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Dean v. Deptford Township

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 16, 2015

TAHARQU DEAN, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPTFORD TOWNSHIP, et al., Defendants.

David Andrew Berlin, Esquire, Matthew Benjamin Weisberg, Esquire, Weisberg Law, Morton, Pennsylvania, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Vanessa Elaine James, Esquire, Barker Scott & Gelfand PC, Linwood, New Jersey, Attorneys for Defendants Deptford Township, Michael DiVito, and John Storms.

Patrick J. Madden, Esquire, Timothy R. Bieg, Esquire, Madden & Madden, PA, Haddonfield, New Jersey, Attorneys for Defendants Gloucester County, Gloucester County Department of Correctional Services, and Jesse Yamada.

Linda A. Galella, Esquire, Richardson, Galella & Austermuhl, Woodbury, New Jersey, Attorneys for Defendants C. Finnegan and S. Borton.

OPINION

NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court by way of motion [Doc. No. 97] of Defendants Scott Borton and Charles Finnegan seeking judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). By Memorandum Opinion and Order dated March 30, 2015, the Court converted the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d) and directed the parties to provide supplemental briefing. The Court has considered the supplemental submissions of the parties and decides this matter pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78.

For the reasons that follow, the motion of Defendants Borton and Finnegan will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

In this case, Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that he was "severely beaten" by corrections officers while incarcerated at the Gloucester County Correctional Facility in 2011. (Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 73] ¶ 33.) The original complaint named a number of defendants, including Gloucester County, the Gloucester County Department of Correctional Services, Eugene Caldwell II as the Warden of the Gloucester County Department of Correctional Services, and Jesse Yamada as Sergeant of the Gloucester County Department of Correctional Services. (Compl. [Doc. No. 1] ¶¶ 5, 7, 11.) The original complaint also named "John Does 1-10" as "Defendant Correctional Officers." (Id. ¶ 30.)

Plaintiff filed the original complaint on August 29, 2013. Defendants Borton and Finnegan, corrections officers at the Gloucester County Correctional Facility, were not named as defendants at that time. Plaintiff, pursuant to an Order dated April 29, 2014, was granted leave to file an amended complaint, which was filed on May 8, 2014. In the amended complaint, Plaintiff added Defendants Borton and Finnegan as parties and asserted four causes of action against these individuals. (Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 73] ¶¶ 12, 13.) Counts One and Two are based on constitutional violations and are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. ¶¶ 39-48.) Count Three alleges a violation of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act under N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:6-2. (Id. ¶¶ 49-51.) Count Seven is a common law tort claim for assault and battery. (Id. ¶¶ 69-70.)

On September 4, 2014, Defendants Borton and Finnegan filed an answer to the amended complaint. Thereafter, these defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) on the basis that Plaintiff's claims against them were time-barred and did not relate back to the filing of the original complaint. (Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss Compl. Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(c) as to Defs. Corrections Officer Charles Finnegan and Corrections Officer Scott Borton [Doc. No. 97-2], at 4-16.)

In a Memorandum Opinion and Order dated March 30, 2015, the Court concluded that Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Borton and Finnegan were not filed within the statute of limitations period. (Mem. Op. and Order [Doc. No. 109], at 4.) The Court then considered whether the claims relate back to the filing of the original complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. 15(c). (Id. at 4-9.) Because the Court could not determine whether relation back would be permitted without looking to evidence beyond the pleadings, the Court converted the motion to a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and directed the parties to submit additional briefing. (Id. at 9.)

Defendants then filed a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in which they represent that as early as 2011, Plaintiff had notice of their identities and roles in the incident that gives rise to the claims in this case. (Statement of Undisputed Material Facts in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. [Doc. No. 128] (hereafter, "Defs.' SOF") ¶¶ 8-10, 15.) In support, Defendants cite Plaintiff's deposition testimony, in which Plaintiff testified that between December 27, 2011 and January 6, 2012, when he was still incarcerated in the county jail, he wrote down the names of the officers who purportedly used excessive force against him. (Defs.' Ltr. Reply Br. [Doc. No. 102], Ex. A at 104:17-24.) The names he wrote down included Defendants Borton and Finnegan. (Id. at 100:20-101:2, 102:4-9.) In addition, Plaintiff was advised of these defendants' identities in Defendant Gloucester County's Rule 26 disclosures, which were served in 2013. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 15.) Defendants also represent that they did not have knowledge of the claims against them until the summer of 2014. (Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 16, 17.)

In response to Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, Plaintiff denies that he had notice of the identities of Defendants Borton and Finnegan, but he cites no evidence to counter his own sworn deposition testimony. (Pl.'s Response in Opp. to Defs.' Statement of Material Facts [Doc. No. 132-1] ¶¶ 8, 10.) Plaintiff also argues that Borton and Finnegan were on notice of the claims against them through their employer, codefendants Gloucester County and Gloucester County Department of Correctional Services. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 17.) Plaintiff contends that even if Defendants did not have actual notice of the claims against them, notice should be imputed through the doctrine of "commonality of interest" recognized by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in ...


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