JONES v. COUNTY OF SALEM et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Noel L. Hillman on 3/15/2016. (tf, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil No. 15-3093 (NLH/AMD)
COUNTY OF SALEM, CHARLES M.
MILLER, RAYMOND C.
SKRADZINSKI, THE STATE OF NEW
JERSEY, STATE TROOPER J.J.
SMITH, ELBERT B JOHNSON,
SALEM COUNTY CORRECTIONAL
FACILITY, et al.,
JOSEPH C. GRASSI
BARRY, CORRADO, GRASSI & GIBSON, P.C.
2700 PACIFIC AVENUE
WILDWOOD, NJ 08260
On behalf of plaintiff
MICHAEL MORRIS MULLIGAN
317 SHELL ROAD
P.O. BOX 432
CARNEY'S POINT, NJ 08069
On behalf of Salem County defendants
ALEX JOSEPH ZOWIN
ROBERT P. PREUSS
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
HUGHES JUSTICE COMPLEX
25 MARKET STREET
TRENTON, NJ 08611
On behalf of State of New Jersey defendants
HILLMAN, District Judge
Presently before the Court is the motion of the State of
New Jersey and New Jersey State Trooper J.J. Smith to dismiss
plaintiff’s claims against them.
For the reasons expressed
below, defendants’ motion to dismiss will be granted.
Plaintiff’s complaint contains the following facts:
15. Plaintiff has longstanding medical issues which include
diabetes and schizophrenia.
16. On June 27, 2013, plaintiff was in the midst of a
medical episode when he drove his car until running out of gas.
17. Trooper Smith encountered plaintiff sitting in his
vehicle on US Highway 40 East in the area of Milepost 18.6 in
Woodstown, New Jersey.
18. Trooper Smith discovered a traffic warrant issued for
plaintiff by Vineland City Municipal Court.
19. Trooper Smith called plaintiff’s sister who informed
him of plaintiff’s conditions.
20. Despite knowing plaintiff’s special needs, Trooper
Smith arrested plaintiff and transported him to Salem County
Correctional Facility (SCCF).
21. At SCCF, plaintiff was medically screened by SCCF
employee Elbert B. Johnson.
22. The inmate screening form indicates the “subject would
not answer any questions.”
23. Employees at Salem County Correctional Facility
neglected plaintiff’s medical needs. The plaintiff was admitted
to the Correctional Facility, where Correctional Officers
assaulted plaintiff because they misinterpreted his disability
as resistance and contempt.
24. On June 29, 2013, after plaintiff was assaulted, he was
released from the County Jail, and admitted to Salem Hospital.
25. At Salem Hospital, plaintiff was observed to have an
altered mental status in association with elevated blood sugars
up to 1000, fractured ribs, and injured toes.
(Amend. Compl. at 4-5.)
Based on these facts, plaintiff has asserted claims against
the numerous defendants for violation of his constitutional
rights, disability discrimination, negligence, and assault and
The State of New Jersey and New Jersey State Trooper
J.J. Smith have moved to dismiss all of plaintiff’s claims
Plaintiff concedes that all of his claims against
the State defendants should be dismissed, except for his claims
for negligence (Count VII) and discrimination under the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and New Jersey Law Against
Discrimination (NJLAD) (Counts IX and X).
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Plaintiff has brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, as well as pursuant to the New Jersey constitution and New
Jersey state law.
This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiff’s
federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental
jurisdiction over plaintiff’s state law claims under 28 U.S.C. §
Standard for Motion to Dismiss
When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court
must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as
true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005).
It is well
settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains “a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead
evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that
serve as a basis for the claim.
F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977).
Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562
However, “[a]lthough the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth
an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for
relief, they do require that the pleadings give defendant fair
notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and the grounds upon
which it rests.”
Baldwin Cnty. Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S.
147, 149-50 n.3 (1984) (quotation and citation omitted).
A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks
“‘not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether
the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 n.8 (2007)
(quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (“Our decision in
Twombly expounded the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions’
. . . .”); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir.
2009) (“Iqbal . . . provides the final nail-in-the-coffin for
the ‘no set of facts’ standard that applied to federal
complaints before Twombly.”).
Following the Twombly/Iqbal standard, the Third Circuit has
instructed a two-part analysis in reviewing a complaint under
First, the factual and legal elements of a claim
should be separated; a district court must accept all of the
complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any
S. Ct. at 1950).
Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (citing Iqbal, 129
Second, a district court must then determine
whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to
show that the plaintiff has a “‘plausible claim for relief.’”
Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950).
A complaint must do
more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief.
see also Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d
Cir. 2008) (stating that the “Supreme Court's Twombly
formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus:
‘stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual
matter (taken as true) to suggest’ the required element.
‘does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading
stage,’ but instead ‘simply calls for enough facts to raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of’
the necessary element”).
A court need not credit either “bald
assertions” or “legal conclusions” in a complaint when deciding
a motion to dismiss.
In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig.,
114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997).
The defendant bears the
burden of showing that no claim has been presented.
U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages,
Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).
A court in reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion must only
consider the facts alleged in the pleadings, the documents
attached thereto as exhibits, and matters of judicial notice.
S. Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Kwong Shipping Grp. Ltd.,
181 F.3d 410, 426 (3d Cir. 1999).
A court may consider,
however, “an undisputedly authentic document that a defendant
attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff’s
claims are based on the document.”
Pension Benefit Guar. Corp.
v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.
If any other matters outside the pleadings are presented
to the court, and the court does not exclude those matters, a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion will be treated as a summary judgment
motion pursuant to Rule 56.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b).
