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Smart v. Borough of Lindenwold

March 9, 2010

SALAHUDDIN F. SMART, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOROUGH OF LINDENWOLD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

This civil rights matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment [Docket Item 40]. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion will be granted in its entirety.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiff, Salahuddin Smart, alleges that Patrolmen Daniel LaFountaine and Justin Mastalski of the Lindenwold Police Department used excessive force against him in violation of the Fourth Amendment. On August 23, 2006, responding to a report that people were smoking marijuana outside a building in an apartment complex, Patrolmen LaFountaine and Mastalski approached the people in front of Building D, and indicated they had received a report of people smoking marijuana in the area. As they began questioning Plaintiff's group, Plaintiff fled from the officers, who gave chase through the apartment complex.

Plaintiff alleges that he was approaching a hole in a fence between apartment complexes when a patrol car sped at him, striking him. (Smart Dep. 19:10-20:25, Oct. 7, 2008.) Patrolman LaFountaine avers that the vehicle approached Smart to block him from passing through the hole, and that LaFountaine was exiting the vehicle while it was in park when Smart attempted to cross over the hood of the vehicle and fell off. (Campbell Cert, Ex-B ("Answers to Interrogatories").) Plaintiff was arrested and ultimately pled guilty to resisting arrest.

Plaintiff went to the hospital after he was released by the police and complained of pain in his wrist. He was allegedly diagnosed with bruising and testified that he had some cuts, although there is no documentation of his injuries or testimony about their cause.

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the driver of the patrol car and his partner who was outside the car, and also argues that the Borough of Lindenwold and Police Chief McCarthy are liable for failing to have a clear policy and to offer adequate training with regard to the use of police cruisers.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate when the materials of record "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)(2). A dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable rule of law. Id. "[T]he nonmoving party may not, in the face of a showing of a lack of a genuine issue, withstand summary judgment by resting on mere allegations or denials in the pleadings; rather, that party must set forth 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial,' else summary judgment, 'if appropriate,' will be entered." U.S. v. Premises Known as 717 S. Woodward Street, Allentown, Pa., 2 F.3d 529, 533 (3d Cir. 1993) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e))(citations omitted).

Local Civil Rule 56.1(a) requires the movants, in a motion for summary judgment, to furnish a Statement of Material Facts not in Dispute citing to evidence in the record, which Defendants in this case did. This rule then requires the opponent to furnish, with his opposition papers, a responsive Statement of Material Facts addressing each paragraph of the movant's statement, indicating agreement or disagreement and, if not agreed, stating each material fact in dispute and citing to affidavits or other documents in the record of the motion. L. Civ. R. 56.1(a). Plaintiff's opposition to the present motion (which was over two months late) does not include any response to Defendant's statement of undisputed material facts.

The local rule provides that "any material fact not disputed shall be deemed undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion." Id. This Court has prescribed this procedure because it is necessary to determine under Rule 56(c), recently amended as Rule 56(c)(2), whether there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Rule 56(c)(2), Fed. R. Civ. P. As L. Civ. R. 56.1 now explicitly provides, the consequence of the opponent's failure to address the movant's Statement of Material Facts not in Dispute has long been clear, namely, the movant's facts, duly cited to the record of evidence, are deemed unopposed for purposes of adjudicating the motion. See, e.g., Montville Twp. v. Woodmont Builders, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18079 (D.N.J. Aug. 12, 2005); White v. Camden City Bd. of Educ., 251 F. ...


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