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Stevenson v. The County Sheriff's Office of Monmouth County

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 7, 2019

ANTHONY E. STEVENSON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE OF MONMOUTH COUNTY, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HONORABLE TONIANNE J. BONGIOVANNI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Anthony Stevenson's (“Plaintiff”) Motion to Amend the Complaint to add individuals Sheriff SGT. Vincent Giglio and Sheriff Officer Robert Fuller to particular claims already set forth in the Complaint. (Docket Entry No. 71). The County Sheriff's Office of Monmouth County, et al. (“Defendants”) did not file opposition to Plaintiff's motion. The Court has fully reviewed all arguments made in support of Plaintiff's motion. The Court considers Plaintiff's motion without oral argument pursuant to L.Civ.R. 78.1(b). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion to Amend the Complaint is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         This matter arises out of Plaintiff's claims against The County Sherriff's Office, et al., based on his treatment by prison officials. Plaintiff initially brought suit against the following Defendants in this matter: The County Sheriff's Office of Monmouth, Sheriff Shawn Golden, Sergeant Vincent Giglio, Sheriff Officer Leonard Maxfield, Sheriff Officer D. Herrmann, Sheriff Officer K. O'Neill, Sheriff Officer Robert Fuller, The County Jail of Monmouth, Warden Barry Nadrowski, Captain Shawn Althouse, Sergeant Jack Hausman, Court Line Woman #1, Court Line Woman #2, Correct Care Solutions Medical Providers, Medical Director Dr. Hashman (later identified as Dr. Hashmi), Nurse Practioner “C.J., ” Monmouth County E.M.T. Response Ser., E.M.T. Technician #1 and #2, later identified as Drew Lumbar and Shawn Sprance, on October 7, 2013. In his Complaint, Stevenson asserted several claims against Defendants, including violations of his Fourth, Fifth, Eight and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (See, generally, Compl; Docket Entry No. 1). The District Court reviewed Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (See generally, Opinion of 2/6/2015; Docket Entry No. 11).

         The District Court concluded that Plaintiff's Complaint should be allowed to proceed against the two Defendant Sheriff Officers, Leonard Maxfield and D. Herrmann, as to the claim asserting excessive use of force. All other claims and Defendants were dismissed. (Id.). Specifically, as related to the current amendment, the District Court dismissed Stevenson's claim against Sheriff Officer Giglio for violation of his Constitutional rights by denying him medical care after Stevenson was injured.

         On September 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint, requesting the Court re-instate Defendants Giglio and Fuller to parts of the Complaint. (Docket Entry No. 56). Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the excessive force claims on February 24, 2017 (Docket Entry No. 42) which was administratively terminated on March 28, 2017 pending Plaintiff's review of a certain DVD produced by Defendants during discovery. (Docket Entry No. 45). Once the Court confirmed that Plaintiff had the opportunity to view the DVD, the Motion for Summary Judgment was re-listed on July 6, 2017. (Docket Entry No. 52). The District Court denied Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on February 8, 2018. (Opinion of 2/8/18; Docket Entry No. 57). By letter dated February 18, 2018, Plaintiff sought to amend his Complaint. (Docket Entry No. 59). On March 29, 2018, the Court terminated Plaintiff's Motion to Amend and directed Plaintiff to re-file and to include with the motion a proposed Amended Complaint. (Docket Entry No. 62). After Plaintiff filed his renewed Motion to Amend, he contacted the Court to notify that the Proposed Amended Complaint was incomplete. (Docket Entry No. 66). On August 19, 2018, this Court gave Plaintiff one last opportunity to file a Motion to Amend. (Docket Entry No. 68). Plaintiff has endeavored to comply with the Courts instructions as to correct procedure when filing a Motion to Amend, and successfully did so on September 17, 2018, filing the current motion. (Docket Entry No. 71).

         As previously noted, Plaintiff seeks to amend his Complaint to add Officers Robert Fuller and Sheriff SGT. Vincent Giglio who were dismissed from the case in 2015 for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiff argues that after discovery, new evidence has arisen that would cure his pleading deficiency and show that these two officers did, in fact, violate Plaintiff's Constitutional rights. Specifically, Plaintiff represents that the following evidence has been produced: (1) video footage that shows Officer Fuller using excessive force, (2) an affidavit made by the EMTs that shows Sheriff SGT. Vincent Giglio lied to EMT Technicians causing them to not provide him with proper medical treatment, (3) evidence that Defendants tampered with 42 seconds of pertinent video footage during the physical altercation that took place on July 30, 2013. (Pl.'s MTA; Docket Entry No. 71). Plaintiff also restates parts of his Complaint that were dismissed in the District Court's opinion. Plaintiff argues that his motion should be granted under the liberal amendment standards set for in Fed.R.Civ.P. (“Rule”) 15(a).

         II. Analysis

         A. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2), leave to amend the pleadings is generally granted freely. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 121 (3d Cir. 2000). Nevertheless, the Court may deny a motion to amend where there is “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment.” Id. However, where there is an absence of undue delay, bad faith, prejudice or futility, a motion for leave to amend a pleading should be liberally granted. Long v. Wilson, 393 F.3d 390, 400 (3d Cir. 2004). Here the Court focuses on futility amendment.

         An amendment is futile if it “is frivolous or advances a claim or defense that is legally insufficient on its face.” Harrison Beverage Co. v. Dribeck Imp., Inc., 133 F.R.D. 463, 468 (D.N.J. 1990) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). To determine if an amendment is “insufficient on its face, ” the Court utilizes the motion to dismiss standard under Rule 12(b)(6) (see Alvin, 227 F.3d at 121) and considers only the pleading, exhibits attached to the pleading, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents if the party's claims are based upon same. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

         To determine if a complaint would survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all the facts alleged in the pleading, draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, and determine if “under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief[.]” Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). “[D]ismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the [pleading] as true, the p[arty] has failed to plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face[.]'” Duran v. Equifirst Corp., Civil Action No. 2:09-cv-03856, 2010 WL 918444, *2 (D.N.J. March 12, 2010) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Put simply, the alleged facts must be sufficient to “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). The focus is not on “‘whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims[.]'” Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 563 n.8 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974)). Additionally, in assessing a motion to dismiss, while the Court must view the factual allegations contained in the pleading at issue as true, the Court is “not compelled to accept unwarranted inferences, unsupported conclusions or legal conclusions disguised as factual allegations.” Baraka, 481 F.3d at 211.

         B. Discussion

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint seeks to reinstate Sheriff SGT. Giglio and Officer Fuller to some of the claims and reasserts claims that were previously dismissed by the District Court. The Court does not find that Plaintiff's motion is unduly delayed, made in bad faith or will prejudice the Defendants. The Court therefore focuses its analysis on futility of amendment in light of ...


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