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Love v. Johnson

May 27, 2010

DARREN LOVE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KEITH JOHNSON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William J. Martini

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court upon Detective Keith Johnson's Motion for Summary Judgment, upon the Federal Defendants' (that is, defendants DEA Agent Cory Handy and Task Force Officer Julian Hilongos') Motion for Summary Judgment, and the State Troopers' (that is, defendants Frank Manghisi, Greg Demeter, and Scott Wikander's) Motion for Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim, the only remaining viable theory of liability in this action, asserting that Plaintiff Margaret Love, now deceased, was unreasonably restricted in her movements by the Defendants when they executed a judicially approved search warrant on November 10, 2004. Defendants seek dismissal of the Fourth Amendment claim on a variety of grounds, including that Love's claim, to the extent she had any claim at all, arises under the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause (for causes of action brought by pre-trial detainees against federal defendants), under the Eighth Amendment (for denial of medical services), and under the Fourteenth Amendment (for causes of action brought by pre-trial detainees against state defendants, i.e., as a substantive due process claim). Plaintiffs argue that the Fourth Amendment claim is insulated from further review under the law of the case doctrine.

For the reasons elaborated below, the Court will GRANT in part, and DENY in part Defendants' motions for summary judgment. Specifically Defendants Handy, Manghisi, Demeter, and Wikander are terminated from this action. All other relief is DENIED.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE

On November 9, 2004, Defendant Gublin of the Union Country Prosecutor's office obtained a "knock and announce" search warrant at a residence located in Irvington, New Jersey. The warrant was issued in connection with an investigation of the criminal activities of Eric Love, who was arrested and placed into custody on November 10, 2004 around 8:20 p.m. for conspiring to distribute heroin and Oxycontin.

Approximately an hour after Eric Love's arrest, a team of six officers, Defendants Johnson, Hilongos, Manghisi, Demeter, Wikander, and Handy, arrived at the Irvington residence to execute the search warrant. Plaintiffs allege that the police knocked loudly on the door, and when asked who was at the door, identified themselves as police officers and threatened to break down the door if it was not opened. Within five to ten seconds, Wynette Love, a resident and one of the plaintiffs in this suit, went to open the door. Upon turning the doorknob, the door was forced opened by Defendant Hilongos, pushing Wynette Love backwards.

The six officers entered the residence with their guns drawn. There were seven individuals present in the home at the time: Wynette Love, Jahyde Love, Naderia Love, Satasha Love, Margaret Love, Henry Cobb, and Quiyim Robinson. From the entry hallway, it is alleged that Defendant Hilongos could see the decedent, Margaret Love, and Quiyim Robinson in the kitchen. Defendant Hilongos asked Wynette Love whether any other people were present. She responded that her sister, son, and niece were upstairs, and three of the officers rushed upstairs.

Wynette Love then proceeded to engage the remaining three officers in a conversation about their presence in the residence. She was told by the officers that they were from the Union County Prosecutor's office and had a search warrant for the premises. They informed Wynette Love that her brother, Eric Love, was in custody for transporting drugs and that they were searching the house in connection with the arrest. The officers inquired if Eric Love stored any items at the residence, and she responded that they should look in an upstairs closet. A.40 caliber handgun along (with ammunition) was ultimately found among and seized from Eric Love's possessions.

Margaret Love, then sixty-one years old, was a resident of the Irvington home. She suffered from several health problems, including asthma, obesity, and heart disease. She could only walk around with the aid of a walker or by leaning on furniture. Furthermore, she took numerous medications and was additionally treated with a combination of a nebulizer, a portable machine that administers medicine through inhaled vapors, and a stationary oxygen machine.

When the officers first entered the residence, Margaret Love was seated at the kitchen table with Quiyim Robinson making party favors. It appears she was wearing an oxygen mask connected to a stationary oxygen machine. Margaret Love's oxygen machine was located on the rear wall of her bedroom and was connected to an oxygen mask by a ten-foot long clear plastic tube. The oxygen machine allowed Margaret Love to walk around the kitchen and her bedroom (a converted dining room). Because of the limited reach of the machine, she could not travel to the living room, bathroom, or entrance hall without disconnecting herself from the machine.

After the officers had gathered the second floor residents to the living room, the officers told everyone else to move to the living room. Wynette Love alleges that she "told [the police] that [her] mother was sick and suffered from chronic asthma," but that the officers "insisted that she move." Margaret Love removed her oxygen mask, and began to move towards the living room. She was not permitted to use her walker. Wynette Love states that Margaret Love, on her way to the living room, sat down in her bedroom to start using her nebulizer with Wynette Love's assistance, because she became breathless and very distressed. Wynette Love alleges that "despite [her] repeated protests, the officers would not permit her to continue on the nebulizer repeating '[w]e need her to come in here,' and 'Ma'am, come in here.'" Therefore, Margaret Love did not receive her usual seven to ten minutes of treatment and only received a few seconds of treatment.

Margaret Love appeared to be in distress when she arrived in the living room, and Wynette Love requested numerous times for the officers to allow Margaret Love to use her nebulizer. Margaret Love's condition continued to deteriorate. About twenty or thirty minutes after Margaret Love had taken off her oxygen mask, the officers permitted two of the residents to get the nebulizer from the bedroom. At some point during this period, it is alleged that the officers would not let Wynette Love's son call 911, and that Quiyim Robinson surreptitiously called 911.

The 911 call recordings indicate that one of the police officers called for an ambulance, and then called twice more to check on the status of the ambulance. Also, the 911 recording notes that sometime after the police officers called for an ambulance, Robinson called for an ambulance and was told that one was already on the way. Robinson communicated with the other occupants in the living room and relayed the 911 call ...


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