United States District Court, D. New Jersey
XAVIER INGRAM and DARREN A. DICKERSON, Plaintiffs,
COUNTY OF CAMDEN, et al., Defendants.
G. Baldinger, Esq. MAZIE SLATER KATZ & FREEMAN, LLC
Attorney for Plaintiff Ingram William M. Tambussi, Esq.
William F. Cook, Esq. BROWN & CONNERY, LLP Attorneys for
County Defendants & Defendant Marchiafava Jay J. Blumberg
BLUMBERG & WOLK, LLC Attorney for Defendant Merck Matthew
B. Wieliczko ZELLER & WIELICZKO, LLP Attorney for
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE JUDGE
14, 2014, Plaintiff Xavier Ingram was allegedly assaulted by
several Camden County Police Officers resulting in
catastrophic injuries including quadriplegia, in violation of
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently before the Court are four
motions for summary judgment filed by Defendants County of
Camden, Camden County Police Department, Chief John Scott
Thomson, Orlando Cuevas (hereinafter, “County
Defendants”), and Nicholas Marchiafava [Docket Item
143], Defendant Jeremy Merck [Docket Item 144], Defendant
Antonio Gennetta [Docket Item 145], and Plaintiff Ingram
[Docket Item 146]. All of the present motions have been
opposed and briefing has been completed. The Court has
considered the submissions and held oral argument on March
21, 2019. For the reasons set forth below, the motion for
summary judgment filed by County Defendants and Defendant
Marchiafava [Docket Item 143] will be granted in part and
denied in part, Defendant Merck's motion for summary
judgment [Docket Item 144] will be denied, Defendant
Gennetta's motion for summary judgment [Docket Item 145]
will be denied, and Plaintiff Ingram's motion for summary
judgment [Docket Item 146] will be denied. The Court finds as
Factual and Procedural Background.
factual and procedural background of this case was previously
detailed in the Court's Memorandum Opinion of January 16,
2019, and shall not be repeated herein, except as necessary
for the determination of the present motion. See
Ingram v. Cty. of Camden, No. 14-5519, 2019 WL
231759 (D.N.J. Jan. 16, 2019). Discovery extending over
several years has been completed and the motions are largely
ripe for decision.
Standard of Review.
summary judgment, the moving party bears the initial burden
of demonstrating that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once a properly
supported motion for summary judgment is made, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
(1986). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court
is required to examine the evidence in light most favorable
to the non-moving party and resolve all reasonable inferences
in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 378 (2007); Halsey v. Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273,
287 (3d Cir. 2014).
factual dispute is material when it “might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and
genuine when “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The non-moving party
“need not match, item for item, each piece of evidence
proffered by the movant, ” but must present more than a
“mere scintilla” of evidence on which a jury
could reasonably find for the non-moving party. Boyle v.
Cnty. of Allegheny, Pa., 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir.
1998) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
Defendants move for summary
judgment as to certain portions of Plaintiff Ingram's
Second Amended Complaint [Docket Item 64]. Defendants assert
that they are entitled to summary judgment as to Plaintiff
Ingram's claim regarding the use of excessive force
because the force used by Officer Defendants against
Plaintiff Ingram was reasonable and because Officer
Defendants are protected by the doctrine of qualified
immunity. (County Defs.' Br. [Docket Item 143-1], 15-27;
Merck's Br. [Docket Item 144-1], 5-8; Gennetta's Br.
[Docket Item 145-1], 24-34.) Defendants further assert that
they are entitled to summary judgment as to all New Jersey
state law claims because they are rendered immune from suit
by New Jersey's “pursuit immunity” statute.
(County Defs.' Br. [Docket Item 143-1], 28 n.13;
Merck's Br. [Docket Item 144-1], 5-6; Gennetta's Br.
[Docket Item 145-1], 36.) County Defendants assert that they
are entitled to summary judgment as to all claims against
Defendants County of Camden, Camden County Police Department,
John Scott Thomson, and Orlando Cuevas because County
Defendants' training, policies, and discipline meet
applicable requirements and because they cannot be held
liable for claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by way of a
theory of respondeat superior. (See County
Defs.' Br. [Docket Item 143-1], 28-30.) Defendant Merck
seeks summary judgment regarding Plaintiff Ingram's claim
against him for supervisory liability under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. (See Merck's Br. [Docket Item 144-1],
8-11.) Finally, Defendants and Plaintiff Ingram all seek
summary judgment in their respective favors regarding
Plaintiff Ingram's claim for failure to render medical
aid. (See County Defs.' Br. [Docket Item 143-1],
27-28; Gennetta's Br. [Docket Item 145-1], 34-35;
Merck's Br. [Docket Item 144-1], 11; Ingram's Br.
[Docket Item 148], 19-33.)
contend that they are entitled to summary judgment in their
favor as to Count I of Plaintiff Ingram's Second Amended
Complaint [Docket Item 64], seeking damages under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for excessive force, because Defendants are
entitled to qualified immunity and because Plaintiff Ingram
has not established that he has suffered a constitutional
violation. (County Defs.' Br. [Docket Item 143-1], 15-27;
Merck's Br. [Docket Item 144-1], 5-8; Gennetta's Br.
[Docket Item 145-1], 24-34.) Defendants assert that each of
the Officer Defendants is entitled to qualified immunity
and that the force used against Plaintiff Ingram was not
unconstitutionally excessive. (See id.)
Plaintiff Ingram opposes this request, asserting that the
Officer Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity and
that there exist questions of material fact in relation to
whether the amount of force used on Plaintiff Ingram was
objectively reasonable under the circumstances presented in
this case. (See Pl.'s Opp'n [Docket Item
170], 7-16, 18-19.)
