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Hayes-Miller v. Seidle

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 9, 2017



          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the court on Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Police Officer Seidle (ECF No. 57); and Defendant Neptune Township. (ECF No. 55).[1]


         Plaintiff filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the New Jersey Constitution, and New Jersey state law. The action arises out of an incident that occurred at Jersey Shore University Medical Center ("hospital" or "JSUMC") on the evening of March 4, 2015, between Plaintiff Marcia Hayes-Miller ("Plaintiff"), Jasmine Hayes - Plaintiff's daughter (“Ms. Heyes”), and Police Officer Sergeant Philip Seidle ("Sgt. Seidle").

         Plaintiff was an employee at the hospital, but at that time she was there visiting her daughter, Marshaya Scurry, who had been admitted as a patient due to high blood pressure and blurred vision. (See Deposition of Marcia Hayes-Miller, Def.'s Br. Exhibit B). Plaintiff had just finished a shift and was still in scrubs when she found out that her daughter was having trouble seeing. She then picked up her grandson and her other two daughters, including Ms. Hayes, to return to the hospital to check in on Ms. Scurry. Ms. Hayes, was in her early twenties at the time of the incident, and Plaintiff in her fifties. Upon arrival at the hospital, the family bypassed the normal Greeters desk at the Emergency Room ("ER") because the Plaintiff was familiar with the building. When Ms. Hayes left her sister's treatment room to use the restroom she was spotted by Sgt. Seidle.

         Sgt. Seidle was a law enforcement officer with the Neptune Township Police Department, was in uniform, and working as an off-duty security detail at the hospital. (See Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Facts, ¶ 4). At approximately 6:39pm, Sgt. Seidle received a telephone call from a Camden County Communications dispatcher informing him that a 9-1-1 hang-up call was received somewhere inside the hospital. (See Officer Report for Incident, Def.'s Br. Exhibit E at 3). While Sgt. Seidle was still on the phone with the dispatcher, he exited the hospital through the main ER entrance. As he exited, he saw Ms. Hayes enter. The ER entrance door is electronically controlled as a security measure. Entry is allowed either by utilizing a card key or through authorization by the Greeters desk. Sgt. Seidle did not hear the electronic lock of the ER door activate as Ms. Hayes walked through, and thought that she had not followed proper hospital protocol, thus he questioned her. (See Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Facts, ¶ 7). Ms. Hayes told Sgt. Seidle that her sister was in the hospital and her mom worked there. Sgt. Seidle told her numerous times that she must check in at the Greeters desk and Ms. Hayes refused. Sgt. Seidle told her she was under arrest and attempted to take hold of her wrist. She pulled away and finally went to check-in, shouting vulgar language at the police officer. (See Officer Report for Incident, Def.'s Br. Exhibit E at 3).

         Video footage from two security cameras inside the hospital captured the subsequent arrests of both Ms. Hayes and the Plaintiff. Neither camera recorded sound. (See Def.'s Br. Exhibit D, Files "2015-03-05 ed reception incident1" (hereinafter "Video 1") and "2015-03-05 ed incident3" (hereinafter "Video 2)).

         I. Arrest of Plaintiff and Ms. Hayes

         After Ms. Hayes gave her check-in information to the Greeter, she referred to Sgt. Seidle as a "fucking pig." Sgt. Seidle did not respond. (See Exhibit E at 3). The Greeter then told Ms. Hayes she needed to know the name of the patient she was there to see. Ms. Hayes did not supply the requested information, but instead responded, "There's my mother right there, " pointing at her mother who had stepped out from the ER at the time. (Id. at 3).

         At that point, Sgt. Seidle told Ms. Hayes she had to leave the hospital. When she refused, Seidle advised her that if she did not leave, he would place her under arrest for disorderly conduct. During this exchange, Plaintiff and her 4-year-old grandson were standing at the doorway of the ER watching Seidle and Ms. Hayes. (Id. at 3). When Ms. Hayes responded that she would not leave the hospital, Sgt. Seidle radioed for assistance from other police officers, told Ms. Hayes she was under arrest, and readied his handcuffs. As he reached for Ms. Hayes to cuff her, Ms. Hayes backed away, moving toward Plaintiff. Plaintiff then moved toward Sgt. Seidle and Ms. Hayes. (Id. at 4, 6). When Sgt. Seidle caught up with Ms. Hayes, he reached for her arm. Plaintiff stepped in between Seidle and Ms. Hayes. (Id. at 4).

