false imprisonment and invasion of privacy.

On September 2, 2016, District Court Judge Kevin McNulty granted the motion to dismiss with respect to Plaintiff's federal claims. Judge McNulty agreed with Defendants' contention that legal precedent at the time of Plaintiff's quarantine did not clearly establish that detaining Plaintiff and placing her in quarantine violated her constitutional rights. Thus, Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. He also stated that while there is no bright-line rule for detaining those exposed to infectious disease at the border, authorities possess broad discretion with respect to such matters so long as their orders are not overbroad or unreasonable in relation to the public health interests at stake. 205 F.Supp.3d 579.

However, the court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss with respect to Plaintiff's state law claims, finding that Plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts in support of her claims of false imprisonment and invasion of privacy/false light. 205 F.Supp.3d 579.

The parties requested a stay of discovery, and were soon able to negotiate a settlement. They submitted a stipulated order of dismissal on June 27, 2017. The next day, Judge McNulty ordered the case dismissed with prejudice and without costs to either party. The terms of the settlement agreement included the implementation of less restrictive and more transparent quarantine procedures for those suspected or at-risk of Ebola infection. It also required that quarantined individuals be notified of their rights. There apparently was no financial settlement. The text of the agreement can be found here or with the documents below.

Lauren Latterell Powell - 11/19/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Confinement/isolation
Over/Unlawful Detention
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) New Jersey Department of Health
State of New Jersey
Plaintiff Description Private citizen held and quarantined at the U.S. border.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Filing Year 2015
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
2:15-cv-07647-KM-JBC (D.N.J.)
PN-NJ-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/28/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Verified Complaint [ECF# 1]
PN-NJ-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/22/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 19] (D.N.J.)
PN-NJ-0008-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/02/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement
PN-NJ-0008-0004.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 07/17/2017
Stipulation of Dismissal With Prejudice and Without Costs [ECF# 46] (D.N.J.)
PN-NJ-0008-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/28/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Clark, James B. III Court not on record [Magistrate]
PN-NJ-0008-9000
McNulty, Kevin (D.N.J.)
PN-NJ-0008-0002 | PN-NJ-0008-0003 | PN-NJ-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Barocas, Edward (New Jersey)
PN-NJ-0008-0001 | PN-NJ-0008-9000
Hyman, Steven J. (New York)
PN-NJ-0008-0003
LoCicero, Jeanne (New Jersey)
PN-NJ-0008-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Beck, Matthew Evan (New Jersey)
PN-NJ-0008-9000
Chiesa, Jeffrey S. (New Jersey)
PN-NJ-0008-9000
Dischley, Lindsay Ann (New Jersey)
PN-NJ-0008-9000
Israel, Ronald Lawrence (New Jersey)
PN-NJ-0008-0003 | PN-NJ-0008-9000
Jespersen, Kevin R. (New Jersey)
PN-NJ-0008-9000
Zieman, Benjamin Henry (New Jersey)
PN-NJ-0008-9000

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