defendants' conduct amounted to negligence, as a matter of law, is
As for plaintiffs' claim that the defendants acted with gross
negligence,*fn15 defendants assert that this claim is duplicative of
plaintiffs' excessive force claims. This Court disagrees. While the
Supreme Court in Daniels declined to consider whether recklessness or
gross negligence would trigger Due Process protections, 474 U.S. at 334
n.3, the Third Circuit has, on the other hand, viewed gross negligence as
a separate basis for a civil rights claim. See Metzger v. Osbeck,
841 F.2d 518, 520 n.1 (3d Cir. 1988) ("Although the Supreme Court has had
no occasion to consider whether something less than intentional conduct,
such as recklessness or gross negligence is enough to trigger the
protections of the Due Process Clause, this court has recently reaffirmed
its position . . . that when a state actor has infringed a liberty
interest by intentional conduct, gross negligence, reckless indifference
. . . the matter is actionable under section 1983."(citations and
internal quotation marks omitted)). Thus, unlike mere negligence, the
Third Circuit has determined that reckless indifference or gross
negligence may be sufficient to state a claim under the Due Process
Clause and thus is actionable under § 1983. See Metzger, 841 F.2d at
518 (holding that a student's due process claim against a teacher for
excessive discipline precluded summary judgment because gross negligence
is sufficient to trigger due process protections); Colburn v. Upper Darby
Township, 838 F.2d 663 (3d Cir. 1988) (holding that a detainee's suicide
is cognizable under § 1983 because prison officials knew or should
have known of detainee's suicide risk may have violated detainee's due
process rights); Irvin v. Borough of Darby, 937 F. Supp. 446 (ED. Pa.
1996) (holding that reckless conduct is sufficient for arrestee to assert
a § 1983 against the Darby Borough). However, since plaintiffs'
claims of gross negligence piggyback on their allegations of excessive
force, the limitation previously imposed in this opinion, that the
excessive force claims can only survive for actions taken by defendants,
Cole, Gorman, Phillips, and Richter, after the plaintiffs were handcuffed
or restrained, applies equally to the gross negligence claims.
Accordingly, as a matter of law, the Court denies summary judgment on
Count Five of plaintiffs' amended complaint on the claims of gross
negligence but grants summary judgment on the negligence claims.
E. Supervisory Liability
The defendants have also moved for summary judgment on Count Seven of
plaintiff's second amended complaint, which alleges that defendants Morton
and John Smith 1-13 failed to provide adequate training and supervision
to their corrections officers in violation of plaintiffs' Fifth, Eighth,
and Fourteenth Amendment rights. See Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint
¶ 34. Plaintiffs contend that this violation was "willful" and
constitutes a "deliberate disregard for the value of human life." See
id. In essence, plaintiffs are attempting to use a respondeat theory of
liability to demonstrate a civil rights violation under § 1983.
Supervisory administrators are not liable for violations of § 1983
solely on a theory of respondeat superior. See City of Okla. City v.
Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 824 n.8 (1985); Monell v. Department of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). "A defendant in a civil rights action must
have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs . . . . Personal
involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of
actual knowledge and acquiescence." Rode v. Dellarciprete,
845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988) (citations omitted). Thus,
an "affirmative link" between the constitutional violation and the
official sued must be established in order to held the official
liable. See Oklahoma City, 471 U.S. at 824 n.8.
Here, plaintiffs have not proven that defendant Morton personally
directed, possessed actual knowledge, or acquiesced in the alleged
excessive force incidents that occurred on August 18, 1997. The
plaintiffs have produced no evidence to support the allegation that
defendant Morton played any part whatsoever in the actions of the officer
defendants. As set forth supra, it is insufficient as a matter of law to
state that Morton supervised the other defendants. Therefore, summary
judgement is entered on Count Seven of plaintiffs' amended complaint and
defendant Morton and the John Smith defendants are hereby dismissed from
the action. An appropriate order follows.
This matter having been opened to the Court by John J. Farmer, Jr.,
Esq., Attorney General of New Jersey, by David M. Ragonese, Esq., Deputy
Attorney General, on behalf of defendants Willis Morton, Larry Cole,
William Sellnow, George Phillips, James Gorman, and Robert Richter,
seeking summary judgment in connection with all claims filed against
defendants, and the Court having considered the moving, opposition, and
reply papers, and oral argument having been held on September 18, 2000 in
connection with this matter, and for the reasons set forth in the Court's
Memorandum of this date, and for good cause shown,
IT IS on this 21st. day of December 2000,
ORDERED that defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in part
and denied in part as follows:
ORDERED that Count Five of plaintiffs' amended complaint alleging
negligence is dismissed against all defendants; and it is further
ORDERED that Morton's motion for summary judgment on all claims is
granted; and it is further
ORDERED that Counts Six and Seven of Plantiffs' amended complaint are
dismissed in their entirety against all defendants; and it is further
ORDERED that Sellnow's motion for summary judgment is granted;
and it is further
ORDERED that defendants' motion for summary judgment as to plaintiffs'
claims of excessive force and gross negligence against defendants Cole,
Phillips, Gorman, and Richter is granted in part and denied in part as
set forth in the Court's opinion entered on this date.