ZAMPETIS v. CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Noel L. Hillman on 6/29/17. (dd, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
NICHOLAS J. ZAMPETIS,
CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY, et al.,
DAVID R. CASTELLANI
450 Tilton Road, Suite 245
Northfield, NJ 08225
Attorney for Plaintiff Nicholas J. Zampetis
A. MICHAEL BARKER
VANESSA ELAINE JAMES
Barker, Gelfand & James
210 New Road
Linwood, NJ 08221
Attorney for Defendant City of Atlantic City
MICHAEL E. RILEY
Law Offices of Riley & Riley
100 High Street
Mt. Holly, NJ 08060
Attorney for Defendants Ivan Lopez, Anthony Alosi, Jr., and
HILLMAN, District Judge
Plaintiff, Nicholas J. Zampetis, filed a complaint against
Defendants, the City of Atlantic City, Atlantic City Police
Officers Ivan Lopez, Anthony Alosi, Jr., Mike Auble, and several
John Doe police officers claiming violation of his rights under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New Jersey law.
Plaintiff claims that at
about 2:00 to 3:00 a.m. on February 17, 2013 (early Sunday
morning), while celebrating a friend’s birthday at the Tropicana
Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, Defendants Lopez, Alosi,
Auble and John Doe officers arrested him without probable cause.
He claims that these Defendants also beat him and falsely
charged him with criminal charges to cover up their wrongdoing.
Plaintiff contends that the individual police officers violated
his constitutional rights to freedom from unlawful arrest, false
imprisonment, deprivation of liberty, and excessive force.
Plaintiff also claims that Atlantic City had knowledge of these
officers’ propensity to violate a person’s constitutional
rights, as well as had policies and customs that fostered and
condoned such actions by the department’s police officers, and
are therefore liable for plaintiff’s injuries under Monell.
Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S.
658, 694 (1978) (“[A] local government may not be sued under §
1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents.
Instead, it is when execution of a government’s policy or
custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts
or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy,
inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is
responsible under § 1983.”).
Twice before, Atlantic City moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s
original complaint and his subsequent amended complaint.
Court granted both motions, finding that Plaintiff had not
adequately pleaded his municipal liability claims against
(Docket No. 6, 25.)
After each Opinion, the
Court had permitted Plaintiff to file an amended pleading within
30 days, which he did.
(Docket No. 14, 27.)
Atlantic City’s second motion to dismiss, the Court summarized
its review of Plaintiff’s amended complaint, finding that the
essential problem with the amended complaint was that it did not
set forth non-conclusory facts showing that Chief Jubilee was
aware, prior to February 2013, that Alosi, Lopez and Auble
required closer supervision or additional training to avoid
their arresting people without probable cause and using
excessive force during arrest, and absent such notice, the
amended complaint did not assert sufficiently that Chief
Jubilee’s deliberate indifference caused these officers to
violate Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights.
(Docket No. 25 at
Plaintiff filed his third complaint, and Atlantic City has
filed its third motion to dismiss. 1
During the pendency of
Atlantic City’s motion, the Court has opined on the viability of
municipal liability claims in the context of a plaintiff’s §
1983 claims and other similarly related claims against police
officers in two other cases at the summary judgment stage.
of those cases includes a Monell claim against Atlantic City and
involves one of the same officers in this matter.
v. Alosi and the City of Atlantic City, et al., 1:14-cv-6292;
Norman v. Haddon Township, et al., 1:14-cv-6034.
In both of those cases, the Court denied summary judgment
as to the individual officers, finding that a jury was required
to resolve disputed historical facts before the Court could
determine whether the officers were entitled to qualified
immunity for their actions.
The Court also denied summary
judgment, without prejudice, on the plaintiffs’ claims against
the municipalities until after the jury answered special
interrogatories related to the police officers’ actions and the
The individual officers answered
complaint. (Docket No. 40.)
Court made the qualified immunity determination.
At that point
in the trial, the Court would then consider the viability of the
plaintiffs’ Monell claims.
In consideration of the Court’s procedure to assess the
municipal liability claims in Harrison and Norman, and upon
review of Plaintiff’s second amended complaint, the Court finds
that Plaintiff’s third complaint sufficiently pleads Monell
claims against Atlantic City.
Plaintiff’s newest complaint
contains additional allegations that resolve the problems the
Court had identified in Plaintiff’s first amended complaint, and
it has sufficiently pleaded plausible claims where discovery
could reasonably reveal evidence to support Plaintiff’s
municipal liability claims against Atlantic City.
No. 27 at 4, 8-9, 10-11, 12, 14, 15-16, 20.)
For example, the second amended complaint specifies that
Chief Jubilee was acting police chief as of May 2010 and
thereafter chief until December 2013, which encompasses the time
frame when Plaintiff claims that he should have been aware of
Alosi, Lopez and Auble’s actions.
(Docket No. 27 at 4.)
Plaintiff has also included allegations that Chief Jubilee
reviewed internal affairs complaints, and that he therefore
would have known that Alosi was the subject of one excessive
force complaint in 2010 and three citizens’ complaints for
excessive force and improper arrest in 2012, and those
complaints should have triggered Atlantic City’s early warning
system that required review, monitoring, and remedial training.
(Id. at 10-11.)
The seconded amended complaint also relates
that Lopez was the subject of an excessive force complaint in
April 2009, and Auble was the subject of an internal affairs
complaint for excessive force in March 2013, and that none of
these complaints, as well as the other excessive force
complaints - 140 in total - filed against Atlantic City officers
during Chief Jubilee’s tenure as chief were found to be
sustained, which evidences the lack of meaningful investigation
into citizens’ complaints and the failure to track and monitor
police misconduct, creating and perpetuating a custom of
exonerating rogue police officers.
(Id. at 11-12.)
further alleges that Chief Jubilee knew of the 509 excessive
force complaints filed with the internal affairs between 2005
and 2010, but failed to take any action going forward, including
matter involving the three officer defendants in 2010, 2012, and
(Id. at 16.)
The Court concludes that Plaintiff’s second
amended complaint meets the Rule 8 and Twombly/Iqbal pleading
standards and will proceed past the motion to dismiss stage.
Consequently, Atlantic City’s third motion to dismiss
Plaintiff’s claims against it must be denied.
Order will be entered.
s/ Noel L. Hillman
NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
June 29, 2017
At Camden, New Jersey
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