Litigants in gay man’s lawsuit dispute whether it’s settled

Litigants in gay man’s lawsuit dispute whether it’s settled

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Both sides in the federal lawsuit of a South Philadelphia gay man who claims he was wrongfully suspected as a child molester are disputing whether the case has been settled.

In 2012, Thomas Vandergrift filed suit against the Pennsauken School District after district officials reported him to New Jersey authorities as a suspected child molester. The reports subsequently were determined to be unfounded.

Vandergrift claims district officials violated his civil rights and retaliated against him after he advocated for a proper education for his autistic nephew. 

School-district officials deny any wrongdoing and recently insisted that Vandergrift settled the case in October, according to court records.

On Nov. 21, two Pennsauken school-board officials signed an alleged settlement agreement with Vandergrift that allocates $215,000 to him for emotional distress. The document was filed in federal court but Vandergrift’s signature doesn’t appear on it.

For his part, Vandergrift denies entering into a binding, legally enforceable settlement agreement with defendants. Instead, he wishes to have a jury trial, according to court records. 

The alleged settlement agreement also requires that Vandergrift’s attorneys indemnify defendants if any Medicaid or Medicare liens are attached to Vandergrift’s assets.

Additionally, defendants would “resolve” Vandergrift’s legal bills with his prior attorneys, which reportedly exceed $119,000, according to court records. 

Defendants recently requested that U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider issue an order that enforces the alleged settlement agreement. 

“[A] binding contract exists between the parties that must be enforced,” defendants’ attorneys wrote in court papers. 

A hearing on the dispute is scheduled for Nov. 30 at the U.S. Court House in Camden. Vandergrift is required to attend. Additional information was unavailable as of presstime.

Neither side had a comment for this story.

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