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Groff v. City of Camden

August 10, 2007

JOHN E. GROFF, SR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CAMDEN, CITY OF CAMDEN POLICE DEPARTMENT AND SEAN MILLER, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

This matter has come before the Court on the motion of Defendants City of Camden and City of Camden Police Department for summary judgment in their favor on Plaintiff's claims against them. For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, John E. Groff, Sr., filed a four count Complaint against Defendants City of Camden, City of Camden Police Department, and Camden Police Officer Sean Miller, seeking damages resulting from a motor vehicle stop. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Miller pulled over his vehicle, and Miller, without reason, threw him to the ground, twisted his arm, and beat him about the head and neck. As a result, Plaintiff alleges that he suffered injuries, some permanent, to his head, neck, back, right leg, right fingers, hand, wrist and shoulders.

Plaintiff's first count alleges that "Defendants were palpably negligent in causing plaintiff to sustain his personal injuries." (Compl. Count One, ¶ 7.) His second count alleges that Defendant Miller "intentionally assaulted plaintiff with intent to cause bodily injury." (Compl. Count Two, ¶ 2.) Plaintiff's third count alleges that Defendant Miller, acting "under the color of law, injured plaintiff and thereby caused a deprivation of plaintiff's rights and privileges as secured by the U.S. Constitution." (Compl. Count Three, ¶ 2.) Plaintiff's fourth count alleges that Defendant Miller "used excessive force against plaintiff, causing injuries to plaintiff and thereby caused a deprivation of plaintiff's" constitutional rights. (Compl. Count Four, ¶ 2.)

Defendants City of Camden and City of Camden Police Department have moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims against them, and they have advanced three arguments. First, Defendants argue that the City of Camden Police Department is not a proper party to the action. Second, Plaintiff has not asserted a viable claim as to the City of Camden's liability for the alleged violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Third, Plaintiff cannot maintain a claim as to the City of Camden's liability for the alleged actions of Officer Miller.

Plaintiff has conceded Defendants' first argument. He has contested, however, Defendants' other two reasons for summary judgment.

DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

An issue is "genuine" if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Marino v. Industrial Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004)(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. A party opposing summary judgment must do more than just rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or vague statements. Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001).

B. Analysis

1. Plaintiff's Constitutional Violation Claims Against the City of Camden and City of ...


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