United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JUANITA NORMAN, Administratrix ad Prosequendum of the ESTATE of SHERRON J. NORMAN, Deceased, Plaintiff,
HADDON TOWNSHIP, HADDON TOWNSHIP POLICE CHIEF MARK CAVALLO, BOROUGH OF OAKLYN, OAKLYN POLICE CHIEF JOSEPH T. ABBATE, WOODLYNNE BOROUGH, WOODLYNNE POLICE DIRECTOR EDWIN FIGUEROA, BOROUGH OF COLLINGSWOOD, COLLINGSWOOD POLICE CHIEF RICHARD J. SARLO, CITY OF CAMDEN, POLICE CHIEF JOHN SCOTT THOMSON, and OFFICERS WILLIAM BENHAM, JOSEPH SULLIVAN, SCOTT DEMPSEY, CHARLES BLANCHARD, PAUL MASON, JOHN ROBINSON, BRIAN DICUGNO, JON SIEROCINSKI, YVETTE TRUITT, HERIBERTO INOSTROZA and JAMES ALLEN, individually and/or in their official capacities, jointly, severally, and/or in the alternative, Defendants.
A. KING STANLEY O. KING KING & KING, ESQS. On behalf of
FRANCIS X. DONNELLY ROBERT J. GILLISPIE, JR. MAYFIELD,
TURNER, O'MARA, DONNELLY & MCBRIDE, PC On behalf of
Defendants Haddon Township, Mark Cavallo, William Benham,
Joseph Sullivan, Scott Dempsey, Charles Blanchard.
WILLIAM F. COOK WILLIAM M. TAMBUSSI CHRISTOPHER ALBERT REESE
BROWN & CONNERY, LLP On behalf of Defendants Borough of
Collingswood, Chief Richard J. Sarlo, Brian Dicugno, and Jon
Sierocinski, Borough of Oaklyn, Chief Joseph T. Abate, and
Paul Mason, and Borough of Woodlynne, Police Director Edwin
Figueroa, and Jon Robinson.
EDWARD RYBECK JOHN C. EASTLACK, JR. WEIR & PARTNERS LLP
On behalf of Defendants City of Camden, Police Chief John
Scott Thomson, Yvette Truitt, Heriberto Inostroza and James
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
case involves claims of excessive force, false arrest,
failure to intervene, and other state law torts by various
police officers, and claims of municipal liability against
four municipalities for their practices and customs, all of
which led to the death of Plaintiff's brother. Presently
before the Court are the motions of Defendants for summary
judgment in their favor. For the reasons expressed below,
Defendants' motions will be granted as to the
Collingswood, Oaklyn, Woodlynne, and Camden defendants, as
well as Haddon Township police officers Charles Blanchard and
Scott Dempsey, and denied without prejudice as to Haddon
Township, Mark Cavallo, William Benham, and Joseph Sullivan.
12:41 a.m. on September 29, 2012, an employee of Crown Fried
Chicken located at the intersection of Mount Ephraim Avenue
and Collings Avenue in Haddon Township, New Jersey called 911
to report that a male was causing a disturbance in the
restaurant. According to the 911 call, the employee
repeatedly asked dispatch to send police
“quickly” because the man was breaking things in
the store, including a machine and a door. A man is heard
yelling loudly in the background. At 12:43 a.m., the man, who
was subsequently identified as Sherron Norman, the brother of
Plaintiff Juanita Norman, left Crown Fried Chicken and walked
out and onto the street.
County Central Communications dispatched Defendant William
Benham, a Haddon Township police officer, and Defendant
Joseph Sullivan, a Haddon Township special law enforcement
officer. The police dispatch stated that there was a
“psych emergency, ” and per Haddon Township
protocol, an ambulance was dispatched at the same time.
time of his dispatch, Benham's dash camera was activated.
Benham arrived on scene at approximately 12:44 or 12:45 a.m.
(recorded as “00:44:40”) and immediately encountered
Norman, who was jogging toward Benham's vehicle wearing
only a t-shirt and boxer shorts. The dash camera was facing
Crown Fried Chicken, and the remainder of the footage
captures only the off-camera sounds of Benham's and other
officers' interactions with Norman.
00:44:42, Benham exited his vehicle and asked,
“What's going on?” From 00:44:42 to 00:46:40,
Norman and Benham have an inaudible discussion, and then a
struggle. Sullivan arrived on the scene during the struggle,
finding Norman lying on his stomach and Benham on his knees.
