United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.
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).
OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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.
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.
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).
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
Arrest of Plaintiff and Ms. Hayes
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.)
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
Witnesses of the Encounter
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
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.).
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.
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.).
Plaintiff's Suspension from Work and an Internal Affairs
Complaint against Seidle
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).
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).
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 ...