United States District Court, D. New Jersey
DANIELLA GORDON HYLAND LEVIN BARRY J. POLLACK ROBBINS,
RUSSELL, ENGLERT, ORSECK, UNTEREINER & SAUBER LLP On
behalf of Plaintiff
CHARLES GILLESPIE MICHAEL E. SULLIVAN GEORGE M. MORRIS PARKER
MCCAY, PA On behalf of Defendants Francisco Ambrifi and The
Township of Delanco
MICHELLE L. COREA BETSY G. RAMOS CAPEHART AND SCATCHARD, P.A.
LAUREL CORPORATE CENTER On behalf of Defendants John Harris
and Edgewater Township
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
case involves claims of excessive force, violations of the
Americans with Disabilities Act, and state law torts
committed by two police officers, as well as claims of
municipal liability against two municipalities for their
inappropriate hiring and training of the officers. Presently
before the Court are the motions of Defendants for summary
judgment. For the reasons expressed below, Defendants'
motions will be denied as to Plaintiff's constitutional
violation claims and ADA claims, and granted as to
Plaintiff's state law claims.
before 3:45 a.m. on May 14, 2013, a resident on Delaware
Avenue in Delanco Township, New Jersey called 911 to report a
man on the street running around and screaming about Jesus.
Defendant Francisco Ambrifi, a Delanco Township police
officer, responded to the call and encountered Plaintiff,
Eugene Taylor, a paranoid schizophrenic who was unarmed.
Ambrifi's interaction with Plaintiff resulted in Ambrifi
spraying Plaintiff twice with pepper spray, repeatedly
hitting Plaintiff with his flashlight, and then shooting
Plaintiff three times, with one of the bullets also striking
Ambrifi. Eventually other officers responded to the scene,
including Defendant John Harris, a police officer with
Edgewater Township, who struck Plaintiff at some point during
the incident. The encounter was witnessed by the 911 caller,
her husband, and their 17-year old daughter. Those are the
only relevant facts not disputed by the parties.
remainder of the encounter is disputed by the parties.
Plaintiff claims Ambrifi instigated an increasing use of
force while he at first remained stationary and then started
walking away with his hands up. Ambrifi claims that Plaintiff
jumped in front of his patrol car, and then continued to
approach him, refusing to obey his verbal orders, and
physically resisting his attempts to secure Plaintiff's
compliance. Plaintiff claims that Harris, who assisted in
handcuffing Plaintiff once he arrived on the scene, punched
him while he lay motionless and bleeding on the ground after
he was handcuffed. Harris claims that while he was assisting
in handcuffing Plaintiff, Plaintiff grabbed Harris's skin
under his pant leg and dug in his nails.
claims that when Plaintiff ignored his verbal commands to
stop, Harris used an open palm of his non-dominant hand to
strike Plaintiff's hand away from his leg.
claims that Ambrifi and Harris violated his rights under the
Fourth Amendment and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act by using
excessive force. Plaintiff also claims that Delanco Township
violated his constitutional and NJCRA rights for its hiring
and inadequate training of Ambrifi, and, similarly, that
Edgewater Township violated Plaintiff's rights by failing
to adequately train Harris. Plaintiff claims that Ambrifi
committed the state law torts of negligence, assault and
battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress,
and Harris committed the state law torts of assault and
battery and intention infliction of emotional distress.
Plaintiff also asserts a claim against Ambrifi and Delanco
Township for violations of the Americans with Disabilities
Act because of Delanco Township's failure to properly
train its officers on how to respond to persons suffering
from mental disabilities, and because of Ambrifi's
failure to make the appropriate accommodations to Plaintiff,
who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
have moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's
claims. Ambrifi and Harris argue that their use of force was
reasonable under the circumstances, and they are entitled to
qualified immunity. The Township Defendants reject
Plaintiff's claims, supported by expert reports, that
they did not properly train their officers on the proper use
of force and how to make accommodations for suspects with
disabilities. Delanco Township also rejects Plaintiff's
claim, and supporting expert report, that it erred in the
hiring of Ambrifi. Defendants further argue that
Plaintiff's state law claims fail on the same bases as
Plaintiff's constitutional violation claims, but also
because Plaintiff failed to timely comply with the notice
requirement under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act.
has opposed Defendants' motions in all respects.
has brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
New Jersey state law. This Court has jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331,
and supplemental jurisdiction of Plaintiff's state law
claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that the
materials in the record, including depositions, documents,
electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations, admissions, or interrogatory
answers, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
issue is “genuine” if it is supported by evidence
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the
nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
“material” if, under the governing substantive
law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the
suit. Id. In considering a motion for summary
judgment, a district court may not make credibility
determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence;
instead, the non-moving party's evidence “is to be
believed and all ...