Kaci Hickox Suing New Jersey Officials over Ebola Quarantine

By Harrison, Judy | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), October 22, 2015 | Go to article overview

Kaci Hickox Suing New Jersey Officials over Ebola Quarantine


Harrison, Judy, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


Kaci Hickox, the nurse who lived in Fort Kent and was quarantined in New Jersey after returning last year from treating patients suffering from the Ebola virus in Africa, on Thursday sued Gov. Chris Christie and other New Jersey public health officials in federal court.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is working with two New York law firms to represent her, according to a news release issued by the ACLU of New Jersey.

Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said, "The ACLU of Maine supports the efforts of Kaci Hickox and our sister affiliate in New Jersey to fight back against draconian quarantine laws. As we said when Ms. Hickox faced the threat of involuntary quarantine in Maine, extreme measures like mandatory quarantines raise serious concerns about government overreach, not to mention frighten the public. Our response to public health situations should be guided by sound medical science, not by fear."

Hickox's private attorney, Steven Hyman of New York City, said Thursday that no legal action was planned against Gov. Paul LePage or any Maine officials, since a District Court judge refused to confine her to her Fort Kent home.

"One of the reasons we are filing now is we had all the documents from New Jersey that we needed," Hickox said by phone Thursday evening from her home in Springfield, Oregon. "Honestly, in Maine the judge ruled in my favor, [and] this is about policy and how the quarantine [in New Jersey] was enacted and how that was done."

The lawsuit claims that Hickox was held illegally and unconstitutionally against her will as part of a mandatory quarantine for anyone returning from certain West African countries who treated patients with Ebola. Her attorneys claim that Christie, then-Commissioner of Health Mary O'Dowd, and other New Jersey health officials imprisoned her illegally through the quarantine. The complaint also said that Christie made false statements about Hickox's health and implied she had symptoms of Ebola.

"In-home quarantine still remains in place in many states," Hickox said. "This [lawsuit] is not just about Chris Christie, though it is in part about him; but again, it is about setting a higher precedent so decisions are made in a more just and fair way."

Brian Murray, a spokesman for Christie, declined Thursday to comment on the lawsuit because it is a pending legal matter.

In addition, the lawsuit alleged that the quarantine violated her constitutional rights to due process and illegally deprived her of her liberty.

Hickox is seeking a minimum of $250,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, according to the complaint, along with legal fees and costs.

The lawsuit also asked that New Jersey's quarantine policy, which is still in effect, be declared unconstitutional.

"While this lawsuit has been filed to vindicate Kaci's constitutional rights, an important corollary of this action is to change the existing New Jersey quarantine policy so that what happened to Kaci will not happen to another health care worker on their return," Hyman said in the news release. …

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