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McMaster v. City of North Wildwood

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 1, 2017

MICHAEL MCMASTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NORTH WILDWOOD, POLICE OFFICER BRYAN SKILL, POLICE OFFICER CLIFFORD MASSIE, POLICE OFFICER ERIC NEVIL, Defendants.

          OPINION

          JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ U.S.D.J.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court has reviewed the submissions and decides the matter based on the briefs pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons stated here, Defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         Jurisdiction

         This is a civil action over which the district court has original jurisdiction based on a question "arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff Michael McMaster asserts a violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. With respect to Plaintiffs state law claims, this Court has supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

         Background

         This matter stems from an incident that occurred at approximately 5:30 a.m. on November 19, 2015 between Plaintiff and three North Wildwood police officers - Clifford Massie, Eric Nevil, and Bryan Skill -on the sidewalk outside Plaintiffs parents' house in North Wilwood, New Jersey. Plaintiff had been arguing with his girlfriend when the officers arrived on the scene. A discussion ensued during which the officers advised Plaintiff and his girlfriend to return to their respective houses. Plaintiff allegedly pleaded with his girlfriend not to leave. Next, he allegedly reached for her bag and the officers "violently threw him to the ground." (Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges that he did not resist, but was "compliant, " nonetheless one, two, or three of the officers "violently and maliciously jumped on Plaintiffs back with their knees with such force that it caused Plaintiffs spleen to rupture and to fracture several ribs." (Am. Compl. ¶ 15.) He was transported to jail, then by ambulance to the hospital, and finally by helicopter to a trauma center. As a result, Plaintiff was hospitalized for ten days.

         Plaintiff has filed a Complaint in this Court claiming excessive force by the individual officers and Monell liability by North Wildwood. State law tort claims pled originally have been conceded through this motion.

         Applicable Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move for dismissal of a claim based on "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if the alleged facts, taken as true, fail to state a claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), ordinarily only the allegations in the complaint, matters of public record, orders, and exhibits attached to the complaint, are taken into consideration.[1] See Chester County Intermediate Unit v. Pa. Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3d Cir. 1990). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead evidence. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 561 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). The question before the Court is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 150 (2007). Instead, the Court simply asks whether the plaintiff has articulated "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         "A claim has facial plausibility[2] 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         The Court need not accept '"unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, '" Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted), however, and "[l]egal conclusions made in the guise of factual allegations ... are given no presumption of truthfulness." Wyeth v. Ranbaxy Labs., Ltd., 448 F.Supp.2d 607, 609 (D.N.J. 2006) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)); see also Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F-3cl 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005) ("[A] court need not credit either 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions' in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss.")). Accord Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-80 (finding that pleadings that are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth).

         Further, although "detailed factual allegations" are not necessary, "a plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). See also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.").

         Thus, a motion to dismiss should be granted unless the plaintiffs factual allegations are "enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal citations omitted). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ...


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