Dispute between motorist alleging vehicle impound and Philly police headed to arbitration

By Nicholas Malfitano | Feb 6, 2019


PHILADELPHIA – Arbitration hearings have been slated between a New Jersey motorist who alleged she was unlawfully detained and the Philadelphia Police Department, who was said to have impounded her vehicle in West Philadelphia more than two years ago.

According to the court, the amount in controversy in the instant action was below the boundaries of the mandatory arbitration limits – and as such, an arbitration hearing will take place on April 16 in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Arbitration Center, at 1880 JFK Boulevard in Center City, Philadelphia.

Lonja Jordan of Sicklerville, N.J. first filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Aug. 13 versus Officer Crystal Benson of Philadelphia.

The suit stated on Aug. 14, 2016, Jordan was lawfully driving her black Toyota Sedan on the 5600 block of Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, when Officer Benson initiated a motor vehicle stop – to which the plaintiff says she fully cooperated with, by complying with the officer’s request to see her driver’s license.

However, Officer Benson allegedly detained Jordan and did not allow her to leave.

“Defendant Officer Benson issued the plaintiff a citation for violating Section 1543(a) of the Motor Vehicle Code (driving with a suspended or revoked license) or otherwise caused such a citation to issue. Notwithstanding the fact that the plaintiff was validly licensed and privileged to drive, defendant Officer Benson confiscated the plaintiff’s motor vehicle, i.e. ‘live-stopped’ the vehicle,” according to the lawsuit.

“The plaintiff was left in an unfamiliar area without transportation. All of these official actions were taken under color of state law and in violation of Jordan’s constitutional and common law rights.”

As a result, Jordan alleged she was forced to expend time and money to recover possession of her vehicle, suffered distress and emotional anguish and was deprived of her liberty.

Through an answer to the complaint registered with the Court on Oct. 1, counsel for Benson stated, among other defenses, that Jordan’s complaint failed to state its claims, asserted immunity under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act and claimed “law enforcement privilege” under 18 Pa.C.S. Section 508 sanctioned any physical contact between the parties

In a reply to the new matter filed the very same day, the plaintiff categorically denied it as a conclusion of law to which no response was required.

On Nov. 20, per order of Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge John M. Younge, the case was transferred to arbitration, pending further proceedings.

For counts of conversion and false arrest/imprisonment, the plaintiff is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs under a theory of vicarious liability.

The plaintiff is represented by Leonard K. Hill and Jason Javie of Hill & Associates, in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Andrew F. Pomager of the City of Philadelphia’s Law Department, also in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180800991

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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