         Sgt. Seidle pushed Plaintiff, telling her that Ms. Hayes was under arrest and that Plaintiff was to stand back. (Id. at 4). Ms. Hayes immediately reacted by swinging at Sgt. Seidle and then charging at him with both of her arms extended and her head down. Seidle backed up to avoid being struck, withdrew his pepper spray (or “O.C. spray”), and sprayed Ms. Hayes in the face. Ms. Hayes then charged at Seidle again in an attempt to strike his face. He fended off her attack and aimed another burst of spray at her. (Id. at 4). Meanwhile, Plaintiff reached toward Sgt. Seidle telling him that he was not going to arrest her daughter. Seidle, who at this point was being attacked by both Ms. Hayes and Plaintiff, aimed his spray at Plaintiff and tried to spray her to bring her under control. Ms. Hayes stepped in between, reaching out her arm to stop Seidle from spraying her mother. (Id. at 4). Sgt. Seidle then sprayed Ms. Hayes in the face, incapacitating her so that she stopped attacking him. He then pushed both Ms. Hayes and Plaintiff back in order to fend them off and bring them under control until back up arrived. At this time, Andrew Ockefuss, a hospital security guard, and hospital nurses Thomas Hampton and Michael Mauro rushed to Sgt. Seidle's aid. (Id. at 4).

         Mr. Ockefuss assisted by taking hold of Ms. Hayes' right arm. As he did, Seidle took hold of Ms. Hayes' left arm and attempted to cuff her wrist. Ms. Hayes then turned and spit at Seidle several times. When spittle landed in Seidle's right ear, he tripped her to the floor and with Mr. Ockefuss' help, handcuffed her. While this was occurring, Mr. Hampton and Mr. Mauro attempted to calm Plaintiff and prevent her from going towards her daughter, until other police officers arrived to the scene. (Id. at 4). Sgt. Seidle then escorted Ms. Hayes outside to Officer Hubbard, who was arriving to the scene. After conducting a search, Hubbard placed Ms. Hayes in his patrol car. During this process, Ms. Hayes was still yelling profanities. (Id. at 4, 6).

         Seidle returned to the ER with Officer Nikoch and Sergeants Colombo and Baldwin, who had also arrived to the scene. The men arrested Plaintiff who had gone back to check in with her hospitalized daughter. (See Deposition of Marcia Hayes-Miller, Def.'s Br. Exhibit B at 24). Sgt. Seidle and Officer Nikoch then escorted Plaintiff to another patrol car where she was searched and placed in the car. (See Def.'s Br. Exhibit E at 4, 6; Def.'s Br. Exhibit C, Nept. Twp. Police Dept. Warrant, Individual Arrest Report with Complaint-Warrant). Officers Nikoch and Hubbard transported Plaintiff and Ms. Hayes to Police Headquarters where they were processed. Plaintiff stated that she was never read her Miranda rights. (See Def.'s Br. Exhibit B at 48-49). Plaintiff also stated that she was handcuffed to a bench rather than put in a cell because she refused to take off a medical sleeve, which is a treatment for lymphedema. (Id. at 51-52.)

         Sgt. Seidle endorsed complaints against Plaintiff for obstructing the administration of law, aggravated assault on a police officer, and resisting arrest, and against Ms. Hayes for disorderly conduct, obstructing the administration of law, aggravated assault on a police officer, throwing bodily fluids, and resisting arrest. (See Def.'s Br. Exhibit E at 4. Exhibit C). All charges against Plaintiff were dismissed in July by the Municipal Court of Neptune Township, New Jersey. (See Def.'s Br. Exhibit K).

         II. Witnesses of the Encounter

         Dorothy Cunningham, a JSUMC employee, was a trainee at the Emergency Room Greeter's Desk on March 4, 2015, when she witnessed the incident involving Plaintiff, Ms. Hayes, and Sgt. Seidle. She saw Seidle ask Ms. Hayes if she had checked in at the Greeter's Desk; Ms. Hayes unwillingly checking in at the Greeter's Desk; Ms. Hayes repeatedly yelling profanities at Seidle; Seidle advising Ms. Hayes if she did not stop shouting profanities he would not allow her to re-enter the Emergency Room; Ms. Hayes nonetheless continue to call Seidle profane names; Seidle then attempting to arrest Ms. Hayes; and Ms. Hayes physically resisting arrest by kicking and swinging at Sgt. Seidle. (See Def.'s Br. Exhibit E at 6-7). Ms. Cunningham also witnessed Plaintiff intervene when Sgt. Seidle was trying to place Ms. Hayes under arrest. She saw Plaintiff yell and push Seidle, and Seidle respond by pushing back at Plaintiff and telling her to stand back. She then saw Seidle, who was "taking on two people", get on his radio to call for back-up. Ms. Cunningham and her fellow workers at the Greeter's Desk then began repeatedly hitting the panic button for security to respond. She also saw Ms. Hayes spit on Seidle. (Id. at 7). Ms. Cunningham described Sgt. Seidle as having "handled himself really well" and "really did a good job" during the incident involving Plaintiff and Ms. Hayes. She was surprised Seidle had not arrested Ms. Hayes sooner. (Id.).

