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Francine Cole v. Town of Morristown

July 31, 2011

FRANCINE COLE,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWN OF MORRISTOWN, ET AL .,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William J. Martini

OPINION

OPINION

Plaintiff Francine Cole brings a civil rights action asserting federal and state claims against various municipal entities and employees. She asserts that the police took her from her home to a hospital where tests and drugs were administered without her consent. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss. Defendants assert a variety of defenses. For the reasons elaborated below, the motion to dismiss will be GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Generally, Plaintiff Francine Cole alleges the following. Joseph Cole and George Johnson are Plaintiff's grand-nephews. They were staying at Plaintiff's home as house guests, but difficulties occurred. On or about February 18, 2009, Plaintiff called the police to remove them. Cole allowed the two to stay an additional night. Again, the next morning, Cole called the police to have her nephews removed. The police refused to do so.

Cole called the police again the next day. Apparently, the grand-nephews asserted that they had permission to remain on the premises from a purported co-owner of the premises. The police again refused to remove them on Plaintiff's instructions, considering the dispute to be akin to a landlord-tenant dispute. On this occasion, the police contacted a mental health worker for guidance, and the police and mental health worker made the decision to bring Plaintiff to a hospital for a mental health screening and physical testing. (The police assert that Plaintiff consented to go to the hospital.) Plaintiff was released that same day and signed a release, but only because it was a condition of release. Plaintiff further asserts that she has been singled out for abuse at the hands of the police because of her prior advocacy work and in retaliation for the exercise of her constitutional rights.

Plaintiff filed her complaint on September 14, 2010. She asserts nine causes of action, including: (1) unlawful arrest under New Jersey law; (2) civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1986; (4) civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1985; (5) malicious prosecution; (6) assault & battery; (7) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (8) New Jersey Civil Rights Act; and (9) Americans with Disabilities Act. The government or municipal defendants and their employees*fn1 then filed the instant motion to dismiss, seeking dismissal of some, but not all of Plaintiff's claim.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Defendants' motion to dismiss is brought pursuant to the provisions of Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). This rule 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), and dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true, the plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating "no set of facts" language found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. This requirement "calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id. Furthermore, in order satisfy federal pleading requirements, the plaintiff must "provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief," which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may also consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] document[s]." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 228 F.3d 548, 560-61 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. DISCUSSION

At the outset, the Court notes that Plaintiff consents to the dismissal of the assault and battery claim, count 6, against Defendants Cresitello, Demnitz, Dougherty, Hartke, and Wise.*fn2 Defendants assert a variety of defenses. This opinion discusses each in turn.

A. Are the Officers Immune Under N.J.S.A. § 30:4.27.7?

New Jersey law immunizes law enforcement officers from civil or criminal liability arising out of the custody, detention, or transportation of an individual for the purpose of mental health assessment or treatment, as long as the officers took "reasonable steps" and acted in good faith. N.J.S.A. ยง 30:4.27.7. In Dawkins v. County of Union, 2010 WL 2516466 (D.N.J. June 14, 2010), this Court determined that immunity extended to the prison official defendants because "Plaintiff m[ade] no allegations that Defendants acted in bad faith and makes nothing more than a bald assertion that their conduct violated applicable and generally accepted standards." Id. at *3. Here, ...


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