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Douglas Charles Stroby v. (Jei/Kmw) Egg Harbor Township

December 10, 2010

DOUGLAS CHARLES STROBY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
(JEI/KMW) EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, BLAZE CATANIA, AND JEFFREY LANCASTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas

OPINION

APPEARANCES:

Jeffrey Lancaster IRENAS, Senior District Judge

Plaintiff Douglas Charles Stroby brings this suit against Defendants Jeffrey Lancaster, Blaze Catania and Egg Harbor Township, which arises out of a dispute and physical altercation between Plaintiff and Defendant Lancaster.*fn1 At the time, Defendant Lancaster was an officer with the police department of Defendant Egg Harbor Township, and Defendant Blaze Catania was the Chief of Police of Defendant Egg Harbor Township. Defendants Catania and Egg Harbor Township ("Municipal Defendants") have moved for summary judgment on all claims against them.

Count One of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Lancaster, claims that Defendant Lancaster violated Plaintiff's "procedural and substantive due process rights, his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and his homestead rights guaranteed by the First, Fourth, Eighth, Ninth and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. . . ." (Amended Complaint ¶ 42)*fn2

Plaintiff brings multiple claims against the Municipal Defendants. Count Two of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, brought under § 1983, alleges a violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights by the Municipal Defendants for failure to adequately screen and train its employees. Count Three of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, also brought under § 1983, alleges that the Municipal Defendants maintained policies and customs that were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Count Four of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, brought under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act ("NJCRA"), N.J.S.A. § 10:6-1 et. seq., alleges a violation of Plaintiff's civil rights by Defendant Lancaster and the Municipal Defendants.

Count Eight alleges negligent hiring by Defendant Egg Harbor Township.*fn3 Count Nine alleges negligent training by the Municipal Defendants. Count Twelve alleges negligence by Defendant Egg Harbor Township under a theory of respondeat superior.*fn4

The Court will grant the Municipal Defendants' motion for summary judgment in full, and dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims against them. Although Defendant Lancaster has not moved for summary judgment, Counts One and Four of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint against Defendant Lancaster will also be dismissed. This Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction on the remaining state law claims against Defendant Lancaster, and this case will be remanded to state court.

Counts Five, Six and Seven allege common law false imprisonment, trespass and invasion of privacy, respectively, against Defendant Lancaster.

Count Ten alleges negligent physical contact by Defendant Lancaster. Count Eleven alleges physical assault by Defendant Lancaster.

I.

On September 30, 2008, Plaintiff first learned that his wife had an affair with Defendant Lancaster. (Defendants' Statement of Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (SOF) ¶ 36) Later that day, Plaintiff drove to Defendant Lancaster's home to confront him about the affair. (Id. at 41) Although Defendant Lancaster was not home at the time, Plaintiff informed Defendant Lancaster's wife about the affair. (Id. at 42, 45)

Plaintiff then returned home. (Id. at 51-52) That afternoon, Plaintiff noticed a police car outside his house. (Id. at 53) Defendant Lancaster, who was still on duty and in uniform, had driven to Plaintiff's home to confront Plaintiff about the affair. (Id. at 54). Lancaster approached the home and entered without permission. (Id. at 72) A physical altercation ensued. (Id. at 78-80) The altercation ended, and Defendant Lancaster left Plaintiff's home. (Id. at 82) At some point soon thereafter, Defendant Lancaster realized he left his sunglasses in Plaintiff's home, and re-entered the home, again without permission, to take the glasses. (Id. at 84)

Plaintiff called the Egg Harbor Township Police Department immediately to report the incident, and an investigation commenced. (Id. at 87, 89) At the conclusion of the investigation, Defendant Lancaster was administratively charged with conduct unbecoming an officer (simple assault), leaving an assigned post, and violation of the chain of command. (Id. at 104) Defendant Lancaster pled guilty to the charges, and was suspended for 45 days total without pay, including the forfeiture of 15 vacation days, ...


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