Qualified Immunity as to Excessive Force.
immunity shields government officials from civil damages
liability unless the official violated a statutory or
constitutional right that was clearly established at the time
of the challenged conduct.” Taylor v. Barkes,
135 S.Ct. 2042, 2044 (2015) (internal citation and quotation
marks omitted). “In resolving questions of qualified
immunity at summary judgment, courts engage in a two-pronged
inquiry. The first asks whether the facts, ‘[t]aken in
the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, .
. . show the officer's conduct violated a [federal]
right[.]'” Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. 650,
655-56 (2014) (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194,
201, (2001)). In this case, Plaintiff Ingram has alleged a
violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free of
excessive force during the course of an arrest and failure to
provide medical care. (See Second Amended
Complaint [Docket Item 64], ¶ 27; see also
Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393 (1989).)
Plaintiff Ingram alleges that as he walked out of a liquor
store, nearby police officers started to chase him, he
assumed that it was because of an outstanding warrant he had,
got scared, and ran. (Ingram Dep. [Docket Item 146-10],
11:16-12:2.) After running for some distance, Plaintiff
Ingram alleges he tried to surrender to police on the
slippery pavement by going down to the ground. (Id.
at 12:5-6.) In the process of getting down, Ingram claims his
feet slipped from under him and he landed on his side.
(Id. at 12:6-8.) As soon as he hit the ground, an
officer jumped on his back and two officers started punching
and kicking him. (Id. at 12:9-12.) After the
officers started beating him, Plaintiff Ingram asserts that
he could feel the blows, was in extreme pain, and was
screaming that he could not breathe and that he could not
feel his legs. (Id. at 12:12-15.) Then Defendant
Merck walked over to Ingram, told him to “shut up,
” stepped on his neck, and Plaintiff Ingram heard it
crack. (Id. at 12:15-18.) According to Ingram, the
officers tried to sit him up, but when they released him, he
collapsed onto his stomach. (Id. at 12:21-23.)
Ingram then blacked out. (Id. at 20-24.) As
described below, the parties have identified a number of
eyewitnesses to these events and there is a video
surveillance recording of the events. Taking these into
account, in the light most favorable to Plaintiff Ingram,
show that the Officer Defendants violated a federal right.
second prong of the qualified immunity inquiry requires the
Court to determine
whether the right in question was “clearly
established” at the time of the violation. Hope v.
Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 739,  (2002). . . . “[T]he
salient question . . . is whether the state of the law”
at the time of an incident provided “fair
warning” to the defendants “that their alleged
[conduct] was unconstitutional.” Id. at 741.
Tolan, 572 U.S. at 655-56. Regarding claims of
excessive force during the process of arrest, the Third
Circuit has stated that
we have relied on the factors set forth in Graham
and Sharrar in evaluating whether an officer made a
reasonable mistake. See Estate of Smith v.
Marasco, 430 F.3d 140, 149-150 (3d Cir.2005); Couden
v. Duffy, 446 F.3d 483, 497 (3d Cir.2006). We have
stated that these factors “are well-recognized, ”
Couden, 446 F.3d at 497, and that when an officer
applies them in “an unreasonable manner, he is not
entitled to qualified immunity.” Estate of
Smith, 430 F.3d at 150.
Green v. New Jersey State Police, 246 Fed.Appx. 158,
162-63 (3d Cir. 2007). As the Court shall determine, below,
neither the Graham nor the Sharrar factors
indicate that, taking the evidence in the light most
favorable to Plaintiff Ingram, the Officer Defendants'
use of allegedly deadly force (especially kneeling on
Ingram's neck and kicking or stomping on the neck of a
non-resisting suspect) would have been reasonable under the
circumstances in this case. Because the Court finds that
“it would be unreasonable for [an officer] to believe
these actions would not constitute excessive force, we hold
that [Plaintiff Ingram's] rights were ‘clearly
established.'” Green, 246 Fed.Appx. at
Qualified Immunity as to Deliberate Indifference to
Serious Medical Need of a Detainee
also alleged a second constitutional violation arising after
he was seized and immobile on the ground. He alleges that,
after his neck was broken, and he was handcuffed, that he was
“seized” for constitutional purposes, and that
the officers were aware of the profound seriousness of his
injuries. When Officer Defendants nonetheless rolled him
over, and then sat him up, despite hearing his complaints
that he could not feel his legs and despite seeking that he
could not cooperate to support himself, and his body was
contorted and he fell face forward on his face, that further
injury to his spinal cord was the result. Plaintiff's
expert, Dr. Yue, inter alia, opines how these
maneuvers probably caused additional damage to
Plaintiff's cervical area. Plaintiff alleges that he had
a constitutional right, whatever the source of his injuries,
once he was seized, to be free from the deliberate
indifference of the arresting officers to his serious medical
needs as a detainee in violation of the Fourth (or
alternatively the Fourteenth) Amendment.
one of the qualified immunity inquiry, taking the evidence in
the light most favorable to Plaintiff Ingram, he has alleged
a violation of his federal right to be free from deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs while a pretrial
detainee. (Second Amended Complaint [Docket Item 64],
regard to claims for inadequate medical care by pretrial
detainees, the Third Circuit has held that
the Supreme Court has concluded that the Fourteenth Amendment
affords pretrial detainees protections “at least as
great as the Eighth Amendment protections available to a
convicted prisoner, ” without deciding whether the
Fourteenth Amendment provides greater protections. [City
of Revere v. Massachusetts Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239,
244, (1983).] In previous cases, we have found no reason to
apply a different standard than that set forth in
Estelle (pertaining to prisoners' claims of
inadequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment) when
evaluating whether a claim for inadequate ...