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Catlett v. New Jersey State Police

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 31, 2013

AMY K.Z. CATLETT, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE, et al., Defendants.

Ms. Amy K.Z. Catlett, Vineland, NJ, Plaintiff Pro Se.

OPINION

JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Amy K.Z. Catlett, pro se, brings this suit alleging a series of constitutional and common law tort claims against the City of Vineland Police Department ("VPD"), Vineland Emergency Medical Service ("VEMS"), several named New Jersey State Police ("NJSP") troopers, Vineland police officers and emergency medical technicians ("EMTs"), a nurse, a doctor, a medical center, and other unidentified individuals. Plaintiff claims she was tortiously and unconstitutionally detained by police and medical professionals and was administered unwanted medical treatment upon suspicion that she was suicidal. Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to amend her Complaint. [Docket Item 53]. No opposition to the Plaintiff's motion to amend has been filed.

The key inquiry before the Court is whether Plaintiff's Proposed Amended Complaint cures the deficiencies noted by the Court in its previous opinions [Docket Items 30, 46, & 51]. For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's motion to amend will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiff's factual allegations, accepted as true, indicate that in the early morning hours of November 21, 2009, she was arrested and detained by unidentified troopers of the Defendant NJSP in connection with an unspecified motor vehicle offense. (Compl. ¶ 4.) She claims she was detained by the troopers longer than necessary, including for some unspecified period of time after they had decided not to charge her with the offense, but she was released from custody while it was still in the "early morning hours." (Id. ¶¶ 5-10.)

Then, approximately twelve hours later, in the afternoon of the same day, a state trooper ("Trooper Scott") received an anonymous tip that Plaintiff had threatened to harm herself in a post on an internet site, and Trooper Scott passed on this information to an individual working for Defendant Vineland Police Department. (Id. ¶ 13.) In response, some (unidentified) Vineland police officers and Vineland EMTs arrived at Plaintiff's residence, "removed [her] from her home and forced [her] to go to [Defendant's] South Jersey Healthcare-Regional Medical Center in Vineland..." (Id. ¶ 14.) While there, Plaintiff claims she was forcibly restrained and physically injured by Defendant Nurse Diane Stavoli, apparently on the orders of Defendant Dr. Dominic Diorio, and was provided care that was inappropriate in certain unspecified ways. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 38-43.) She was eventually discharged that same evening. (Id. ¶ 18.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff, who is admitted to practice law in the State of New Jersey, [1] brought the current suit, pro se, in New Jersey Superior Court, and Defendants removed the matter to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction and supplemental jurisdiction. [Docket Item 1]. Following a motion for dismissal and summary judgment by Defendant NJSP, the Court terminated the NJSP from the suit. Catlett v. New Jersey State Police, No. 12-153, 2012 WL 3757005, at *1-*2 (D.N.J. Aug. 28, 2012). The Court also denied a simultaneous motion to dismiss all common law claims against Defendant Diorio, finding that Plaintiff substantially complied with the New Jersey's Affidavit of Merit Statute. Id. at *6. In the same Opinion, the Court denied without prejudice Plaintiff's cross-motion for leave to file an amended complaint, because the then Proposed Amended Complaint repeated the deficient claims against Defendant NJSP.[2] Id. at *4.

Later, Defendant Diorio filed a second motion to dismiss, joined by Defendants Stavoli and South Jersey Healthcare ("SJH"), and Plaintiff again opposed the motion and cross-moved to amend her complaint. [Docket Item 29]. Catlett v. New Jersey State Police, No. 12-153, 2012 WL 941059, at *2 (D.N.J. Mar. 11, 2013). The Court dismissed with prejudice all 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New Jersey Civil Rights Act ("NJCRA") claims against Defendants Diorio, Stavoli, and SJH, because Plaintiff did not and could not plead that those Defendants acted under color of state law. Id. at *4. However, the Court denied without prejudice Defendants motion to dismiss the state law claims against them. Id. at *6. The Court also denied without prejudice Plaintiff's motion to amend because the then Proposed Amended Complaint included the same deficient allegations that Defendant Diorio and the other medical Defendants acted under color of state law. Id . After briefing had concluded on these motions, but before the Court issued its Opinion and Order [Docket Items 47 & 48], Defendants VPD and VEMS filed a separate motion to dismiss. [Docket Item 43]. The Court instructed Plaintiff to not move to amend her complaint again until after an Opinion had been issued on the separate motion to dismiss made by Defendants VPD and VEMS.[3] Catlett, 2012 WL 941059, at *6 & n.8.

The Court dismissed without prejudice the claims against the Vineland Defendants because the complaint failed to allege facts that would create a plausible basis for a cause of action under § 1983, NJCRA, or any of the state law tort claims that were alleged: negligent hiring, training and/or supervision. [Docket Item 51, at 17].

Plaintiff timely filed the instant motion to amend and included a Proposed Amended Complaint in accordance with ...


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