A former Maine nurse who was quarantined in New Jersey when she returned to the U.S. from treating Ebola patients in Africa in 2014 has settled her lawsuit against the governor, according to filings in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey.
In exchange for dismissal of the complaint filed in federal court in Newark, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration agreed to new rules that will guarantee quarantine only occurs after exposure to the Ebola virus when medically necessary, the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Hickox, said in a news release Friday.
“The settlement of Kaci Hickox’s lawsuit creates a new ‘Bill of Rights’ for individuals subject to possible quarantine or isolation in New Jersey and sets a model for other states to replicate,” Hickox’s attorney, Norman Siegel of New York City, said in the release.
New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in statement to the NJ.com that the “supplemental protocols” that were reached as part of the settlement were “consistent with existing law and regulations.”
As part of the agreement Hickox dropped her demand for a minimum of $250,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Both sides agreed to pay their own legal fees and costs for the litigation.
Under the agreement:
— Quarantine or isolation will be imposed only when medically and epidemiologically necessary to prevent the spread of Ebola
— When those measures are carried out, they must be in the least restrictive means to prevent the spread of Ebola, and after less restrictive measures have been explored
— To authorize quarantine, there must be a comprehensive order documenting information such as the legal authority under which the order is issued, the medical basis of the isolation, and a statement explaining the right to retain an attorney and appeal, among other provisions
A federal judge must approve the terms of the settlement.
“We’ve achieved what was needed: procedures that will ensure that no one will have to go through what I experienced in New Jersey, and that no one will be quarantined unless it is medically necessary to do so,” Kaci Hickox, who now lives in Oregon, said in the ACLU news release. “The settlement upholds the principles and values of liberty and due process.”
Hickox volunteered with Doctors Without Borders to treat patients suffering from Ebola in Sierra Leone during the 2014 outbreak of the virus in West Africa, and she was later honored with other health care professionals as Time magazine’s 2014 “Person of the Year.” At the time, she was living in Fort Kent while her now husband was attending the University of Maine there.
She returned stateside and landed at Newark Liberty International Airport on Oct. 24, 2014. She was in quarantine for 80 hours at the airport and in a modified garage at the University Hospital in Newark, although she showed no symptoms of the disease.
Hickox returned to Fort Kent after she was released from quarantine following a negative test for Ebola. Maine Gov. Paul LePage and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services attempted through a proposed court order to prevent Hickox from entering public places and tried unsuccessfully to confine her to her home for 21 days.
The case drew national media attention to the northern Maine town. The saga reached a fever pitch when Hickox and her boyfriend left their home and went for a defiant bicycle ride in the neighborhood. They later said that outing was an act of civil disobedience.