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Ramirez v. The City of Newark

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 28, 2014

GEORGE RAMIREZ, JOSHUA RUIZ, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF NEWARK, ESSEX COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, AND OFFICERS JOHN DOE 1-10 (names being ficticious), Defendants, THE CITY OF NEWARK, Defendant/Third Party Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF ESSEX, ESSEX COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, RICHARD ROE, DAVID ZOE (names being ficticious Third Party Defendants.

OPINION

SUSAN D. WIGENTON, District Judge.

Before this Court are two separate Summary Judgment Motions filed by Defendant City of Newark and Third Party Defendant County of Essex ("Essex County"). This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343(a)(3), and 1367. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). This Court, having considered the parties' submissions, decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons stated below, this Court DENIES Newark's motion in part and GRANTS Newark's motion in part, but GRANTS Essex County's motion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case is about Plaintiffs George Ramirez ("Ramirez") and Joshua Ruiz ("Ruiz") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") seeking redress for their arrest and detention in the City of Newark (the "City" or "Newark") and subsequent incarceration in the Essex County Correctional Facility. On June 3, 2009, Plaintiffs were apprehended by officers of the Newark Police Department while they were driving in a vehicle on Montclair Avenue in Newark, NJ. ( See Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11.) Plaintiffs had just left a job center and were on their way to pick up a friend when police cars suddenly surrounded Ramirez's vehicle and officers approached the vehicle with guns drawn. ( See id. at ¶ 11; Pls.' Supplemental Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("SSUF") ¶ 1.) After Plaintiffs exited the vehicle, they were forced to the ground and handcuffed. ( See Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶ 11.) The victims of the crime that Plaintiffs had allegedly committed were then asked to identify Plaintiffs. (Pls.' Responsive Statement of Undisputed Material Facts "RSUF" ¶ 1.) Victim no. 1 positively identified Plaintiffs as the assailants, although Plaintiffs were face down on the ground and victim no. 1 was sitting in the back seat of a police car and not wearing his glasses. ( Id. ) After the identification, Plaintiffs were then transported to the Second Precinct at One Lincoln Avenue and placed in a cell for several hours without having been read their Miranda rights or informed of the charges against them. (Pls.' SSUF ¶¶ 3-4; Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiffs were later transported to Newark Central Booking where they were held for five days prior to appearing before a judge. (Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiffs were then transferred to Essex County Correctional Facility. (Pls.' SSUF ¶ 5; Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶ 11.) It should be noted that at no time were Plaintiffs identified in a lineup or identified in any other manner after the initial identification. (Pls.' RSUF ¶ 1.)

While incarcerated at Essex County Correctional Facility, Plaintiffs were assaulted by unknown inmates. (Pls.' RSUF ¶ 7.) Ramirez's head was repeatedly bashed into a toilet by other inmates, resulting in Ramirez getting seven stitches to heal a wound on his head. (Pls.' SSUF ¶ 7.) Ramirez now has a two to three inch scar on his forehead to which he must apply skin cream daily. ( Id. ) After his release, he was reclusive and did not want to socialize. ( Id. ) For his part, Ruiz was physically and sexually assaulted, resulting in chipped teeth, hot flashes, cold sweats, and traumatic flashbacks. ( Id. ¶ 6.) He developed kidney stones from the high-sodium food served in Essex County Correctional Facility. ( Id. ) Additionally, the incarceration period ended the relationship with his high school sweetheart and mother of his child. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs were offered plea bargains on three separate occasions while they were incarcerated in Essex County Correctional Facility, but they denied each offer, proclaiming that they were innocent of the charges filed against them. (Pls.' SSUF ¶ 5.) After being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility for thirteen months, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office dismissed the charges against Plaintiffs. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts "SUF" ¶ 6.)

On March 1, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against ten unnamed police officers of the Newark Police Department and the City itself (collectively, "Newark"). (Dkt. No. 1.) On April 29, 2011, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint adding Essex County Correctional Facility as a defendant. (Dkt. No. 5.) The Amended Complaint asserts six different causes of action. ( See id. ) First, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Police Officers, the City, and Essex County Correctional Facility, acting willfully and knowingly, deprived Plaintiffs of their rights secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30-33.) Second, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant Officers willfully deprived Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights under Article 1, Section 7 of the New Jersey Constitution, and that the City is vicariously liable for said deprivation. ( See id. at ¶¶ 37, 38.) Third, Plaintiffs claimed damages for the "willful, unlawful, unwarranted, and intentional assault and battery upon Plaintiffs" committed by Defendant Officers. ( Id. at ¶ 41.) Fourth, Plaintiffs alleged that the City maliciously prosecuted them by bringing criminal charges against them absent probable cause. ( See id. at ¶ 44.) Last, Plaintiffs claimed that the City negligently hired and retained officers it had reason to know posed a danger to society thereby resulting in Plaintiffs' injuries. ( See id. ¶¶ 50-55.) Plaintiffs and Defendants stipulated to the dismissal of the fifth cause of action claiming negligent infliction of emotional distress. (Dkt. No. 13.)

On July 26, 2011, the City filed an answer to Plaintiffs' complaint. (Dkt. No. 14.) Then, on January 13, 2012, the City filed a motion seeking an order permitting leave to file an amended answer to Plaintiffs' amended complaint and a third party complaint. (Dkt. No. 27.) The motion was granted and the City subsequently filed an amended answer to Plaintiffs' complaint and a third party complaint against the Essex County Prosecutor's Office and Essex County seeking indemnification from Essex County for Plaintiffs' injuries. (Dkt. No. 30.)

On March 26, 2012, Essex County filed a motion to dismiss the City's third party complaint. (Dkt. No. 36.) In an Opinion dated July 14, 2012, this Court granted Essex County's motion inasmuch as the City asserted tort claims against Essex County; however, this Court denied Essex County's motion with respect to the City's contribution claims for damages relating to Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims. See Ramirez v. City of Newark, Civil Action No. 11-CV-1150 (June 14, 2012). Thereafter, both Essex County Correctional Facility (dkt. no. 72) and the Essex County Prosecutor's Office were dismissed as defendants, leaving only the City as a defendant and Essex County as a third party defendant.

On June 6, 2013, Essex County filed the instant summary judgment motion seeking to end the City's third party action. (Dkt. No. 78.) The next day, the City filed its own summary judgment motion looking to obtain judgment against Plaintiffs. (Dkt. No. 79.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A factual dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant, and it is material if, under the substantive law, it would affect the outcome of the suit. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party must show that if the evidentiary material of record were reduced to admissible evidence in court, it would be insufficient to permit the nonmoving party to carry its burden of proof. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

Once the moving party meets the initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmovant who must set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial and may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of its pleadings. See Shields v. Zuccarini, 254 F.3d 476, 481 (3d Cir. 2001). The court may not weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but rather should determine whether there is a genuine issue as to a material fact. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In doing so, the court must construe the facts and inferences in "a light most favorable" to the nonmoving party. Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 501 U.S. 496, 521 (1991). The nonmoving party "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions' to show the existence of a genuine issue." Podobnik v. United States Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325). If the nonmoving party "fail[s] to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [its] case with respect to which [it] has the burden of proof, " then the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323.

III. DISCUSSION

A. The City of Newark's Summary ...


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