On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. (D.C. Civil Action No. 92-cv-00708).
Before: Scirica, Nygaard and McKEE, Circuit Judges.
Plaintiffs Alphonse W. Groman and Jane M. Groman appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment on their civil rights claims to defendants Township of Manalapan, the Englishtown-Manalapan First Aid Squad, members of the first aid squad and Manalapan Police Department, and several unknown defendants.
The dispute arises out of the arrest of Mr. Groman at his residence on February 17, 1990. Plaintiffs brought this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1988), alleging certain constitutional violations based on: use of excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, failure to provide necessary medical treatment, unlawful search and seizure, conspiracy to violate constitutional rights, and denial of right to counsel.*fn1
The district court granted summary judgment to all defendants on all constitutional claims and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction on the state law claims. We will affirm on all counts except the claim of excessive force against police officers Helen K. Kirkland, Matthew Trembow, and Peter Vanderweil, and the claims of false arrest and false imprisonment against police officer Kirkland.
On February 17, 1990, Alphonse W. Groman and his wife, Jane M. Groman, were in their home in Manalapan, New Jersey, when Mr. Groman, age seventy-five, allegedly suffered a minor stroke. Mrs. Groman telephoned her neighbor, James W. Thomson, who came over with his son, James E. Thomson, and then called the police for first aid. Officer Helen K. Kirkland of the Township of Manalapan Police Department was the first to respond.
When Kirkland arrived at the Groman residence, James W. Thomson and Mrs. Groman were attempting to place Mr. Groman into a chair. Kirkland entered the room and proceeded toward Mr. Groman, who resisted her contact and demanded to go outside. Mr. Groman admitted to consuming one alcoholic drink sometime earlier.
Exactly what happened next is hotly contested. Plaintiffs contend Mr. Groman was standing still, arms to his side, when Kirkland struck him in the mouth. This blow, plaintiffs maintain, was an unprovoked assault against a small elderly man, who, while uncooperative, did not deserve to be struck.*fn2 Defendants assert Kirkland put a hand on Groman's shoulder in an effort to get him to sit down. Immediately thereafter Groman punched Kirkland in the face, cutting and bruising her cheek, and began using abusive language. As he prepared to hit her again, Kirkland responded out of fear for her own safety and hit Groman. She observed that Groman was combative and that he smelled of alcohol.*fn3 According to plaintiffs, Groman was a stroke victim, disoriented and a bit aggressive, who was assaulted by a police officer dispatched to assist him. Defendants portray Groman as a violent drunk and claim Kirkland's response was the appropriate reaction to a dangerous situation.
Kirkland called the Manalapan Police Department for backup. Officer Matthew Trembow soon arrived to aid Kirkland and the local first aid squad arrived shortly thereafter, followed by Lieutenant Peter Vanderweil. Members of the first aid squad attempted to provide medical assistance to Groman but he rebuffed them. Groman continued to be belligerent and to curse at the police and first aid squad. The first aid squad members left without treating him.
The police officers proceeded to arrest Groman, but he was not cooperative. After a brief struggle which plaintiffs attribute to Groman's limited mobility in his right arm and defendants to Groman's attempt to resist arrest, the officers placed Groman in handcuffs. As the police took Groman out to the police car, he allegedly sustained an injury to his face and lost his dentures.
Upon arrival at the police station, the officers removed Groman from the car. Here again the parties vigorously dispute what occurred. Plaintiffs maintain, based on Groman's hazy recollection, that the police officers dragged Groman out of the car feet first causing his head to hit the pavement. After picking him up, the officers stomped on his toe, allowed him to fall again, and then one of the officers jumped on him. Defendant police officers say that as they moved Groman from the police car to the station he fell, knocking his head against the ground, and that Kirkland lost her balance trying to hold Groman up and fell with him. Once inside the police station, plaintiffs contend the officers left Groman handcuffed for some time. The first aid squad was called again, but Groman again refused treatment. Groman's daughter asserts his pants were doused in alcohol when she picked him up from the police station. Plaintiffs maintain that during the course of these events Groman ...