United States District Court, D. New Jersey
EMILY VALLES, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JAIME GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
CUMBERLAND COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
LOCKMAN, ESQ. MARK B. FROST & ASSOCIATES ATTORNEY FOR THE
G. GIEBNER, ESQ. BUONADONNA & BENSON, P.C. ATTORNEY FOR
DEFENDANTS CUMBERLAND COUNTY AND WARDEN ROBERT BALICKI
Noel L. Hillman, United States District Judge
before the Court is the motion for summary judgment filed by
Defendants Cumberland County and Warden Robert Balicki. (ECF
No. 50). Plaintiff filed a response to the motion (ECF No.
57), to which the moving Defendants replied. (ECF No. 62).
For the following reasons, Defendants' motion will be
granted and judgment in this matter shall be entered in favor
of Defendants Cumberland County and Warden Robert Balicki.
August 4, 2016, Plaintiff Jaime Gonzalez filed through
counsel a complaint alleging that he had been subjected to
excessive force while he was a pre-trial detainee at the
Cumberland County Jail in 2014. (ECF No. 1). In that
complaint, counsel presented the following factual
allegations as the basis for Plaintiff's claims:
On the date in question, August 18, 2014, Plaintiff was
assigned to A-Dorm.
An inmate, whose identity is unknown to Plaintiff, struck
Plaintiff. Two other inmates came to Plaintiff's aid, and
began scuffling with the inmate who initially struck
At no time did Plaintiff himself scuffle, fight with, or
strike any inmate during this incident.
Without Plaintiff's knowledge, Defendant [Officer Corley]
entered A-Dorm and - without saying anything - hit plaintiff
in the face with gate keys he was holding.
As a result, Plaintiff fell, hit his head on the gate, and
then fell to the ground, hitting his head on concrete.
Plaintiff suffered a concussion and thereafter suffered a
seizure shortly after hitting the ground.
After [the assault] by Defendant [Corley], Plaintiff remained
on the jail cell floor [until] Defendant [Corley] . . .
dragged Plaintiff out of A-Dorm by Plaintiff's leg,
causing further damage to Plaintiff's body and head.
. . . .
Due to the severity of his injuries, Plaintiff was taken via
helicopter from the Cumberland County Jail to the Cooper
University Hospital Emergency Room, where he was treated for
injuries caused by Defendants, including but not limited to a
concussion, seizures, a fractured orbital bone, and other
(ECF No. 1 at 3-4, paragraph numbers omitted). Because the
complaint was prepared by counsel, Plaintiff neither signed
nor otherwise attested to the validity of the allegations
contained in his pleading. (Id. at 1-14).
on these allegations, Plaintiff's complaint raised claims
against Defendant Corley for excessive force and failure to
treat his injuries, as well as two claims against the moving
Defendants - a claim for municipal/supervisory liability
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the moving
Defendants, Warden Robert Balicki and Cumberland County, were
responsible for the alleged excessive force used by Corley
because of a policy or custom of failing to train officers or
investigate uses of force which directly resulted in the
alleged assault against Plaintiff; and a virtually identical
state law claim against the moving Defendants arising out of
the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. (ECF No. 1 at 7-12).
Plaintiff died during the pendency of this matter,
(see ECF No. 24), he was never deposed and therefore
never provided testimony or a signed affidavit or
certification laying out his version of the events underlying
his complaint. Likewise, because Defendant Corley refused to
participate in his defense and failed to appear for his
deposition, (see, e.g., ECF No. 23), and because
Plaintiff was otherwise unable to secure Corley's
testimony through discovery or any related mechanism, no
testimony from Corley is contained within the record, though
certain documents provided by Corley as part of an internal
jail investigation, discussed below, are available. As no
deposition of the other inmates involved in the scuffle which
preceded Corley's arrival on the scene has been presented
to this Court in relation to the motion for summary judgment,
the record of this matter is utterly devoid of any direct
testimony presenting any version of the events which occurred
on that date from the individuals directly involved in the
prison scuffle and resulting intervention of Officer Corley.
Instead, the record presents only third-party information
regarding the August 18, 2014 incident.
the incident, Warden Balicki assigned Sergeant Heriberto
Ortiz to investigate “Inmate Jaime Gonzalez claims that
he was assaulted by Off. Jason Corley.” (Document 4
attached to ECF No. 50 at 20). According to Sergeant
On August 18, 2014, there was a physical altercation [which]
took place in A Dorm and three inmates were involved. The
inmates in question were Jaime Gonzalez, Pedro Andujar and
Tremaine Davis. Off. Corley gave the three inmates a verbal
command to stop fighting and when none of them complied he
implemented his pepper spray. At this time the three inmates
stopped fighting. Medical was called as inmate J. Gonzalez
was bleeding from his head and he was subsequently
transported to the hospital.
signed witness record prepared as part of that investigation,
Officer Corley presented the following version of the events
I heard arguing[, ] when I went to investigate [inmate] Pedro
Andujar, Jaime Gonzalez, and another unknown inmate began
assaulting Tremaine Davis. I issued verbal commands for them
to stop which were ignored. I then issued a one second burst
of . . . pepper spray on [inmate] Andujar and handcuffed him,
then removed him ...