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Buber v. Township of Old Bridge

December 21, 2007

RE: BUBER
v.
TOWNSHIP OF OLD BRIDGE, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Martini, U.S.D.J.

50 WALNUT STREET, P. O . BOX 419 NEW ARK, N J 07101-0419 (973) 645-6340 MARTIN LUTHER KING JR . FEDERAL BLDG. & U . S. COURTHOUSE WILLIAM J. MARTINI JUDGE

LETTER OPINION

Dear Litigants:

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. There was no oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

On the evening of September 30, 2005, the plaintiff, Robert Buber, likely suffering from a paranoid episode,*fn1 drove to the home of his neighbor and friend, Donna Stan, and proceeded to bang on her door and yell for her husband. He also yelled that "people" were after him and that he wanted her to call the police. He was covered in green paint. In response, Stan called 911, and said that she was uncomfortable with letting Buber into her home since she was home alone. She also explained her concerns that Buber was mentally unsound and that he had been "on medication." The 911 operator dispatched police officer Trevor Haughney.

Haughney arrived at Stan's home and encountered Buber. It is clear that Haughney attempted to restrain and arrest Buber, and that Buber initially resisted arrest. The accounts of the ensuing struggle to restrain and arrest Buber, however, are in dispute. Buber claims that he was repeatedly punched in the face by Haughney and G. Morris, who later arrived on the scene to support Haughney, both before and after he was placed in handcuffs. Haughney and Morris recount a different set of events. They state that although they struggled to wrestle Buber to the ground, they never punched or kicked Buber. They surmise that during their attempts to restrain and handcuff Buber, he was likely injured by hitting a lawn ornament on the ground.

Stan witnessed some of the interaction between Buber and the police officers from her porch. She stated that she never saw the police officers punch or kick Buber during the course of his restraint and arrest. Stan, however, did not witness the entire incident as she was occupied inside her home for a number of minutes.

Regardless of the cause of Buber's injuries, there is no dispute that Buber sustained injuries during his encounter with the police officers. An ambulance was called after the arrest, and Buber was treated for a fractured jaw and received stitches in one eye. Buber was arrested for and later pled guilty to disorderly conduct.

Buber filed this civil rights action on May 19, 2006. Buber seeks damages for the injuries that he sustained during his arrest. Defendants' motions for summary judgment are now before the Court.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

A court should grant summary judgment only "if 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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists rests initially on the moving party. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A litigant may discharge this burden by exposing "the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. In evaluating a summary judgment motion, a court must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Goodman v. Mead Johnson & Co., 534 F.2d 566, 573 (3d Cir. 1976).

Once the moving party has made a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, ...


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