NEWARK, N.J. — A judge has dismissed claims that Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie violated the constitutional rights of a nurse quarantined because she had contact with Ebola patients in Africa.

In 2014, Kaci Hickox fought efforts to quarantine her in New Jersey and Maine because she had just returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa.

Hickox made international news in October of that year when she returned from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone and was forced to go into quarantine in an isolation tent in New Jersey after her plane landed in the United States. New Jersey officials released her to allow her to go to Fort Kent, where her boyfriend was living while attending school.

Maine officials asked a state judge to impose a home quarantine on Hickox, but the judge refused and instead instituted three restrictions on Hickox, who never developed any symptoms of the deadly virus and twice tested negative for Ebola.

U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty agreed with New Jersey state lawyers that Christie and state health officials are immune from the federal civil rights charges brought by Hickox, who now lives in Oregon.

The judge ruled in a decision published last week that Hickox can proceed with parts of her lawsuit alleging false imprisonment and invasion of privacy.


The American Civil Liberties Union is representing Hickox in the case. Ed Barocas, legal director for the ACLU in New Jersey, said the judge’s decision means that Christie and other state officials will have to go through the discovery process to show that they acted in good faith in quarantining Hickox.

Hickox said one thing is certain: “This decision vindicates my rights by giving me the opportunity to find out from Governor Christie directly whether the decision to detain me was motivated by science or by politics,” she said in a statement. “Christie was ultimately responsible for my detention, and he should have to answer for it and show it was made in good faith.”

State lawyers maintained that health workers acted with the public’s safety in mind when they had Hickox quarantined and that Christie and the other officials are immune from lawsuits over public health quarantines. The state argued that the primary objective of Christie, then-Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and other officials was the “safety and general welfare” of the public during the Ebola virus outbreak, which killed thousands of people in Africa. Only a few people were treated for Ebola in the United States.

Hickox’s remaining allegations include a false light claim against Christie for saying that she was “obviously ill.” Her lawsuit seeks at least $250,000.

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