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Estate of Richard Bard v. City of Vineland

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 19, 2017

THE ESTATE OF RICHARD BARD and DANA GERMAN-BUNTON, as administrator ad-prosequendum of THE ESTATE OF RICHARD BARD, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF VINELAND, CHIEF RUDY BEU, FORMER CHIEF TIMOTHY CODISPOTI, and JOHN DOE POLICE OFFICERS 1-10, Defendants.

          CONRAD J. BENEDETTO, MELISSA YVETTE HOFFMAN, LAW OFFICES OF CONRAD J. BENEDETTO On behalf of Plaintiffs

          A. MICHAEL BARKER, TODD J. GELFAND BARKER, GELFAND & JAMES LINWOOD GREENE On behalf of Defendants

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter concerns claims by Plaintiff arising out of the shooting death of her son by Defendant City of Vineland police officers. Presently before the Court is the motion of Defendants to dismiss Plaintiff's claims. For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Dana German-Bunton, the mother of Richard Bard, the decedent, and the administratrix of her son's estate, filed a seven-count complaint against the City of Vineland, its current police chief, Rudy Beu, its former police chief, Timothy Codispoti, and unnamed police officers involved in the shooting. Plaintiff claims that the police officers violated Bard's right to be free from the use of excessive force, and the City of Vineland and the police chiefs maintained a policy or custom that fostered the police officers' use of excessive force, or the City and police chiefs failed to properly train its officer on the appropriate use of force, all in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and New Jersey Civil Rights Act, N.J.S.A. 10:6-2(c). Plaintiff has also lodged claims for wrongful death and negligence against Defendants.

         The sum of the factual allegations in Plaintiff's amended complaint are as follows:

20. At the time of his death on April 17, 2016, Richard Bard was thirty-one (31) years old.
21. Richard Bard had been involved in a motor vehicle accident on January 13, 2013 wherein he sustained serious injuries to his legs. Bard's injuries from the accident included an opened fractured femur, a closed fractured femur, rib contusions, a pulmonary contusion and pneumothorax, for which the decedent had numerous surgeries.
22. Upon information and belief, based on his existing injuries, it was not possible for Bard to walk and even less, run.
23. On April 16, 2016, decedent Richard Bard and his girlfriend Ebony Bonner attended a birthday party at a friend's home located at the Walnut Villa Complex on Florence Avenue in Vineland, New Jersey.
24. At around 11:30 p.m., Richard Bard and an individual named Jonathan Bain agreed to leave the party and walk together to get cigarettes from another resident at the Walnut Villa Complex.
25. It is alleged by the Vineland police that around 1 a.m. on April 17, 2016, Richard Bard and Jonathon Bain were involved in a robbery of an individual near Seventh and Cherry Streets in Vineland.
26. It is further alleged that Richard Bard and Jonathon Bain fled and were chased by the police.
27. A responding officer, who has remained unnamed, shot Richard Bard four times before Bard fell to the ground near East Avenue and Almond Street in Vineland. Of the four shots, two struck the decedent.
28. After the shooting, EMS were called. When EMS arrived, Bard was found unconscious laying on the side of road in a pool of blood. He had sustained two gunshot wounds, including one gunshot wound ...

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