BUFFALO TWP — A senior citizen couple is suing Nationwide Insurance and three Buffalo Township police officers who they say wrongfully ransacked their home looking for marijuana plants that were really hibiscus.
Attorney Al Lindsay held a news conference on Thursday to detail the Oct. 7 ordeal of township residents Edward and Audrey Cramer, who are in their 60s.
In October, according to the lawsuit, a neighbor's tree fell on the Cramers' home and caused damage. The couple contacted their homeowner's insurance carrier, Nationwide, to come and assess the damage.
The lawsuit claims that upon the assessment, insurance agent Jonathan Yeamans asked Edward what was inside of a nearby temporary shed. After Edward left to run errands, the lawsuit says Yeamans “reentered the property and took photographs of the flowering hibiscus plants in the Cramers' backyard.
Yeamans then sent the photos of what he though were marijuana plants to the Freeport police, who forwarded them to the Buffalo Township police.
The lawsuit claims that Audrey explained to police that the plants they were seeking were flowering hibiscus, which vaguely resemble marijuana, but was told by police that her husband had lied to her about raising hibiscus and was actually raising marijuana.
The lawsuit said Audrey, 66, sat in the back of a hot police car for 4.5 hours with her hands tightly cuffed behind her back.
When her husband arrived 30 minutes after police, he had guns pointed at him and was also cuffed and placed into the back of a cruiser, the lawsuit says.
Buffalo police officers then ransacked the house looking for marijuana, causing various damage to the home's interior and causing emotional stress to the Cramers, the lawsuit says.
In addition, the lawsuit claims that the Cramers received notification later in October from Nationwide Insurance saying that marijuana was found on the property, “and if they failed to remove the nonexistent marijuana plants, Nationwide would cancel their insurance policy.”
The complaint filed in county court by the Cramers alleges insurance bad faith, defamation, invasion of privacy, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Nationwide and Yeamans,
The allegations against Buffalo Township Police Sgt. Scott Hess include invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest and excessive force.
Buffalo Township faces civil rights violations by the police department.