AMERICAN HALAL LIVE POULTRY, LLC., et al v. CITY OF PERTH AMBOY, et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge William J. Martini on 5/9/16. (gh, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
AMERICAN HALAL LIVE POULTRY, LLC
and WAHID ABDUL,
Civ. No. 2:16-0326 (WJM)
CITY OF PERTH AMBOY, ET AL.
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.:
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint
and motion for a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs are American Halal Live Poultry LLC
(a live poultry business that slaughters and sells Halal meat) and Wahid Abdul, the
business’s owner. Defendants are the City of Perth Amboy, Middlesex County, and their
respective individual employees (collectively, “Perth Amboy”). Plaintiffs allege that Perth
Amboy has violated their constitutional rights and enforced certain property and health
regulations in a discriminatory manner against them because they are Muslim. Perth
Amboy contends that Plaintiffs have received more than 27 summonses for building and
health code violations over a 7-month period, resulting in the City’s failure to renew
Plaintiffs’ business license. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs’ motion to amend
their complaint is GRANTED; their motion for a preliminary injunction is DENIED.
A. Underlying Facts
The following facts are drawn from Plaintiffs’ amended Complaint and the parties’
submissions in connection with Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction.
For the last five years Abdul has operated American Halal Live Poultry LLC
(hereinafter, “the Business”) in the city of Perth Amboy. ECF doc. 13-3 (Abdul Decl.) ¶ 3.
The Business is run out of a commercial building with a small retail area for customers.
Id. ¶ 4. In front of the commercial building, there is a duplex house on a separately-zoned
residential property also owned by the Business. Id. ¶ 5. According to Plaintiffs, one side
of the duplex was rented to a family and the other side was used by Abdul and workers of
the Business to store personal property and business records. Id. ¶6. Plaintiffs contend
that the Business operated on a “24/7 basis” and that, “as a result workers have been
permitted to sleep for free and keep certain of their personal effects in the one side of the
duplex between their shifts.” Id. ¶7.
According to Plaintiffs, shortly before July 1, 2015, Abdul learned that a Perth
Amboy Councilman, Fernando Gonzalez, was canvassing the neighborhood, seeking
citizen complaints against the Business. Id., ¶ 17. Shortly thereafter, Gonzalez appeared
at the Business and advised Abdul that he was going to put him “out of business.” Id. ¶18.
Plaintiffs subsequently “became the target of unremitting [health] inspections.” Id. ¶ 23.
Plaintiffs contend that other, non-Muslim businesses have not been similarly targeted or
inspected. Id. ¶ 14-15. Plaintiffs were charged with violating cleanliness, zoning, and
property maintenance codes. Id. ¶¶ 29-36. Plaintiffs contend that the summonses they
received lacked “factual specification” and, therefore, did not provide them with proper
notice of the basis of the charges against them or describe the right to appeal. Id. In
December 2015, Plaintiffs applied for the annual renewal of their Food and Beverage
License. Id. ¶ 51. Perth Amboy did not renew the license. Id. ¶ 53. Thereafter, city
officials re-inspected the property and “took into custody certain workers who had been
temporarily using free of charge the building for sleep and breaks and transported them to
Id. ¶ 66.
Plaintiffs contend that this inspection was “conducted
without a warrant or other process.” Id. ¶ 59. On January 19, 2016, health inspectors found
the Business to be “unsatisfactory” and ordered the Business to close. Id. ¶ 69.
Perth Amboy contests Plaintiffs’ narrative. According to Perth Amboy, in July
2015, a City Code Enforcement Official was dispatched to inspect the Business in response
to a petition signed by neighbors regarding foul odors. ECF doc. 20-2, Ex. A (Perez
Decl.) ¶ 6. The Business was also inspected by the Heath Department and was given a
grade of “conditionally satisfactory” due to excessive flies, foul odors, feces, blood, and
animal refuse on the property. Id. At the end of the month, the Business was re-inspected
by the Heath Department. Id. ¶ 7. The same conditions were found, as well as additional
violations, and four new summonses were issued. Id. Over the next several months, the
Business failed to correct the code violations, and continued to receive summonses.
