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Salahuddin F. Smart v. Borough of Lindenwold

October 11, 2011

SALAHUDDIN F. SMART, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOROUGH OF LINDENWOLD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle

OPINION

SIMANDLE, District Judge:

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on a motion submitted by Plaintiff Salahuddin Smart("Plaintiff") to vacate pursuant to Rule 60(b), Fed. R. Civ. P., this Court's March 9, 2010 Order. [Docket Item 48.] On March 9, 2010, the Court granted Defendants Borough of Lindenwold, Justin Mastalski, Michael McCarthy, Daniel LaFountaine's ("Defendants") motion for summary judgment. Almost one year later, on March 1, 2011, Plaintiff filed this motion to reopen the case based on allegedly newly discovered evidence. [Docket Item 49.] For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny Plaintiff's motion to reopen the case.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Previous Litigation and Judgment

The Plaintiff filed this civil rights action against the Defendants on December 21, 2007. The Plaintiff alleged in his complaint that Patrolmen Daniel LaFountaine and Justin Mastalski of the Lindenwold Police Department used excessive force against him in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

On August 23, 2006, Patrolmen LaFountaine and Mastalski responded to a report that people were smoking marijuana outside a building in an apartment complex. The patrolmen approached the people in front the apartment building, and indicated they had received a report of people smoking marijuana in the area. As they began questioning Plaintiff's group, Plaintiff fled from the officers, who then chased the Plaintiff through the apartment complex.

Plaintiff alleged that he was approaching a hole in a fence between apartment complexes when a patrol car sped at him, striking him. (Smart Dep. 19:10-20:25, Oct. 7, 2008.) In contrast, Patrolman LaFountaine averred that the vehicle approached Smart to block him from passing through the hole, and that LaFountaine was exiting the vehicle while it was in park when Smart attempted to cross over the hood of the vehicle and fell off. (Campbell Cert, Ex-B ("Answers to Interrogatories").) Plaintiff was arrested and ultimately pled guilty to resisting arrest.

Plaintiff went to the hospital after he was released by the police and complained of pain in his wrist. He was allegedly diagnosed with bruising and testified that he had some cuts, although there is no documentation of his injuries or testimony about their cause.

Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the driver of the patrol car and his partner who was outside the car, and also argued that the Borough of Lindenwold and Police Chief McCarthy were liable for failing to have a clear policy and to offer adequate training with regard to the use of police cruisers.

The Defendants moved for summary judgment. The Plaintiff filed opposition to the motion for summary judgment. In support of his opposition to summary judgment, the Plaintiff attached two unsworn handwritten statements from Carol Watkins and Lamont Watkins respectively. The Plaintiff's opposition did not include any response to Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts.

After reviewing the submissions of the parties, the Court granted the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. [Docket Item 48.] Before reaching the merits of the motion, the Court addressed several deficiencies in the Plaintiff's opposition. First, the Court discussed the Plaintiff's failure to respond to the Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, noted the Plaintiff's extensive civil litigation history and highlighted the Court's past instructions to the Plaintiff on how to support and oppose motions in accordance with the rules of procedure. [March 9, 2010 Op. at 5-7.] The Court then applied Local Civil Rule 56.1(a) which provides that "any material fact not disputed shall be deemed undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion." Applying this rule, the Court deemed Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement of Undisputed Material Facts uncontested for the purposes of the motion. [March 9, 2010 Op. at 7.]

The Court also addressed the unsworn handwritten statements of Carol Watkins and Lamont Watkins. Citing to Woloszyn v. County of Lawrence, 396 F.3d 314, 323 (3d Cir. 2005), the Court determined that these statements must be disregarded. A "statement not in affidavit form was not sufficient . . . to rely upon . . . in disposing of the pending motion for summary judgment" because it did not satisfy the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Id. As the handwritten statements of Carol and Lamont Watkins ...


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