         Breanne Carlson, the JSUMC Greeter at the Emergency Room Greeter's Desk on March 4, 2015 when the subject incident occurred, witnessed Ms. Hayes refusing to check in at the Greeter's Desk despite Sgt. Seidle asking her to do so at least four to five times. She observed Ms. Hayes had a "nasty mouth", calling Seidle a "Pig" and a "Fucking Pig". (Id.). When Ms. Carlson tried to explain hospital check-in procedures to Ms. Hayes, Ms. Hayes refused to listen and continued to use profanity against Seidle. When Seidle advised Ms. Hayes that she was under arrest, Ms. Carlson watched Ms. Hayes run around the Greeter's Desk and then take a swing at Seidle in an attempt to evade the Officer. (Id.). Ms. Carlson then observed Plaintiff cursing at Sgt. Seidle, at which point she hit the panic button at the greeter's desk to summon hospital security. She witnessed Seidle warn Plaintiff to stand back or he would spray Plaintiff and Ms. Hayes. Ms. Carlson also saw Ms. Hayes spit at Seidle. (Id.).

         Brenda Pagan, another JSUMC employee who was working the Greeter's Desk on the day of the incident, returned to the desk from a bathroom break when she heard Ms. Hayes calling Sgt. Seidle a "fucking pig" and a "racist". She saw Breanne Carlson trying to explain hospital procedures to Ms. Hayes, who nonetheless continued cursing. She then saw Seidle advise Ms. Hayes that she was under arrest, at which point Ms. Hayes walked away. She then witnessed Seidle run after Ms. Hayes and grab Ms. Hayes by the arm. When he did, she saw Ms. Hayes swing at Seidle, after which the situation "just got crazy from there." (Id.). Ms. Pagan then witnessed Plaintiff become involved in the situation and believed Plaintiff struck Seidle as well. She saw Seidle respond by shoving Plaintiff and telling her to "get back." She also saw Ms. Hayes spit on Seidle and call him a racist. (Id.).

         Thomas Hampton, a registered nurse employed at JSUMC Hospital, was sitting at a desk in the Emergency Room when he saw Sgt. Seidle ask Ms. Hayes if she had checked in at the Greeter's Desk. Ms. Hayes responded, saying, "I don't have to fuckin' tell you where I'm going I don't have to check in." Mr. Hampton then observed Seidle ask Ms. Hayes several times to simply check-in at the Greeter's Desk, but Ms. Hayes continued to be "real nasty" to Seidle. (Id. at 8).Moments after seeing Ms. Hayes finally walk out through the ER doors towards the Greeter's Desk, Mr. Hampton heard a loud commotion in the vestibule waiting area. He ran through the ER doors only to see Sgt. Seidle struggling with Plaintiff and Ms. Hayes, both of whom were "totally out of control." With the help of another male hospital employee, Mr. Hampton subdued the Plaintiff, who was yelling and cursing, and pushed her away from Seidle. (Id.).

         III. Plaintiff's Suspension from Work and an Internal Affairs Complaint against Seidle

         On March 5, 2015, the day after the incident, Plaintiff went back to work and she was suspended without pay. She was not allowed to collect unemployment. (See Deposition of Marcia Hayes-Miller, Exhibit B at 62). The same day, Plaintiff filed an internal affairs complaint against Sgt. Seidle alleging the use of excessive force against her. (See Exhibit E, Neptune Twp. Police Dept. Internal Affairs Complaint Notification, 3/5/15, by Lieut. M. McGhee to Sgt. Seidle).

         On March 9, 2015, Plaintiff withdrew the complaint. (See Exhibit F, 4/15/15 Internal Affairs/Departmental Investigation Report by Lieut. Michael J. McGhee). She called the Neptune Township Police Department and spoke to Lieut. Michael J. McGhee about the March 4, 2015 incident and her complaint against Sgt. Seidle. During that conversation, Plaintiff indicated to Lieut. McGhee that she realized she was wrong for interfering with Sgt. Seidle's arrest of her daughter, whom she admitted is "a problem.” Plaintiff expressed remorse for her behavior, and requested that the Lieutenant extend her apology to Seidle. She further indicated that she wanted to withdraw her complaint against Seidle. (See Exhibit F).

         On April 8, 2015, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office completed an independent investigation and review of Plaintiff's complaint alleging use of excessive force by Sgt. Seidle during the March 4, 2015 incident. (See Exhibit G, April 8, 2015 letters by J. Seely, Special Deputy Attorney General to James M. Hunt, Jr., Police Chief of Neptune Twp. Police Department and Plaintiff). After examining all information in the case, including reports and video surveillance from Jersey Shore University Medical Center, and reviewing relevant Use of Force Policies as set forth by the Attorney General's Office and the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, the Prosecutor's Office concluded that Sgt. Seidle "was in full compliance with these policies and any amount of force used by him was appropriate for th[e] situation." (See Exhibit G). The Prosecutor's Office further noted that, "the original complainant Marsha Hayes-Miller has advised that she wishes to drop the ...

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