Id. ¶¶ 8-14.
In December 2015, code enforcement officials were granted access to the duplex,
and found “deplorable living conditions.” Id. ¶ 15. In January 2016, officials re-inspected
the property and found that Plaintiffs were housing undocumented workers on the
Business’s property, and paying them below minimum wage. Id. ¶ 17. A subsequent visit
uncovered undocumented workers living on the Business’s property in a storage shed
without heat or hot water. Id. ¶ 18-20. The officials learned that Abdul had threatened to
report the workers’ undocumented status to the authorities if they complained about their
work and living conditions. Id. These workers were provided with new housing, and the
residential property and Business were closed down. Id. ¶ 20-21. After reviewing the
Business’s numerous code violations, the City did not renew its Food and Beverage
License. Id. ¶¶ 23-24.
B. The Instant Action
Plaintiffs now move to amend their complaint. In their proposed amended
Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Perth Amboy has violated their constitutional rights and
enforced certain property and health regulations against them because they are Muslim.
Plaintiffs also seek a litany of injunctive relief measures against Perth Amboy.
Plaintiffs request that the Court require Perth Amboy to: (1) provide Plaintiffs with a list
of the repairs that must be made to reopen their Business and reoccupy their residential
property; (2) immediately re-inspect the premises upon Plaintiffs’ request; and (3) renew
Plaintiffs’ Food and Beverage License. Plaintiffs further request that the Court enjoin
Perth Amboy from: (1) issuing any citation against Plaintiffs for violating city codes
without good cause, notice, or a right to appeal; (2) entering Plaintiffs’ residential
property without a warrant; and (3) demanding monetary payments from the Plaintiffs
without a hearing.
A. Motion to Amend the Complaint
Plaintiffs’ unopposed motion for leave to file an amended complaint is GRANTED.
A party may amend its complaint as a matter of course “if the pleading is one to which a
responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(B). Here, Plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint before Defendants
filed their required responsive pleading, i.e., an answer to the original complaint or any
dispositive motion. Accordingly, Plaintiffs are within the 21-day window in which they
may file an amended complaint “as a matter of course.” Id.
B. Preliminary Injunction
A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy that is not routinely granted.
See, e.g., Groupe SEB USA v. Euro-Pro Operating LLC, 774 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 2014).
In order to obtain the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction, Plaintiffs must
show (1) they are likely to succeed on the merits; (2) denial will cause them irreparable
harm; (3) granting the injunction will not result in irreparable harm to Defendants; and (4)
granting the injunction is in the public interest. Nutrasweet Co. v. Vit-Mar Enterprises,
176 F.3d 151, 153 (3d Cir. 1999). “The burden lies with the plaintiff to establish every
element in its favor, or the grant of a preliminary injunction is inappropriate.” P.C.
Yonkers, Inc. v. Celebrations the Party and Seasonal Superstore, LLC, 428 F.3d 504, 508
(3d Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). The Third Circuit has placed particular weight on the
probability of irreparable harm and the likelihood of success on the merits, stating: “[W]e
cannot sustain a preliminary injunction ordered by the district court where either or both of
these prerequisites are absent.” Hoxworth v. Blinder, Robinson & Co., 903 F.2d 186, 197
(3d Cir. 1990) (internal citations omitted). The Court concludes that Plaintiffs have failed
to demonstrate likelihood of success on the merits or irreparable harm in the absence of an
injunction. Consequently, their motion for a preliminary injunction will be denied.
