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Bender v. Monroe Township

March 14, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, Senior District Judge



Plaintiffs commenced this action on January 12, 2005. Pending before the Court are two motions: (1) Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants Monroe Township and Monroe Township Police Department and (2) Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants Patrol Officer John McBride, Patrol Officer Bart McIlvaine, Patrol Officer Michael J. Doran, and Sgt. Robert Clark.

Plaintiffs allege nine counts against all defendants:*fn1 (1) violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) false arrest and false imprisonment; (3) negligence; (4) gross negligence; (5) assault and battery; (6) malicious prosecution; (7) abuse of process and misuse of process retaliation; (8) deprivation of federally protected rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (9) loss of consortium.

For the reasons set forth below, the Motions for Summary Judgment will be granted.


This action arises from the Monroe Township Police Department's response to a domestic dispute between Plaintiffs. In the early morning of March 9, 2003, Plaintiffs arrived home from a party where they both had been drinking. Their oldest daughter, Colleen Bender, drove them home. The Benders' other two daughters were in the residence. Mrs. Bender had trouble unlocking and opening the front door, which instigated arguments between Mr. Bender and Mrs. Bender, and between Mr. Bender and Colleen. Mrs. Bender slapped her husband, who slapped her back. In response, Colleen slapped Mr. Bender and then he slapped her.

The argument continued after the three entered the house and Mrs. Bender retreated to the bathroom, apparently intending to call 911. Mr. Bender attempted to break down the bathroom door. Colleen Bender went outside onto the front porch and called 911. She told the dispatcher that "[her] dad is hitting [her] mom." (911 Audio Trans. March 9, 2002, Def. Ex. E at 3:4-5). Screaming, arguing and pleas for help were recorded throughout the 911 call. (Id. at 3:19-24, 4:6-10). Amidst the yelling, the call was abruptly disconnected. (Id. at 4:11). Mrs. Bender eventually joined Colleen outside the house and Mr. Bender locked them out.

Patrol Officers John McBride, Bart McIllvaine, and Michael Doran were dispatched to the domestic dispute at Plaintiffs' house. Plaintiffs claim that Sgt. Clark also responded to the domestic dispute, but Defendants deny that allegation. When they arrived, the responding officers found Mrs. Bender and Colleen locked out of the house. Mrs. Bender was upset when the police officers arrived. Further, Defendants claim that Mrs. Bender told Officer Doran that Mr. Bender assaulted both her and Colleen. Plaintiffs denies this claim.

Mrs. Bender told the Officers that Mr. Bender was locked in the house with two of her daughters and asked the Officers to enter the house by breaking down the front door. Mr. Bender opened the door, but when he saw the police had arrived, he slammed it closed and refused to open it again. Through the locked door, Officer Doran placed Mr. Bender under arrest and demanded that he surrender, but Mr. Bender refused. Officer Duran then kicked in the door.

The Parties have different accounts of what occurred once the Officers entered Plaintiffs' house. Plaintiffs claim that Mr. Bender raised both of his empty hands in the air when the Officers entered the residence. Plaintiffs also claim that Mr. Bender was tackled without provocation by the Officers. Plaintiffs further claim that the Officers assaulted Mr. Bender both inside the house and on the front yard when they were transporting him to a patrol car. These assaults, Plaintiffs claim, broke a bone in Mr. Bender's face.

Defendants claim that when they entered Plaintiffs' residence, Mr. Bender took a "boxer's stance" and held an Allen wrench in a threatening manner. Defendants also claim that Mr. Bender resisted arrest, which compelled them to forcefully detain him. Defendants further claim that Mr. Bender assaulted Officers McBride and Duran when they took him to the patrol car. Defendants argue that Mr. Bender's injuries resulted from his repeatedly hitting his face against the partition in the patrol car in a fit of rage, and hitting his face against a table in the house while he was resisting arrest.

Mr. Bender was arrested for domestic assault, resisting arrest and aggravate assault on a police officer. On March 9, 2003, Mrs. Bender signed a Domestic Violence Civil Complaint and requested a temporary restraining order ("TRO") against her husband. The Domestic Violence Civil Complaint stated that Mr. Bender "punched" Mrs. Bender and Colleen.*fn2 A TRO that prohibited Mr. Bender to return to the family's residence was issued later that day. Mr. Bender was indicted on six counts, including aggravated assault, terroristic threats, resisting arrest, and possessing an Allen wrench as a weapon. He eventually pled guilty to ...

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