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Estate of Kamal v. Township of Irvington

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 5, 2018

ESTATE OF ABDUL KAMAL, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF IRVINGTON, et al., Defendants.

         Not for Publication

          MEMORANDUM

          Not Salas, District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Defendants Jonathan Gonzales, Simon Johnson, Patrick Cadet, Michael Chase[1] (collectively, the “Individual Defendants”) and the Township of Irvington's (“Irvington”) motion to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (D.E. No. 45). The parties briefed Defendants' motion (see D.E. No. 46, 54 & 57), and the Court decided the matter without oral argument under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

         I. Relevant Background

         The parties are familiar with the facts and procedural posture of this case, so the Court will be brief.[2] Plaintiff alleges that, in November 2013, Officers Gonzalez, Johnson, and Cadet shot Abdul Kamal-who was unarmed-10 to 15 times, resulting in Kamal's death. (D.E. No. 36, First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) ¶¶ 13-15). Plaintiff also alleges that, prior to Kamal's death, Chief of Police Chase “received many complaints from citizens concerning misconduct and excessive force allegations regarding police officers on the Irvington Police Department” and “failed to investigate said complaints.” (Id. ¶ 11). Plaintiff then alleges that Defendants Chase and Irvington “encouraged the use of excessive force by its police officers through their inaction and/or failure to institute policies or practices designed to reduce incidents of the use of excessive force and other constitutional violations by its police officers.” (Id. ¶ 18).

         II. Legal Standard

         To withstand a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         “When reviewing a motion to dismiss, ‘[a]ll allegations in the complaint must be accepted as true, and the plaintiff must be given the benefit of every favorable inference to be drawn therefrom.'” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). But the court is not required to accept as true “legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. And “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.[3]

         III. Analysis

         A. Plaintiff's claims against the Individual Defendants are time barred.

         The Court finds that Plaintiff's claims against the Individual Defendants do not relate back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c). See Garvin v. City of Philadelphia, 354 F.3d 215, 220 (3d Cir. 2003). In particular, the Court finds that the Individual Defendants did not receive notice of Plaintiff's action within the time specified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m). See Id. at 222. Consequently, Plaintiff's claims against those defendants are time-barred.

         Plaintiff appears to concede that the Individual Defendants did not receive timely notice under Rule 4(m); rather, Plaintiff argues that the “shared-attorney method” imputed timely notice to the Individual Defendants. (See D.E. No. 54 at 4). To invoke the “shared-attorney method, ” Plaintiff must show that there was some communication or relationship between the shared attorney and the Individual Defendants before the 120-day service period expired. See Garvin, 354 F.3d at 223. But Plaintiff has offered no evidence to support his “shared-attorney method” arguments, and even admits in his opposition brief that “it is impossible, at this juncture, to determine if the ‘same attorney' method applies.” (See D.E. No. 54 at 4); see also Walters v. Muhlenberg Tp. of Police Dep't, 536 F. App'x 213, 216 (3d Cir. 2013) (rejecting shared-attorney argument where the plaintiff “did not point to any facts suggesting that, during the 120-day period after he had filed the original complaint, Officer Bowen and the Department were being represented by the same attorney”).[4]

         B. Plaintiff's claims against Irvington are insufficiently pleaded.

         First, to the extent Plaintiff seeks to assert claims against Irvington based on a theory of respondeat superior, those claims are dismissed with prejudice. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (“[A] municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.”); Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 546 F.2d 1077, 1082 (3d Cir. 1976) (same). Also, to the extent Plaintiff seeks to assert claims against the Irvington Police Department separately from Irvington, those claims are dismissed with prejudice. See Padilla v. Twp. of Cherry Hill, 110 F. App'x 272, 278 (3d Cir. 2004) (“In Section 1983 actions, police ...


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