United States District Court, D. New Jersey
VERONICA HARDY, and JOHN A. VICKERS, Plaintiffs,
GLOUCESTER COUNTY; WESTVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT; SERGEANT MICHAEL PACKER, Individually; OFFICER THOMAS CURL, Individually; HUDSON BAIL BONDS; MANNY NIEVES, Individually; OCTAVIO MEDINA, Individually, Defendants.
B. KUGLER United States District Judge
MATTER having come before the Court upon defendants
Westville Police Department, Sergeant Packer, and Patrolman
Curl's motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 47) and
defendants Hudson Bail Bonds, Manny Nieves, and Octavio
Medina's motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 52). For the
reasons set forth in the opinion below, both motions are
8, 2013, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Sergeant Michael
Packer, Patrolman Thomas Curl, and Patrolman Brian
escorted bounty hunters Manny Nieves and Octavio Medina of
Hudson Bail Bonds to plaintiff Veronica Hardy's
(“Hardy”) residence at 1029 Broadway, Apt. B-5 in
Westville, New Jersey. The officers and bounty hunters sought
Joshua Cariola, Hardy's son, who was a fugitive. The
officers knocked on Hardy's door and Sergeant Packer
asked if they could search the apartment. Hardy testified
that she spoke with Sergeant Packer and gave consent for the
search. There is a factual dispute about whether
Hardy gave informed consent; Hardy maintains that Sergeant
Packer did not inform her that she could refuse the search-a
requirement under New Jersey law-while Sergeant Packer claims
that he did. The officers and bounty hunters then searched
the apartment. They did not find Cariola. Hardy testified
that Sergeant Packer was “very, very nice”
throughout the encounter but that the other officers did not
speak at any time. Def. MSJ Br. Ex. A, Pl. Hardy Dep. Tr.
second amended complaint alleges that the bounty hunters
“came back and searched the apartment again on July 9,
2013 and July 10, 2013” without a police escort.
See Am. Compl. at 2. Hardy's fiancé,
plaintiff John Vickers (“Vickers”), joins in the
suit. He was not present during the search and not a tenant
of the apartment.
Summary Judgment Standard
court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the
moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An
issue is “material” to the dispute if it could
alter the outcome, and a dispute of a material fact is
“genuine” if “a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the non-moving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249
(1986); Matsushida Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (“Where the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine
issue for trial.'”) (quoting First National
Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289
(1968)). In deciding whether there is any genuine issue for
trial, the court is not to weigh evidence or decide issues of
fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Because fact and
credibility determinations are for the jury, the non-moving
party's evidence is to be believed and ambiguities
construed in her favor. Id. at 255;
Matsushida, 475 U.S. at 587.
the movant bears the burden of demonstrating that there is no
genuine issue of material fact, the non-movant likewise must
present more than mere allegations or denials to successfully
oppose summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.
The nonmoving party must at least present probative evidence
from which jury might return a verdict in his favor.
Id. at 257. The movant is entitled to summary
judgment where the non-moving party fails to “make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
Motion To Dismiss Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a court to dismiss an
action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. When evaluating a motion to dismiss, “courts
accept all factual allegations as true, construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and
determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the
complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.”
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir.
2009) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515
F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)). In other words, a complaint
survives a motion to dismiss if it contains sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
this determination, a court conducts a three-part analysis.
Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d
Cir. 2010). First, the court must “tak[e] note of the
elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.”
Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675).
Second, the court should identify allegations that,
“because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at
131 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680). Finally,
“where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a
court should assume their veracity and then determine whether
they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.”
Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680). This
plausibility determination is a “context-specific task
that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679. A complaint cannot survive where a court can only
infer that a claim is merely possible rather than plausible.
Sergeant Packer And Patrolman Curl Are Entitled To Summary
Judgment Because No Reasonable Jury Could Find That They