WILEY v. NEWARK POLICE DEPARTMENT et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER denying 26 Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. Signed by Judge Kevin McNulty on 10/16/17. (sr, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civ. No. 16-2530
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
CITY OF NEWARK, NEW JERSEY;
CITY OF NEWARK NEW JERSEY POLICE
DEPARTMENT; CITY OF NEWARK NEW
JERSEY POLICE OFFICERS JOHN DOES
KEVIN MCNULTY, U.S.D.J.:
This matter comes before the Court on the motion (ECF no. 26) of the
City of Newark and the Newark Police Department to dismiss the complaint for
failure to state a claim, For the reasons stated herein, the motion will be
In deciding a Rule 12(bflô) motion, a court must take the allegations of
the complaint as true and draw reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d
Cir. 2008). Pursuant to Fed. I?. Civ. P. 8(a), a complaint must contain a “short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
“[A] plaintiffs obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to relief
requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell AtI. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.s.
544, 555 (2007). Thus, the complaint’s factual allegations must be sufficient to
raise a plaintiff’s right to relief above a speculative level, stating a claim that is
“plausible on its face.” Id. at 570; see also Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Seru., ma,
542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008).
The First Amended Complaint (ECF no. 21, referred to herein as the
“Complaint”), alleges as follows. On May 6, 2014, the plaintiff, Malcolm Wiley,
was on foot at 207 North
Street in Newark, New Jersey. Newark police
officers, whose identities are currently unknown to plaintiff, were in a marked
police car. They sought to make an investigatory stop of Wiley. To apprehend
him, the officers ran over Wiley with their police car, deliberately using the car
as a weapon. The officers then falsely arrested Wiley, who had not been
engaging in any criminal activity, and took him to the nearest precinct. Wiley
suffered broken legs, as well as injuries to his hip, back, thighs, and head. The
officers delayed getting Wiley needed medical attention, although eventually
they took him to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
The Complaint asserts ten causes of action:
Excessive force (42 U.S.C.
Denial of medical care (42 U.S.C.
Monell liability of City (42 U.S.C.
Unlawful seizure (42 U.S.C.
Assault and battery
Intentional infliction of emotional distress
Negligent infliction of emotional distress
Respondeat superior liability of City
Count 101: Negligent supervision, retention, and training
Mislabeled as a second Count 9.
The analysis is hampered by a lack of specific information about the
events of May 6, 2014. Those facts, however, are largely within the control of
defendants, and the Complaint plausibly alleges reasons that the plaintiff
might not have been in a position to observe and retain such basic facts as the
identities of the officers involved.2 I therefore err on the side of permitting these
claims to go forward to discovery regarding the identities of the individuals
putatively responsible, their relationships and roles in relation to the events,
whether any alleged misconduct was negligent or intentional, and whether it
can be attributed to the City. In short, many of these issues may simply have
to await development of the facts in discovery and a motion for summary
A. Newark Police Department
The Newark Police Department will be dismissed as a defendant. A New
Jersey municipal police department is not a separate entity from the
municipality. N.J. Stat. Ann.
40A: 14—118 (municipal police department is “an
executive and enforcement function of municipal government”). See Padilla u.
flop, of Cherry Hill, 110 F. App’x 272, 278 (3d Cir. 2004); Mitchell v. City of
Jersey City, No. 15-CV-6907 (KM), 2016 WL 1381379, at *1 n.1 (D.N.J. Apr. 7,
2016); Buffaloe u. City of Plainfield, No. CIV.A. 12-03295 ES, 2013 WL
2182327, at *2 (D.N.J. May 20, 2013); Adams v. City of Camden, 461 F. Supp.
Wiley alleges that the officers ran him down in a car, breaking his legs.
According to the defendants’ brief the officers have been identified in initial
disclosures, but even if so, this information has not been pled.
[Plthntifq ‘s claim against the [Cherry Hill, NJ] Police Department is equally
unsuccessful because the Police Department cannot be sued. “In Section 1983
actions, police departments cannot be sued in conjunction with municipalities,
because the police department is merely an administrative arm of the local
municipality, and is not a separate judicial entity.” DeBellis u. Kuip, 166 F.
Supp. 2d 255, 264 (E.D. Pa. 2001). Because the Police Department is merely an
arm of the Township, the summary judgment granted to the Police Department
on the § 1983 claim was proper.
Padilla, 110 F. App’x at 278.
2d 263, 266 (D.N.J. 2006); McGovern v. Jersey City, No. 98-CV-5186, 2006 WL
42236, at *7 n.4 (D.N.J. Jan. 6, 2006).
Wiley’s claims against the Police Department are therefore properly
asserted only against the City of Newark. This is a technical correction only;
the substance of the Complaint is not affected.
While police officers are privileged to commit a battery pursuant to a
lawful arrest, that privilege is negated by the use of excessive force. See
Groman v. Twp. Of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633—34 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing
Edwards v. City of Phila., 860 F.2d 568, 572 (3d Cir. 1988)). The City argues
that the officers’ conduct was justified, and that they could legitimately give
chase to apprehend a fleeing suspect. That of course is one view of the facts,
but such factual disputes cannot be resolved on a motion to dismiss; I must
assume the truth of the allegations of the Complaint, and determine whether
they state a legal claim.
