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Barbara L. Drake v. Jeffrey P. andruczyk

April 13, 2011

BARBARA L. DRAKE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFREY P. ANDRUCZYK, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; EDWARD K. SPINKS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; BOROUGH OF HIGH BRIDGE POLICE DEPARTMENT; JOHN DOES 1-15,
DEFENDANTS.



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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Jeffrey P. Andruczyk, Edward K. Spinks, and Borough of High Bridge Police Department's Motion for Summary Judgment [docket # 22]. Plaintiff Barbara L. Drake opposes the motion and cross-moves for an order permitting her to submit an expert report [26]. The Court has decided the motions after considering the parties' written submissions, without holding oral argument, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff's cross-motion is denied.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brings this civil rights claim in connection with her arrest on August 30, 2006, by members of the High Bridge Police Department ("HBPD"). The incident began when Defendant Spinks, the HBPD Police Chief, received a complaint about a pile of brush in the roadway on Sunset Drive in High Bridge, New Jersey. (Certification of Jay Gebauer, Esq., Ex. C, Spinks Dep. 17:22--19:4) ("Spinks Dep.") [22-4]. Spinks dispatched Patrolman Andruczyk to investigate the pile and issue a written warning to the owner. (Spinks Dep. 19:9--14.) Andruczyk arrived and found the pile partially on the street in front of the house at 25 Sunset Drive; he went to the front door and rang the doorbell. (Certification of Jay Gebauer, Esq., Ex. B, Andruczyk Dep. 19:19--23, 20:13--15) ("Andruczyk Dep.") [22-3]. Plaintiff came to the door, but left a screen door between her and Andruczyk closed. (Andruczyk Dep. 20:25--21:1); (Certification of Beverly Wurth, Esq., Ex. D, Drake Dep. 142:15--1) ("Drake Dep.") [26-5]. Andruczyk explained why he was there and asked if the brush pile was hers; Plaintiff admitted that it was. (Andruczyk Dep. 21:9--14, 22:17--23); (Drake Dep. 148:7--17). Andruczyk then informed Plaintiff that the brush pile was in violation of a High Bridge Borough Ordinance. (Andruczyk Dep. 23:10--17); (Drake Dep. 148:7--17). All parties agree that the Ordinance provides that the resident responsible for the brush pile has ten days to remedy the problem before the resident is in violation of the ordinance and subject to penalties. (HB Code Book, § 230, Wurth Certification Ex. L) [26-13]. Therefore, Andruczyk could only issue Plaintiff a warning regarding the brush pile. (Id.)

At this point the parties' stories differ. According to Andruczyk, he told Plaintiff that he was going to issue the written warning, and he asked for identification so that he could fill out the warning notice. (Andruczyk Dep. 23:10--17, 24:20--23.) Believing she was not going to cooperate and that he might need to arrest her, Andruczyk asked if he could come inside, and Plaintiff said, "Come in," and opened the door for him. (Id. at 25:14--20, 28:20--24.) Inside, Andruczyk again explained why he was there, but Plaintiff became irate and walked down a hallway into the kitchen, saying, "I'm going to call my attorney." (Id. at 30:24--31:15.) Andruczyk followed her into the kitchen, told her to stop, and grabbed her left arm. (Id. at 31:12--25.) At that point, Andruczyk decided to arrest Plaintiff for failing to provide identification and for obstructing performance of his duties. (Id. at 32:5--12.) He attempted to handcuff her, and she resisted. (Id. at 41:10--12.) Even after he secured one handcuff, she continued to pull away, and in so doing, stumbled and hit her head on a kitchen cabinet. (Id. at 41:19--43:15.) Andruczyk finished handcuffing her and took her outside to his patrol car. (Id. at 43:22--44:14.) Chief Spinks arrived after Andruczyk brought Plaintiff outside, and Plaintiff was then transported back to the HBPD headquarters where she was processed. (Id.) She refused medical treatment. (Id.)

