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Estela Tulli-Makowski, As Administrator Ad Prosequendeum of the Estate of Viviana Tulli v. Community Education Centers

May 10, 2013

ESTELA TULLI-MAKOWSKI, AS ADMINISTRATOR AD PROSEQUENDEUM OF THE ESTATE OF VIVIANA TULLI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMUNITY EDUCATION CENTERS, INC., ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Plaintiff Estella Tulli-Makowski, the administrator of the estate of Viviana Tulli, brings the instant suit seeking money damages for Viviana Tulli's murder. This matter comes before the court on two motions. The State of New Jersey, the Department of Corrections of the State of New Jersey, and the New Jersey State Parole Board (together the "State Defendants"), the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey ("UMDNJ") and the UMDNJ-University Hospital (together the UMDNJ Defendants), and the Department of Public Safety*fn1 move pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss the Complaint. There was no oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, the State Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED. The UMDNJ Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Department of Public Safety's motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

On October 7, 2008 David Goodell was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. Compl. ¶ 21, ECF No. 1. Goodell pled guilty, and he was given a prison term of four years. Id. ¶ 21. While he was in prison, Goodell sometimes communicated with a friend named Viviana Tulli. Id. ¶¶ 21, 22.

On February 11, 2010, the New Jersey State Parole Board transferred Goodell from prison to a halfway house in Newark called Logan Hall. Id. ¶¶ 27, 34. Apparently, Logan Hall was designated by the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections as a "secure and appropriately supervised place of confinement" for prisoners.

Id. ¶ 27.

Logan Hall was not a state owned facility. It was part of the EHCA-CEC Halfway House System, which was operated by Community Education Centers ("CEC"), a for-profit corporation. Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiff alleges that the EHCA-CEC Halfway House System is horribly mismanaged and has experienced an "inordinate" number of prisoner escapes. Id. ¶¶ 31-32.

On April 29, 2010, Goodell faked a seizure at Logan Hall, and he was taken to UMDNJ-University Hospital by an unarmed CEC employee. Id. ¶ 35. Goodell escaped from the hospital and proceeded to murder Viviana Tulli. Id. ¶¶ 36, 40.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

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).

A Complaint's 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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). Claims have "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." Id. at 1949.

III. DISCUSSION

The Complaint contains eight counts. Count I is a claim for survivorship under N.J.S.A. 2A:15-3. Count II is a claim for wrongful death under N.J.S.A. 2A:31-1. Count III is a claim for a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). Count IV is a claim for fundamental fairness (i.e. due process violations) under New Jersey common law. Count V is a claim for "sham non-profit entity-illegal operation of a halfway house system) under New Jersey common law. Count VI is a claim for piercing the corporate veil under New Jersey common law. Count VII is a claim for "corporate officer/manager participating in tort" under New Jersey common law. Count VIII is a claim for failure to exercise reasonable care under New Jersey common law.

The State Defendants, the UMDNJ Defendants, and the Department of Public Safety (together "Defendants") move to dismiss Count III, arguing that they are not "persons" who can be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants also move to dismiss the additional claims asserted against them, arguing that they are immune from suit under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act ("NJTCA").*fn2 Finally, the Department of ...


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