An excessive force claim may be present even where the police had
probable cause. Groman, 47 F.3d at 634. And the City acknowledges that the
officers could be liable for intentionally causing harm unnecessary to
accomplish the legitimate object of arrest. See County of Sacramento v. Lewis,
523 U.S. 833, 854 (1998). That is alleged here; the Complaint states that the
officers used the car as “a weapon” and ran Wiley down. The motion to dismiss
the excessive force claim is denied.
Withholding medical care
The City acknowledges that a claim may lie for “deliberate indifference to
[an arrestee’s] serious medical needs.” Groman, 47 F.3d at 637. The Complaint
pleads facts from which such indifference, even if not pled in those precise
words, could plausibly be inferred. It alleges, for example, that Wiley’s legs were
broken, but that the officers delayed getting him medical attention. Under the
state of facts alleged by the plaintiff, the need for medical attention would have
been obvious. The motion to dismiss this count is therefore denied.
Monell claim of municipal liability
Under familiar standards, a municipality may be held liable for a
violation based on a policy or practice, including inadequate training of officers.
Dep’t of Social Services, 436 U.S. 659, 688—89 (1978) Bielevicz a
Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 849-50 (3d Cir. 1990). Ordinarily, such a policy or
practice must be alleged, at least generally. Here, however, the plaintiff needs
discoven’ to ascertain the identities of the officers involved, to say nothing of
their training. I will therefore deny the City’s motion to dismiss on these
grounds pending development of the facts in discovery.
Unlawful seizure/false arrest
False arrest or illegal seizure under the Fourth Amendment requires a
showing that the officers lacked probable cause, Oroman v. flop, of Manalapan,
47 F. 3d 628, 634 (3d Cir. 1995) (plaintiffs must demonstrate police lacked
probable cause to prevail on false arrest claim); Johnson v. Bingear, 441 F.
App’x 848, 852 (3d Cir. 2011). Probable cause for an arrest exists when “the
facts and circumstances within the arresting officer’s knowledge are sufficient
in themselves to warrant a reasonable person to believe than an offense has
been or is being committed by the person to be arrested.” Merkle v. Upper
Dublin School Dist., 211 F.3d 782, 788 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Orsatti v. New
Jersey State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 482 (3d Cir. 1995)). The question of probable
cause in a Section 1983 action may often pose issues of fact. Id. (citing
Montgomery u. De Simone, 159 F.3d 120, 124 (3d Cir. 1998); Sharrar a Felsing,
128 F.3d 810, 818 (3d Cir. 1997)). On summary judgment, however, a district
court may determine that there is probable cause as a matter of law, “if the
evidence, viewed most favorably to Plaintiff, reasonably would not support a
contrary factual finding.” Id. (quoting Sherwood a Mulvihill, 113 F.3d 396, 401
(3d. Cir. 1997)).
Defendants argue for dismissal of this claim, stating that the officers did
possess probable cause. But the Complaint, fairly read, alleges that the
plaintiff was doing nothing wrong; in his version, the officers chased him
without justification. Such issues require fact discovery. The motion to dismiss
this claim is denied.
The qualified immunity analysis has two prongs: “first determine whether
the facts, and inferences drawn therefrom, taken in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff, establish that the official’s conduct violated a constitutional right.”
McGreevy v. Stroup, 413 F.3d 359, 364 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Saucier u. Katz,
533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)). Second, the court must then “determine whether, as
a legal matter, the right that the defendant’s conduct allegedly violates was a
clearly established one, about which a reasonable person would have known.”
Gruenke v. Seip, 225 F.3d 290, 298 (3d Cir. 2000).
Qualified immunity issues should be resolved at the earliest possible
stage of litigation in order to prevent disruption of the legitimate functions of
government. Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 626 n.6, 107 5. Ct. 3034
(1987) (citing Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 817, 102 5. Ct. 2727 (1982)).
The Third Circuit has nevertheless cautioned that “it is generally unwise to
venture into a qualified immunity analysis at the pleading stage as it is
necessary to develop the factual record in the vast majority of cases.” Newland
v. Reehorst, 328 F. App3c 788, 791 n.3 (3d Cir. 2009) (not precedential); see
Catterson, 967 F.2d 929, 938 (3d Cir. 1992) (“if the plaintiffs
allegations are sufficient as a matter of law to avoid an immunity defense, but
the defendant denies engaging in the alleged conduct, then discovery may be
necessary before [question of qualified immunity] can be resolved”) (internal
At present, the plaintiff has not ascertained and alleged even the
identities of the officers, let alone the particular conduct in which each one
engaged. Qualified immunity cannot be determined without more development
of the record so that the reasonableness of the officers’ actions can be
assessed. The motion to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds is denied.
The state-law tort claims, too, pose issues of fact that cannot be resolved
on this motion to dismiss. For example, liability under the state tort claims act
may depend on whether any wrongful conduct was willful. The motion to
dismiss the state-law claims is therefore denied.
For the reasons stated above,
IT IS this 16th day of October, 2017
ORDERED that the defendants’ motion (ECF no. 26) to dismiss the
Amended Complaint is DENIED.
kEVIN MCNULT’Y, U.S.D.J.
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