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Jayant Abdeo and Nalini Abdeo, His Wife v. Borough of South Plainfield Police Department

July 7, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-7578-07.

Per curiam.


Argued December 7, 2010

Before Judges Graves and Messano.

Plaintiff Jayant Abdeo and his wife, Nalini Abdeo,*fn1 appeal from three May 14, 2010 orders dismissing their claims and granting summary judgment to defendants Borough of South Plainfield Police Department (the Department), Officer M. Hollain, and Lieutenant P. Wylam.*fn2 We affirm.

On July 5, 2006, Edward C. Laferra of the South Plainfield Borough Fire Department issued a summons and complaint to Inamco, a New Jersey corporation, for failure to pay a penalty. The summons instructed Inamco to appear before the Municipal Court of South Plainfield at 9:00 a.m. on July 12, 2006. The matter was rescheduled for July 19, 2006, but Inamco failed to appear. On September 15, 2006, the municipal court issued an arrest warrant for "any officer of Inamco."

The warrant was ultimately assigned to Officer Hollain, a member of the Department.*fn3 On November 27, 2006, Hollain traveled to Inamco's facility in South Plainfield to execute the warrant. Prior to the arrest, Hollain "contacted headquarters to make sure that the warrant was valid."

According to Hollain's incident report, he encountered plaintiff, who stated that he had become president of Inamco on September 20, 2006, and "did not know anything about [the summons and complaint]." According to plaintiff, he immediately offered to pay the $500 bail, but Hollain refused. Plaintiff was placed under arrest, handcuffed, and transported to police headquarters. Hollain began to process plaintiff but was soon told by another officer, Sergeant Diana,*fn4 that the arrest was unnecessary. Therefore, Diana "de-arrested" plaintiff, and plaintiff was released after posting bail.

Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Law Division in August 2007, stating that Hollain and Wylam "did illegally and improperly falsely arrest, detain, and imprison" him. The first count of the complaint stated that these acts violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983, the New Jersey Constitution, and the Civil Rights Act (CRA or the Act), N.J.S.A. 10:6-1 to -2; the second count alleged negligent supervision against the Department; and the third count claimed loss of consortium for plaintiff's wife. On October 15, 2007, defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Two years later, on December 1, 2009, defendants moved for summary judgment. In a written decision dated February 11, 2010, the district court found that "Officer Hollain was not required to investigate the basis of the bench warrant to ensure that it complied with all of the New Jersey rules." In addition, the court determined that the warrant's reference to "any officer of Inamco" did not violate the United States Constitution:

The warrant here clearly indicates that only an officer of a specified corporation at a specified address may be arrested and, in essence, commands the officer to first identify whether the person being arrested in fact is an officer of the corporation.

This category of "officers" is a small, finite, and identifiable group of individuals. . . . The Court finds that the warrant's description in this case provided sufficient specificity to minimize the error of Officer Hollain arresting a person not commanded or intended to be arrested by the municipal court. Thus, the Court finds that the warrant was not facially invalid. Under the circumstances, Officer Hollain could have reasonably presumed that the warrant was valid, especially given that he had no involvement in the issuance of the warrant and was merely tasked with its execution.

Therefore, the district court granted summary judgment to defendants on plaintiff's federal claims under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983. However, it declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state claims under the CRA.

Plaintiff subsequently reinstated his complaint in the Law Division on March 5, 2010. He moved for partial summary judgment as to liability only on or about March 25, 2010, and defendants cross-moved for summary judgment and dismissal of the complaint. On May 14, 2010, the Law Division granted summary judgment to ...

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