At this same time, Benham radioed for police assistance using
code 10-26. Sullivan helped Benham handcuff Norman,
and after one of the officers says “Ready?”, they
lifted him into the patrol car chest first on the back seat
and then picked up his legs and slid him into the car.
approximately 00:46:47 to 00:47:28, Norman can be heard as he
is placed in the rear of Benham's vehicle. Sullivan can
be heard advising Benham on how to adjust Norman in the rear
of the vehicle. The officers then closed the car door, with
Norman lying on his stomach with his head facing the back
00:47:28 to approximately 00:48:18, Norman can be heard
muttering, kicking a door, and at 00:48:08 yelling. Starting
at approximately 00:48:18, Norman is quiet in the back of the
vehicle. During this time, additional officers from other
jurisdictions respond to Benham's 10-26 request for
00:49:30, Collingswood EMTs Timothy Tredanari and John
Fleming, who were dispatched at the same time as Benham, are
shown walking towards the driver's side of Benham's
vehicle. At 00:50:17, Defendant Haddon Township Officer Scott
Dempsey is heard opening the door to Benham's vehicle and
saying “Yo!” on multiple occasions in an apparent
attempt to get Norman's attention. At 00:50:43, Dempsey
states, “I got nothing . . . I got no pulse.” At
00:50:49, Dempsey states, “Yo!” again. At
00:50:57, Dempsey states to Defendant Woodlynne Officer
Robinson, “See if you can feel it on his arm. Do you
feel a pulse on his arm?” At 00:51:03, Robinson states,
“That's a negative.” An individual states,
“I got no pulse, ” after which Norman is removed
from the vehicle. Officers are heard ordering removal of
handcuffs and initiating CPR. At 00:56:47, EMTs Tredanari and
Fleming are observed wheeling Norman from the scene on a
stretcher towards an ambulance.
Tredanari and Fleming immediately initiated basic life
support, while Benham dispatched Virtua EMTs. Virtua EMTs
quickly arrived and transported Norman to Our Lady of Lourdes
Hospital in Camden, New Jersey by ambulance, as Tredanari
continued to provide CPR in the ambulance. Norman could not
be revived by medical personnel, and was pronounced dead at
1:35 a.m. at the hospital. It is undisputed that Norman had
used cocaine just before going to Crown Fried
as administratrix ad prosequendum of Norman's estate, has
lodged numerous claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the
New Jersey Civil Rights Act, New Jersey's Wrongful Death
Act and the New Jersey Survivorship Statute, against all the
officers and municipalities that were involved in the events
on September 29, 2012.
original complaint brought the action against Haddon
Township, its police chief, Mark Cavallo, its police officers
William Benham, Joseph Sullivan, Scott Dempsey, and Charles
Blanchard (“Haddon Township defendants”); the
Borough of Oaklyn, its police chief Joseph T. Abate, and its
police officer Paul Mason (“Oaklyn defendants”);
Woodlynne Borough, its police chief, Kevin R. Cattell, and
its police officer John Robinson (“Woodlynne
defendants”); the Borough of Collingswood, its police
chief, Richard J. Sarlo, and police officers Brian Dicugno
and Jon Sierocinski (“Collingswood defendants”);
and the City of Camden and its police chief John Scott
Thomson (“Camden defendants”).
defendants William Benham and Joseph Sullivan, she alleged
excessive use of force and false arrest/false imprisonment in
violation of the Fourth Amendment. As to all defendants, she
alleged failure to intervene to prevent the excessive use of
force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and failure to
provide medical attention by monitoring the decedent in
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Haddon Township, Chief Cavallo, Borough of Oaklyn, Chief
Abate, Woodlynne Borough, Chief Cattell, Borough of
Collingswood, Chief Sarlo, City of Camden and Chief Thomson,
she alleged that these defendants adopted policies and
customs of failing to enforce the laws, and failing to
supervise and train their officers in the proper and lawful
use of force, the execution of lawful arrests, the proper use
of restraints and the provision of medical care for
detainees. She also alleged that these municipal entities and
their police chiefs failed to properly investigate known
incidents of use of force. Plaintiff further alleged that all
defendants violated the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. She also
alleged common law claims of assault and battery as to
Defendants Benham, Sullivan, and Haddon Township and Chief
Cavallo; false arrest/false imprisonment as to Defendants
Benham, Sullivan, Truitt, Haddon Township, Chief Cavallo,
City of Camden and Chief Thomson; and negligence and gross
negligence as to all defendants.
October 1, 2015, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint,
where she substituted Camden police officers, Yvette Truitt,
Heriberto Inostroza and James Allen for John Doe defendants 1
through 3, substituted Woodlynne Police Chief Kevin R.
Cattell with Police Director Edwin Figueroa.
Defendants have moved for summary judgment in their favor on
all of Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff has opposed
defendants' motions in all respects.
has brought her claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
New Jersey state law. This Court has jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331,
and supplemental jurisdiction of Plaintiff's state law
claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that the
materials in the record, including depositions, documents,
electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations, admissions, or interrogatory
answers, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
issue is “genuine” if it is supported by evidence
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the
nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
“material” if, under the governing substantive
law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the
suit. Id. In considering a motion for summary
judgment, a district court may not make credibility
determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence;
instead, the non-moving party's evidence “is to be
believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in
his favor.” Marino v. Industrial Crating Co.,
358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004)(quoting Anderson,
477 U.S. at 255).
the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party
has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by
affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial. Id. Thus, to withstand a
properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving
party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence
that contradict those offered by the moving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. A party opposing