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Estate of Smith v. City of Wildwood

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 14, 2019

ESTATE OF CLAYTON SMITH, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF WILDWOOD, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION UPON RECONSIDERATION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         1. This matter comes before the Court by way of motion [Docket Item 56] by Plaintiff Liudmila Smith, both as the administratrix of the estate of Clayton Smith and in her own right, (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), seeking reconsideration of the Court's Order of September 27, 2018, which granted in part, denied in part, and dismissed as moot in part a motion for summary judgment, [Docket Item 41], which had been filed by Defendants City of Wildwood, James Neill, Louis Raniszewski, Ryan Troiano, and Aldo Sacco (hereinafter, collectively, “Defendants”). (See Estate of Smith v. City of Wildwood, No. 16-0925, 2018 WL 4639182, at *1 (D.N.J. Sept. 27, 2018); Order [Docket Item 53].) The principal issue to be decided is whether the Court's prior decision “dismissed as moot” Plaintiff's request for punitive damages under Count III of the Complaint [Docket Item 1].[1] (See Pl.'s Br. [Docket Item 56-1, 1-2.) Plaintiff seeks to clarify the Court's Order of September 27, 2018 “that dismissal as moot . . . applies to Count One of the Complaint only.” (Id. at 2.) Defendants oppose this request. (See Defs.' Opp'n [Docket Item 59].) For the following reasons, the Court will grant Plaintiff's present motion, clarifying that Count III was not at issue, and therefore not addressed, in the September 27, 2018 Order.

         2. Factual and Procedural Background.[2] On October 31, 2017, the parties stipulated to dismissal with prejudice of Count II and Count V of the Complaint. (See Stipulation of Dismissal [Docket Item 40].) Thereafter, only two federal claims remained in the Complaint, Count I and Count III, which allege the following:

         COUNT I

STATE-CREATED DANGER VIOLATING FEDERAL DUE PROCESS AS TO DEFENDANTS NEILL, L. RANISZEWSKI, TROIANO, SACCO, AND TOFFOLI
83. Plaintiff, LIUDMILA SMITH, brings suit under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.
84. The acts of Defendants JAMES NEILL, LOUIS RANISZEWSKI, RYAN TROIANO, ALDO SACCO, AND SHAWN TOFFOLI, acting in their individual capacities, violated the decedent, CLAYTON SMITH's, constitutional rights, particularly his right to be free of state created danger under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
. . .
COUNT III
CREATION OF A CLASS OF ONE VIOLATING FEDERAL EQUAL PROTECTION AS TO DEFENDANTS NEILL, L. RANISZEWSKI, TROIANO, SACCO, AND TOFFOLI
86. The acts of Defendants JAMES NEILL, LOUIS RANISZEWSKI, RYAN TROIANO, ALDO SACCO, AND SHAWN TOFFOLI, acting in their individual capacities, violated the decedent, CLAYTON SMITH's, constitutional rights, particularly his right not to be put in a class of one under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

(Complaint [Docket Item 1], ¶¶ 83, 84, 86.)

         Defendants later filed a motion for summary judgment seeking, among other forms of relief, summary judgment in favor of Defendant City of Wildwood with respect to Plaintiff's claims for municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [3] as well as in favor of all Defendants with respect to punitive damages for all causes of action. (See Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket Item 41], 24-26, 29-31.) Additionally, in their reply brief, Defendants asserted for the first time that Count I of the Complaint fails to make out a claim for a “state-created danger” constitutional cause of action under § 1983.[4] (See Defs.' Reply [Docket Item 48], 1-4].) Neither Defendants' motion nor their reply brief sought summary judgment in favor of Defendants James Neill, Louis Raniszewski, Ryan Troiano, and Aldo Sacco (hereinafter, collectively, “EMT Defendants”) with respect to Count III. (See generally id.)

         In response to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff stated that she “is not seeking to hold City Defendant liable for any civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or Monell.” (Estate of Smith, 2018 WL 4639182, at *6 (citing Plaintiff's Opposition Brief [Docket Item 44], 9).) As Plaintiff indicated that she was not pursuing a theory of municipal liability against Defendant City of Wildwood under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Court dismissed that portion of Defendants' motion as moot. (See id.) Furthermore, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants regarding Count I of the Complaint, alleging a “state-created danger” constitutional cause of action under § 1983. ...


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