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Juan Simmons v. City of Paterson

July 13, 2012


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


Pro se Plaintiff Juan Simmons brings this action for "police brutality and abuse" against the City of Paterson (the "City"), the Paterson Police Department (the "Police Department"), and two City of Paterson police officers, Officer Salvatore Macolino and Sergeant Kevin Collins. This matter comes before the Court on a motion to dismiss, filed by the City and the Paterson Police Department. Sergeant Collins joins in the motion. There was no oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss is DENIED.


The following facts are drawn from the Complaint.*fn1 Plaintiff alleges that, on December 2, 2010, Officer Macolino and Sergeant Collins arrested him in the back room of a building in Paterson, New Jersey. The Complaint states that Plaintiff was "in a submissive posture as the result of an ensuing arrest" when one of the officers struck him in the back of the head with his service weapon, causing Plaintiff to fall to the ground.

Compl. at 1. Once Plaintiff was lying on the ground, the same officer held Plaintiff's head down with his knee while the other officer kicked Plaintiff in the face, causing Plaintiff to lose consciousness. Plaintiff regained consciousness when one of the officers stood him up and slammed him against a wall.*fn2 Plaintiff sustained a variety of injuries, including a concussion, damage to his eyes, nose, and chest, and a laceration to his scalp requiring four (4) stitches. Plaintiff was treated for these injuries at St. Joseph's Hospital and the Passaic County Jail Infirmary.*fn3 In January 2011, Plaintiff filed this action in the Superior Court of New Jersey. Defendants removed the action to this Court.


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). Moreover, where the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the complaint is "to be liberally construed," and, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007).

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).


Construing Plaintiff's Complaint liberally, Plaintiff appears to be asserting: (1) a federal constitutional claim for use of excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"); and (2) a state law claim for assault and battery. Defendants move to dismiss both the federal and state claims. Each issue will be addressed in turn.

A.Plaintiff's Section 1983 Claim

i.The City and the Police Department

The City asserts that it is entitled to qualified immunity for Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim.*fn4 However, it has been well-established for decades that a municipality cannot assert the defense of qualified immunity. Owen v. Independence, 445 U.S. 622, 638 (1980) (A "municipality may not assert the good faith of its officers or agents as a defense to liability under ยง 1983."); Kirley v. Williams, 330 Fed. Appx. 16, 20 (3d Cir. 2009) ("[T]he doctrine of qualified immunity is unavailable to municipalities"). Because the City does not raise any other defenses or ...

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