Plaintiff claims that Trooper Smith violated his rights
under the ADA and NJLAD because he did not recognize the signs
of mental illness and a diabetic complication, and he failed to
take appropriate steps to have plaintiff evaluated.
also claims that the State of New Jersey is liable under the ADA
and NJLAD for failing to train plaintiff in these two areas.
Relatedly, plaintiff claims that the State and Trooper Smith
violated plaintiff’s rights under the NJLAD because they failed
to reasonably accommodate plaintiff’s disabilities in the course
of the investigation and arrest.
Plaintiff claims that these
failures also constitute negligence because they breached their
duty of care to him.
The State and Trooper Smith have moved to dismiss these
claims against them, arguing that the State, and Trooper Smith
in his official capacity, are entitled to sovereign immunity as
to plaintiff’s ADA and NJLAD claims.
These defendants also
argue that plaintiff’s ADA and NJLAD claims fail to state viable
claims against Trooper Smith in his individual capacity, and
that the negligence claim is barred by the New Jersey Tort
Claims Act (NJTCA).
In response, plaintiff argues that (1) the
ADA specifically abrogates the State’s sovereign immunity, (2)
he has sufficiently pleaded claims for violations of the ADA and
NLJAD, and (3) he complied with the NJTCA for his negligence
Even if the State were not immune from suit under the ADA
based on the circumstances of this case, 1 and accepting that
plaintiff complied with the NJTCA, plaintiff has failed to meet
the Twombly/Iqbal and Rule 8 pleading standards to maintain his
discrimination and negligence claims against the State and
To prevail on a claim under Title II of the ADA, a
plaintiff must prove that (a) he has a disability within the
meaning of the ADA, (b) he is otherwise qualified, with or
without reasonable accommodations, to receive services, (c) he,
by reason of his disability, was denied the benefits of, or
excluded from participation in, such services, or was
discriminated against by the defendant, and (d) the defendant
In order to determine whether a State is immune from suit for a
claim based on a violation of Title II of the ADA, a court must
engage in a three-step analysis: (1) identify which aspects of
the State's alleged conduct violated Title II; (2) identify to
what extent such misconduct also violated the Fourteenth
Amendment; and (3) insofar as such misconduct violated Title II
but did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, determine whether
Congress's purported abrogation of sovereign immunity as to that
class of conduct is nevertheless valid. Bowers v. Nat'l
Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 475 F.3d 524, 553 (3d Cir. 2007),
amended on reh'g (Mar. 8, 2007) (citing United States v.
Georgia, 546 U.S. 151 (2006)). The Court does not need to
perform this analysis at this time.
was a public entity within the meaning of Title II of the ADA.
Starego v. New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Ass'n, 970
F. Supp. 2d 303, 309 (D.N.J. 2013).
Under the NJLAD, “[a]ll persons shall have the opportunity
... to obtain all the accommodations, advantages, facilities,
and privileges of any place of public accommodation” without
discrimination on the basis of disability.
place of public accommodation discriminates against the disabled
and is liable under the NJLAD if it fails to reasonably
accommodate the disabled by providing suitable accesses to its
services and facilities.
Lasky v. Moorestown Twp., 2011 WL
4900007, at *4 (D.N.J. Oct. 14, 2011) (citing Franek v. Tomahawk
Lake Resort, 754 A.2d 1237, 1243 (N.J. Super. Ct .App. Div.
Plaintiff claims that Trooper Smith did not provide him
with the proper treatment plaintiff was owed due to his status
as a diabetic schizophrenic who was in the “midst of a medical
episode,” which caused him to drive his car until he ran out of
Accepting as true that plaintiff was suffering from an
episode as a result of his schizophrenia and diabetes, and that
Trooper Smith was aware of these conditions, plaintiff’s
complaint is completely lacking in any facts that would suggest
that Trooper Smith treated plaintiff differently from any other
person with a valid traffic warrant who ran out of gas on the
side of the road.
Plaintiff’s complaint is also completely
lacking in facts that would suggest that plaintiff required any
sort of reasonable accommodation or special services during the
course of his arrest and transport to the Salem County
Similarly, plaintiff’s complaint does
not contain any facts to support plaintiff’s claim that Trooper
Smith breached a general duty of care to plaintiff to support a
Simply because plaintiff suffers from a disability does not
instantly transform Trooper Smith’s interaction with plaintiff
into an ADA or NJLAD violation.
To maintain viable ADA and
NJLAD claims, as well as a general duty of care negligence
claim, plaintiff must articulate how his disabilities required a
special accommodation during his interaction with Trooper Smith,
and plaintiff must articulate how Trooper Smith failed to
provide those accommodations. 2
Therefore, all of plaintiff’s claims against the State of
New Jersey and Trooper Smith must be dismissed.
of plaintiff’s claims arising under the ADA and NJLAD will be
without prejudice to his right to file an amended complaint, if
To support a claim, if such a claim were to exist under the ADA
and NJLAD, against the State for its failure to train Trooper
Smith in how to accommodate a person with disabilities such as
plaintiff, plaintiff must also articulate (1) the nature of the
proper training, and (2) how Trooper Smith failed to comply with
he can do so consistent with the direction in this Opinion.
Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482
F.3d 247, 251 (3d Cir. 2007) (explaining that Third Circuit
precedent “supports the notion that in civil rights cases
district courts must offer amendment--irrespective of whether it
is requested--when dismissing a case for failure to state a
claim unless doing so would be inequitable or futile”).
An appropriate Order will be entered.
Date: March 15, 2016
At Camden, New Jersey
s/ Noel L. Hillman
NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
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