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Geissler v. City of Atlantic City

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 28, 2017

LISA GEISSLER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY, ATLANTIC CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, ATLANTIC CITY POLICE OFFICER DARRELL CATANIO, MARINA DISTRICT FINANCE COMPANY, LLC d/b/a BORGATA HOTEL CASINO & SPA Defendants.

          Jon R. Skolnick, Esq. Jenntyng Chern, Esq. LAW OFFICES OF JON RORY SKOLNICK 100 Morris Avenue, Suite 101 Springfield, N.J. 07081 Attorneys for Plaintiff

          Tracy L. Riley, Esq. LAW OFFICES OF RILEY & RILEY The Washington House Attorney for Defendants City of Atlantic City, Atlantic City Police Department, and Atlantic City Police Officer Darrell Catanio

          OPINION

          HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Lisa Geissler alleges in this action that while she was a registered guest of the Borgata Hotel and Casino & Spa in Atlantic City in October of 2014, she was “wrongfully and falsely” accused by Borgata employees of stealing bottles of wine and subsequently “wrongfully and falsely arrested and charged” with defiant trespass by a police officer with the Atlantic City Police Department (“ACPD”). Plaintiff directs this suit against Atlantic City Police Officer Darrell Catanio (“Officer Catanio”) and the Marina District Finance Company, LLC d/b/a Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa (“Borgata”), and alleges constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the New Jersey State Constitution, and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, in addition to several state tort claims.

         Presently before the Court are two motions: Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), and a cross-motion to dismiss with prejudice by the City of Atlantic City, the ACPD and Officer Catanio (collectively, the “City Defendants”), under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion, deny Defendants' motion as to Officer Catanio, and grant Plaintiff ten days to clarify and file the amended complaint in accordance with the Court's instructions below, including eliminating the City of Atlantic City and the Atlantic City Police Department as defendants.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         The City Defendants previously filed a motion to dismiss in this case, which the Court granted. Counts One (claims under § 1983) and Two (claims under the New Jersey Constitution and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act) were dismissed as to the Atlantic City Police Department and the City of Atlantic City. [Docket Item 20 at 9 and 12.] The Court held that the Atlantic City Police Department was not a proper defendant and dismissed all counts against it with prejudice on that basis, and also ruled that Plaintiff had not sufficiently alleged a custom or policy of the City of Atlantic City to allow her to sustain Counts One and Two as to the City. [Id. at 29, 11-12.] Although Counts One and Two against the City of Atlantic City were dismissed without prejudice, Plaintiff does not here seek to revive them. [Docket Item 26.] The Court also dismissed without prejudice Counts One and Two as to Officer Catanio. [Docket Item 20 at 20.]

         The Court also addressed Plaintiff's state tort claims. The Court dismissed with prejudice Plaintiff's state tort claims of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress as untimely. [Docket Item 20 at 26.] Plaintiff's state tort claim of malicious prosecution against the City Defendants was dismissed without prejudice. [Id. at 29.]

         Plaintiff avers that she does not seek to revive all of her claims, nor even all those that were dismissed without prejudice (namely, Counts One and Two as to the City of Atlantic City and Officer Catanio and the state tort claim of malicious prosecution against the same). Rather, Plaintiff seeks only to revive her dismissed constitutional claims of false imprisonment and malicious prosecution (namely, Counts One and Two) against Officer Catanio. [Docket Item 26.] Nonetheless, inexplicably, Plaintiff's counsel lists these dismissed and time-barred claims against the City Defendants in the proposed Amended Complaint, even while disclaiming the intention to proceed against any City Defendants other than Officer Catanio. [Docket Item 22-4 at 5-9.] This Opinion seeks to untangle this example of deficient practice.

         B. Factual Background

         The Court recites the allegations as they are laid out in Plaintiff's Complaint and Plaintiff's Proposed First Amended Complaint (“Amended Complaint”). [Docket Items 22-2 and 22-4.][1]

         For purposes of this motion, the Court must accept Plaintiff's allegations as true.

         On October 17, 2014, [2] Plaintiff Lisa Geissler was a registered guest of the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa. (Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) That evening, Plaintiff was in the Borgata's Lounge when, according to Plaintiff, Borgata employees wrongfully and falsely accused Plaintiff of stealing bottles of wine and demanded that she leave the Borgata's premises. (Id. ¶ 10.)

         While forcibly escorting Plaintiff to her room in the Borgata to gather her belongings, Borgata employees reported to ACPD that Plaintiff was trespassing on the Borgata's premises. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) Defendant Officer Catanio of the ACPD responded to the Borgata employees' report and proceeded to the Borgata. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         Plaintiff alleges in the Amended Complaint that, upon his arrival, Officer Catanio investigated the alleged theft and trespass “and was aware that Plaintiff and her friend, Barbara Sancilardi, were registered guests at the Borgata and had subsequently paid for the alleged stolen bottles of wine.” (Id. ¶ 14.) Officer Catanio assisted escorting Plaintiff and Ms. Sancilardi to their room. (Id. ¶ 15.) While he was doing so, Plaintiff began recording the incident using the videorecorder function on her cell phone. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff and Officer Catanio subsequently argued about Plaintiff recording Officer Catanio, with Officer Catanio demanding Plaintiff stop recording, Plaintiff refusing, and Officer Catanio threatening to arrest her if she did not stop. (Id. ¶ 17-19.)

         Borgata told Officer Catanio that Borgata would not be pressing charges for theft against Plaintiff because Ms. Sancilardi had already paid for the ...


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