Plaintiff's version of the events differs significantly. According to Plaintiff, when Andruczyk came to her door and told her the brush pile was in violation of a Borough ordinance, she told Andruczyk that her landscaper had left the pile but that it would be removed the next day. (Drake Dep. 152:1--20.) When Andruczyk reiterated that it was against the Ordinance, Plaintiff asked if he was going to give her a summons. In response, Andruczyk said, "Are you refusing to move this [pile]?" and then demanded that she open the screen door. (Id. at 152:10--22.) Plaintiff claims that Andruczyk then began pulling on the screen door hard enough that he damaged it. (Id. at 152:23--153:1.) Plaintiff opened the screen door for him because she was afraid and did not want him to break it. (Id. at 170:25--171:5.) Andruczyk then entered without permission and asked if Plaintiff was alone or if there was anyone upstairs, to which she replied that only her dog was there. (Id. at 175:5--14.) Andruczyk then ordered her into the kitchen and asked for her driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance. (Id. at 178:24--179:14, 181:1--5.) Plaintiff responded that her registration and insurance were in her car in the garage, and Andruczyk told her to go get them; he stayed in the kitchen while she retrieved the items. (Id. at 181:1--15.) When Plaintiff returned with the registration and insurance, Andruczyk again demanded that she produce her license. (Id. at 184:4--15.) Plaintiff refused to get her license because she believed that if she went upstairs to where her license was located, Andruczyk would try to rape her. (Id. at 184:18--185:4.) When Andruczyk again demanded the license and Plaintiff again refused, he threatened to place her under arrest for refusing to provide documentation. (Id. at 186:10--11, 187:9--10.) Plaintiff asked for an attorney and told Andruczyk he was frightening her and not acting like a policeman. (Id. at 185:19, 187:21--24.) Andruczyk then pulled out plastic handcuffs and reached for Plaintiff's wrist. (Id. at 188:23-- 189:22.) Not believing he was a police officer, Plaintiff backed away from him. (Id. at 190:11--20.) He advanced on her and grabbed her wrist, and Plaintiff struggled to get away, believing she was fighting for her life. (Id. at 194:6--8, 195:7--196:12.) Andruczyk then spun her around, kneed her in the back, and repeatedly slammed her head into the cabinets and a cutting board on the kitchen counter. (Id. at 197:15--23, 200:1--13.) He then handcuffed her hands behind her back and took her out into the front yard. (Id. at 201:23--25, 205:8--17, 206:1--17, 207:2--8.) Andruczyk called headquarters from the front porch, and Chief Spinks arrived. (Id. at 207:2--8, 210:8--13.) Plaintiff was then put in the patrol car and taken to the HBPD station. (Id. at 210:8, 213:12--14.) She admits she refused medical treatment at the station because she did not want anyone touching her. (Id. at 214:4--15.)

As a result of this incident, Plaintiff was charged with violation of the brush pile ordinance, obstructing an officer from his lawful duty, and resisting arrest. At trial in North Hunterdon Municipal Court, she was found not guilty of the brush ordinance violation and of obstructing an officer. (Wurth Certification Ex. A, Tr. of N. Hunterdon Mun. Ct. 169:5--13) [26-2]. On appeal, she was found not guilty of resisting arrest as well because the state had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Plaintiff knew or had reason to know that Andruczyk was a police officer. (Wurth Certification Ex. B, Tr. of N.J. Super. Ct. 11:11--18, 13:20--25) [26-3]. An internal affairs investigation conducted by the HBPD concluded that Andruczyk "followed the appropriate department policies and procedures and acted within performance guidelines." (Wurth Certification Ex. P, Spinks Letter to Drake 1) [26-17].

Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this case on August 22, 2008 [1]. She asserts several claims against Andruczyk, including unlawful search of her residence, assault and battery and use of excessive force, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process. Plaintiff claims the other Defendants were either directly involved or are liable for failing to properly train and supervise Andruczyk and failing to prevent or stop his wrongdoing. She brings her claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, the New Jersey State Constitution, and New Jersey State Law.

Defendants now seek summary judgment on a number of issues. First, they argue that Plaintiff's claims for false arrest, excessive force, and failure to train and supervise must be dismissed because Plaintiff has not produced an expert to testify about proper police conduct. Second, Defendants want the claims against HBPD and the claims against the officers in their official capacities dismissed. Third, they contend that the evidence is insufficient to support the claims against HBPD and Spinks for failure to train. Fourth, they argue that the evidence cannot support the claims for failure to supervise or for maintaining improper procedures. Fifth, they maintain that punitive damages are barred by New Jersey's Tort Claims Act. Finally, they assert that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The Court will "view the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Id.; Curley v. Klem, 298 F.3d 271, 276--77 (3d Cir. 2002). In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the Court must determine "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 251-- 52 (1986). More specifically, the Court must grant summary judgment against any party "who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the movant's motion is supported by facts, the party opposing summary judgment "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response must . . . set out specific facts showing a ...


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