United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Motion for Summary Judgment
of Defendant Jack Kluk as to the claims against him as plead
in the Third Amended Complaint, which was filed on December
18, 2017. The Court has considered the written submissions of
the parties, including the video submission, and the
arguments advanced during the hearing on June 6, 2019. For
the reasons stated on the record that day, as well as those
that follow, Defendant Kluk's motion for summary judgment
August 27, 2015, Plaintiff Krisha Smith (“Smith”)
was arrested at her home for obstructing the arrest of her
son, Ryan Smith. The arrest is fully captured on video by the
body cameras of Voorhees Township Police Officers Jack Kluk
and Michael Perez. Def.'s Exs. B and C respectively.
Smith filed a Third Amended Complaint against Defendants
Officer Kenneth Fowlkes, Detective Michael Perez, and Officer
Jack Kluk alleging violations under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and
the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, as well as a tort claim for
false arrest/imprisonment. [Dkt. No. 21].
of consent order filed on January 29, 2018, Smith dismissed
all causes of action against Defendants Officer Kenneth
Fowlkes and Detective Michael Perez, dismissing Counts I,
III, IV, VI, and VII. [Dkt. No. 23]. As a result, the only
remaining claims in this matter allege excessive force in
violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the New Jersey Civil
Rights Act (Counts II and V) against Officer Jack Kluk. In
addition to compensatory damages, Smith is seeking punitive
Smith claims that Defendant Kluk “yanked [her] arm
back” during his attempt to place handcuffs on her to
effectuate the arrest. Smith Dep., 20:10-11. During oral
argument, counsel for Smith conceded that the video of
Smith's arrest, as depicted by Kluk's body camera,
does not depict the use of excessive force. Instead, Smith
claims that the “yank” which forms the basis for
the excessive force occurred during a 2 second portion of the
video, at 16.26:12- 16.26:14 where Smith's right shoulder
is not captured on screen. According to Smith, when her left
arm was secured, her right arm was yanked, causing a tear of
her rotator cuff.
on this argument, the only issue before the Court is whether
a reasonable juror could believe, based on the video
depiction of the arrest, that an injury occurred to Smith as
a result of the use of excessive force deployed by Kluk
during the two second period Smith describes.
Standards of Review
will grant a motion for summary judgment if there is no
genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Pearson
v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir.
2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986));
accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c). Thus, this Court will
enter summary judgment only when “the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c).
issue is “genuine” if 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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202
(1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material
fact exists, the court must view the facts and all reasonable
inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348,
89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).
deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary
judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the
evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine
whether there is a genuine issue for trial.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility
determinations are the province of the finder of fact.
Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d
1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).
constitutional claims are governed by Title 42 U.S.C. §
1983, which provides a civil remedy against any person who,
under color of state law, deprives another of rights
protected by the United States Constitution. See Collins
v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115');">503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). Any
analysis of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 should begin with the
language of the statute:
person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District
of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen
of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction
thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be
liable to the party ...