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Gibson v. Inacio

October 5, 2010

RAINY M. GIBSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANTONIO INACIO, YVONNE RUDE, BRIAN T. MAHONEY, BRADLEY BELFORD, SUZANNE BUTLER, BRIAN CHENEY, URBANO-ALVAREZ DIAZ, DAVID SMITH, SCOTCH PLAINS MUNICIPAL COURT, SCOTCH PLAINS POLICE DEPARTMENT, CITY OF RAHWAY, SEVELLS AUTO BODY INC., UNION COUNTY JAIL, STATE OF NEW JERSEY MOTOR VEHICLES COMMISSION, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Before the Court are two separate Motions to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a Motion to Strike, and a Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint. Defendants City of Rahway ("Rahway") and Union County Jail ("Union County") move to dismiss Plaintiff Rainy Gibson's ("Gibson" or "Plaintiff") claims on all counts against them. Plaintiff, on the other hand, has filed a Motion to Strike Defendant Rahway's Motion to Dismiss and a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Pleading. This Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§1331 and 1367(a). Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1391(b)(1) and (2). The Motions are decided without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons stated below this Court grants Rahway and Union County's Motions to Dismiss, dismisses Plaintiff's Motion to Strike and denies Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that on March 4, 2008, an employee of Defendant Rahway issued a traffic ticket to her vehicle while she was parked on a private property. (First Compl.*fn1 ¶ 33.)*fn2 Thereafter, on June 26, 2008, Plaintiff maintains that Rahway issued an electronic warrant for her arrest.*fn3 (Id. at ¶ 34.) Plaintiff asserts that on August 4, 2008, she received a letter from Defendant New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission ("DMV") advising her that her driver's license was scheduled to be suspended on October 3, 2008. (Id. at ¶ 35.) On August 23, 2008, Plaintiff alleges that she contacted Rahway to inform it that the warrant had been issued in error; however, Rahway failed to respond. (Id. at ¶¶ 36-37.) Notwithstanding, on September 19, 2008, the warrant was "recalled" after Plaintiff went to the Rahway Municipal Court. (Id. at ¶ 38.)

On November 6, 2008, Plaintiff alleges that a Scotch Plains police officer stopped her while she was traveling on Route 22 East and issued three traffic tickets, one of which was for driving with a suspended license. (Id. at ¶41.) Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that the Scotch Plains Police Department mailed another summons to her residence on November 10, 2008, for "unlawfully operat[ing]" a vehicle. (Id. at ¶42, Pl.'s Aff. Ex. F.) On November 24, 2008, the Rahway Municipal Court dismissed the ticket that Rahway had issued to Plaintiff and declared that her license could "be restored." (Pl.'s Aff. Ex. G.) However, according to Plaintiff, Rahway failed to notify the DMV or the Scotch Plains Police Department that her license had been restored. (First Compl. ¶ 44.) Nonetheless, on November 26, 2008, the DMV restored Plaintiff's license after she made a payment of $100. (Pl.'s Aff. Ex. H.)

Although the DMV restored Plaintiff's license, she alleges that the tickets the Scotch Plains police officers issued her on November 6, 2008, had not been dismissed because Rahway had failed to communicate their dismissal to the Scotch Plains Police Department. (First Compl. ¶ 48.) After refusing to enter into a plea regarding the tickets issued by the Scotch Plains officers on December 3, 2008, a warrant was issued for Plaintiff's arrest. (Id. at ¶¶49-53.) Consequently, on December 18, 2008, Scotch Plains police officers stopped Plaintiff while she was on her way to work. (Id. at ¶¶ 57-58.) Thereafter, Plaintiff was arrested for failure to provide her driver's license, registration and insurance card to the police officers; failure to unlock the door to her vehicle when the police officers sought to search her car; and failure to answer questions during the "booking process." (First Compl. ¶ 70.1.) Plaintiff was presented to the Scotch Plains Municipal Court and bail was set for $4,000. (First Compl. ¶ 74; Pl.'s Aff. ¶¶ 38, 40.)

After Plaintiff refused to pay the bail, she was transported to Union County. (Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 40.) Upon Plaintiff's arrival at Union County, she alleges that she was "subjected" to "a strip-search, handcuff's [sic], booking, forced fingerprinting, photographing, [and] injected with an unknown vaccine." (Id. at ¶ 44.) Plaintiff asserts that she remained in Union County until 11:30 p.m. when she paid the bail. (Id. at ¶ 45.)

On December 17, 2009, Plaintiff filed her complaint seeking damages, injunctive and declaratory relief for (1) violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, (2) malicious prosecution, (3) malicious abuse of process, (4) conspiracy, (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (6) false imprisonment, (7) fraud, (8) defamation of character, (9) assault and battery, and (10) violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1961 ("RICO").

MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD

The adequacy of pleadings is governed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), which requires that a complaint allege "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." This Rule "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating that Rule 8 "requires a 'showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief."). In considering a Motion to Dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Court must "'accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief."' Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231 (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holding Ltd.,292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). However, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555). As the Supreme Court has explained:

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement," but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'"

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556--57) (internal citations omitted). Determining whether the allegations in a complaint are "plausible" is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 at 1950. If the "well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct," the complaint should be dismissed for failing to "show[] that the pleader is entitled to relief" as required by Rule 8(a)(2). Id. at 1950.

DISCUSSION

Rahway moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for (1) violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, (2) malicious prosecution, (3) malicious abuse of process, (4) conspiracy, (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (6) fraud, and (7) defamation of character. Rahway argues that even if Plaintiff's factual allegations are accepted as true, its motion should be granted because Plaintiff's claims cannot succeed as a matter of law because it did not violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights and its employees are entitled to qualified immunity.

Similarly, Union County which has also moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for (1) violation of 42 U.S.C. §§1983 and 1985, (2) malicious prosecution, (3) malicious abuse of process, (4) conspiracy, (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (6) false imprisonment, (7) fraud, (8) assault and battery, and (9) RICO, maintains that its motion should be granted because Plaintiff's factual assertions do not support a cognizable legal claim. Union County also argues that Plaintiff's cause of action should be dismissed because she failed to comply with the provisions of the New Jersey Torts Claims Act ("TCA"), N.J. Stat. Ann. § 59:1-1 et seq. (West 2010).

However, Plaintiff maintains that Defendants' motions should be denied and alternatively she should be given leave to file a second amended complaint which would name Sheppard and an "unknown judge."

I. Defendant Rahway's Motion to Dismiss

A. Section 1983 ...


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