A federal judge has dismissed nurse Kaci Hickox’s civil rights claims against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and state health officials over her 2014 quarantine.
But U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty last week allowed her claims of false imprisonment and violation of privacy to go forward.
“I am glad that I will get my day in court,” Hickox, the former Fort Kent nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa, said late Thursday in an email. “Christie and other officials in New Jersey must answer for their decision. Accountability is vital to ensure the rights of those facing quarantine in the future.”
Attorneys for Christie and other New Jersey officials Friday declined to comment on the judge’s ruling.
A trial date has not been set.
Hickox, who now lives in Oregon, was quarantined for about 80 hours at the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey after she returned from Sierra Leone in West Africa. After her release, she left New Jersey on Oct. 27, 2014, for her home in Fort Kent.
Gov. Paul LePage attempted to confine Hickox to her home but was prevented from doing so by a Maine judge. Her return to northern Maine drew national media attention. Hickox has not sued LePage nor any officials in Maine.
McNulty said in his 36-page decision that New Jersey officials have legal immunity from Hickox’s claims that she was illegally quarantined. He concluded that the “state is entitled to some latitude in its prophylactic efforts to contain what is, at present, an incurable and often fatal disease.
“Nurse Hickox lent her medical skills to a humanitarian effort to relieve the suffering of people she had never met,” the judge said. “Her courage and service perhaps merited a warmer welcome home.
“Public health officials responsible for containing the spread of contagious disease must be free to make judgments, even to some degree mistaken ones, without exposing themselves to judgments for money damages,” McNulty said.
Hickox’s false light claim is based on Christie’s statement 24 hours into her quarantine that she “was obviously ill.” Although the governor did not name her, Christie was speaking about her, she claims.
“I’m sorry if in any way she was inconvenienced, but inconvenience that could occur from having folks that are symptomatic and ill out amongst the public is a much, much greater concern of mine,” Christie said.
The judge said it was premature to dismiss the false imprisonment claim.
Hickox is seeking $250,000 in damages.