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R.M v. Lon Sainato

May 9, 2011


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


Plaintiff R.M. filed this 42 U.S.C. 1983 ("Section 1983") action against four Defendants: (1) Lon Sainato; (2) the County of Morris; (3) the Office of the Morris County Sheriff (the "Sheriff's Office"); and (4) Edward V. Rochford, the Morris County Sheriff ("Sheriff Rochford"). This matter comes before the Court on two motions to dismiss, one filed by the Sheriff's Office, and the other filed by Sheriff Rochford. There was no oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss filed by the Sheriff's Office is GRANTED, and the motion to dismiss filed by Sheriff Rochford is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.



Plaintiff was a participant in the Morris County Sheriff's Labor Assistance Program ("SLAP program"), a mandatory, court-ordered program that allows approved candidates to serve their jail sentences by participating in supervised community service. Plaintiff alleges that, during his participation in the SLAP program at the Cedar Knolls Fire Department, he was sexually assaulted by Defendant Sainato, a Sheriff's Office employee. Sainato has since pled guilty to these offenses.

Plaintiff alleges that, prior to the sexual assault, Sainato had been the subject of a criminal investigation related to sexual misconduct. Plaintiff further alleges that, prior to the assault, Sainato was engaged in a series of sexual encounters with inmates participating in the SLAP program.

The Sheriff's Office was the law enforcement agency that oversaw the Morris County SLAP program. Sheriff Rochford was the commanding officer of the Morris County Sheriff's Department, and was responsible for hiring, training, and supervising Sheriff's Office employees, including Sainato. Plaintiff alleges that both Defendants knew about the criminal investigation into Sainato's alleged sexual misconduct, and knew that Sainato was engaged in sexual encounters with SLAP program inmates.


This case involves two nearly identical actions. The first action was filed against the same four Defendants in the District of New Jersey on February 18, 2010, and was assigned to the Hon. Peter G. Sheridan (the "First Action"). See Case No. 10-cv-834, Compl., ECF No. 1. The County of Morris, the Sheriff's Office, and Sheriff Rochford moved to dismiss the complaint in the First Action. See Case No. 10-cv-834, ECF Nos. 7, 10, 17. In an Order dated February 16, 2011, Judge Sheridan dismissed the complaint against the County of Morris with prejudice. Judge Sheridan dismissed the complaint against Sheriff Rochford and the Sheriff's Office without prejudice and gave Plaintiff twenty-one (21) days to amend the complaint.

While the First Action was pending before Judge Sheridan, Plaintiff filed an identical complaint against the four Defendants in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Morris County. Following Judge Sheridan's order of dismissal in the First Action, Plaintiff amended his state court complaint to add allegations regarding Defendants' failure to investigate Sainato's criminal history and prior sexual relationships (the "First Amended Complaint" or the "Complaint"). On March 24, 2011, Defendants removed the state court action to this Court, thus initiating the current action.

On April 28, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Stipulation of Dismissal to close the First Action. The Stipulation explained that Plaintiff was voluntarily dismissing the First Action "without prejudice to the [present action]," because Defendant Sainato was the "sole remaining defendant" in the First Action, and the present action was moving forward as to all four Defendants. Case No. 10-cv-834, ECF No. 28. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff stipulated to the dismissal of the County of Morris in the present action, noting that Judge Sheridan had already dismissed the claims against the County of Morris with prejudice in a matter "involv[ing] identical questions of law and fact." Stipulation of Dismissal as to County of Morris Only at 2, ECF No. 8.

The Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Rochford now move to dismiss the present action.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must take all allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).

Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the factual allegations must be sufficient to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above a speculative level, such that it is "plausible on its face." See id. at 570; see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (2009).


The Court reads the First Amended Complaint as asserting the following six claims:

(1) Counts I and II: Section 1983 claims against all Defendants;

(2) Count III: New Jersey common law claim against Sainato for intentional infliction of emotional distress and ...

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