Likelihood of Success on the Merits
At this early stage of the litigation, Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate a likelihood
of success on the merits. After reviewing the papers, it is apparent to this Court that there
are a myriad of factual disputes that have a direct bearing on the viability of Plaintiffs’
claims. These disputes include, but are not limited to:
Whether Plaintiffs failed to comply with building, health, and safety codes;
Whether Plaintiffs failed to comply with labor, wage and hour codes;
Whether Plaintiffs received proper notice of the code violations;
Whether Plaintiffs were given an opportunity to appeal the code violations;
Whether Defendants searched Plaintiffs’ property without permission or a
Whether Defendants were motivated by discriminatory animus in enforcing
heath and building codes against Plaintiffs.
In short, the parties severely dispute the facts underlying the closure of Plaintiffs’ business.
“A preliminary injunction cannot be issued when there are disputed issues of fact.”
Hunterdon Transformer Co. v. Cook, No. 89-3132, 1990 WL 10342, *2 (D.N.J. Feb. 6,
1990) (citing Charles Simkin & Sons, Inc. v. Massiah, 289 F.2d 26, 29 (3d Cir. 1961)); see
also Collick v. Weeks Marine, Inc., 397 F. App’x. 762, 764 (3d Cir. 2010) (preliminary
injunction is inappropriate where there is an “abundance of contradictory facts on both
sides of the record.”). Because there are several factual disputes that preclude a
determination that Plaintiffs have established a likelihood of success on the merits,
Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction must be denied.
Irreparable and Imminent Injury
Even if Plaintiffs could show a likelihood of success on the merits, their motion
must still be denied because they have failed to demonstrate irreparable and imminent
To be entitled to the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction, a plaintiff
must show an imminent risk of irreparable injury that cannot wait to be redressed until trial
is over. Hynoski v. Columbia Cnty. Redevelopment Auth., 485 F. App’x. 559, 563 (3d Cir.
2012) (quoting Instant Air Freight Co. v. C.F. Air Freight, Inc., 882 F.2d 797, 801 (3d Cir.
1989)). The harm “must be of a peculiar nature, so that compensation in money cannot
atone for it.” Campbell Soup Co. v. ConAgra, Inc., 977 F.2d 86, 92 (3d Cir. 1992) (internal
citations omitted). Plaintiffs have failed make such a showing in this case.
Here, the harm Plaintiffs seek to redress is monetary: should Plaintiffs ultimately
prevail in this action, they can be compensated by the loss of income or rent arising out of
Perth Amboy’s alleged wrongdoing. See Frank’s GMC Truck Center, Inc. v. General
Motors Corp., 847 F.2d 100, 102 (3rd Cir. 1989) (“[t]he availability of adequate monetary
damages belies a claim of irreparable injury”). Plaintiffs’ conclusory “blanket statement”
that failure to issue a preliminary injunction will cause irreparable harm to their reputation
and good will is insufficient. See MHA, LLC v. Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Inc., No.
CV 15-1573, 2015 WL 9304543, at *4 (D.N.J. Dec. 21, 2015) (internal citations omitted).
To the extent that Plaintiffs seek to reoccupy the residence adjoined to the Business, the
Third Circuit has long held that “the taking of real property can be adequately remedied by
monetary compensation and that the intangible personal connection to property does not
render condemnation an irreparable injury.” Hynoski, 485 F. App’x at 563 (citing Goadby
v. Phila. Elec. Co., 639 F.2d 117, 121–23 (3d Cir.1981)).
Finally, the primary purpose of a preliminary injunction is to preserve the statusquo pending a determination on the merits. See Anderson v. Davila, 125 F.3d 148, 156 (3d
Cir. 1997). Because Plaintiffs’ business is presently shut down, issuing a preliminary
injunction now would only serve to alter the status-quo by permitting Plaintiffs to reopen
a closed business. This is yet another factor that weighs against the issuance of a
Because Plaintiffs have not made the requisite showing for a preliminary injunction,
their motion for a preliminary injunction is DENIED. Plaintiffs’ motion for leave to file
an amended Complaint is GRANTED. An appropriate order follows.
/s/ William J. Martini
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
Date: May 9, 2016
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