LAWSON v. EAST ORANGE SCHOOL DISTRICT et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Madeline C. Arleo on 2/27/17. (DD, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 16-2704
EAST ORANGE SCHOOL DISTRICT, et
This matter comes before the Court by way of Defendants East Orange School District (the
“District”), School Security Officials John Doe 1-10 (“Security Officials”), Gloria Scott (“Scott”),
and Robert Morgan’s (“Morgan”) (together, “Moving Defendants”) motions to dismiss Plaintiff
Faatir Lawson’s (“Lawson” or “Plaintiff”) complaint. Dkt. Nos. 17, 21, 24. For the reasons set
forth below, Defendants’ motions will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
This matter arises from the alleged beating and arrest of Plaintiff Faatir Lawson while he
was a student at East Orange High School (the “School”). Lawson brings suit against the District,
the teacher Charles Hall (“Hall”), 1 unnamed Security Officials, Gloria Scott, superintendent of the
District, and Robert Morgan, Principal of the School.
A. Application of Force Against Lawson
On October 25, 2013, the then sixteen-year old Lawson reported to a disciplinary classroom
at the School for failing to fully change out of his gym clothing. Compl. ¶ 11, Dkt. No. 1. Hall,
Hall has not moved to dismiss the claims against him.
the classroom teacher, instructed Lawson to sit in a particular seat in the classroom, which he
refused to do. Id. ¶ 13. Hall then instructed Lawson to leave the classroom. Id. Lawson alleges
that, once outside the classroom, Hall met him at the exit door and, “without warning or
provocation, began violently assaulting [him], including the use of closed handed strikes to his
head and body.” Id. ¶ 13. Lawson attempted to escape through the exit door, but it was internally
locked. Id. ¶ 14.
Lawson alleges that several security personnel witnessed the alleged assault but did not
interfere. Id. ¶ 16. Security Officials eventually transported Lawson by wheelchair to a school
nurse, who documented his injuries. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Security Officials then took Lawson to the
Principal’s office, where he was handcuffed and placed under arrest. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. After being
taken to the police department in the school gym, Lawson was then delivered to the East Orange
General Hospital, where he was treated for his injuries. Id. ¶¶ 23-25. He received stitches for a
wound on the inside of his lip. Id. ¶ 25. Upon discharge from the hospital, Lawson was
transported to the East Orange Police Station, where he was charged with assault and booked. Id.
¶ 26. He was then incarcerated in the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center for several days.
Id. ¶ 27.
B. Lawson Suspension and Hall Arrest
Lawson alleges that following his arrest, Hall reported a false version of the incident,
wherein Lawson was the aggressor. Id. ¶ 30. Lawson was subsequently expelled from school.
Id. ¶ 31. As part of its investigation of the incident, the East Orange Police Department requested
production of video surveillance. Id. ¶ 32. But, Lawson alleges, “[d]espite the known existence
of surveillance video of the altercation,” school officials “expressly advised authorities . . . that no
footage existed.” Id. ¶ 33. Lawson alleges that Moving Defendants conspired to “cover up the
incident, falsely detain him, withhold exculpatory evidence from law enforcement authorities
and [to] assist Mr. Hall from initially evading criminal charges.” Id. ¶ 100.
At an unknown date later in time, investigators became aware of video footage of the events
of October 25, 2013. Id. ¶ 34. Upon review of the footage, the charges against Lawson were
dropped, and he was permitted to return to school. Id. ¶ 35. Hall was then charged with crimes
related to his conduct. Id. On August 15, 2014, Hall pled guilty to third degree Aggravated Assault
and third degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child, receiving a sentence of three years’
probation, community service, and participation in an anger management program. Id. ¶ 36.
C. Procedural Background
Lawson filed the instant suit on May 12, 2016. His Complaint alleges several counts
against non-moving Defendant Charles Hall. 2 In addition, Lawson alleges several federal and state
claims against Moving Defendants.
First, he asserts a common law Aiding and Abetting
Battery/Negligence against the District (Count VI). Next, Lawson asserts four civil rights claims
arising from violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Conspiracy to Violate Constitutional Rights against
all Moving Defendants (Count VII); Supervisor Liability against Morgan and Scott; (Count VIII)
and Municipal Liability against Moving Defendants (Counts IX and X). Specifically, Lawson
alleges that his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated
when he was assaulted and detained by Mr. Hall in his classroom, detained at the nurse and
principal’s office, and then incarcerated at a juvenile detention center due to the false reporting of
events by Moving Defendants. Compl. ¶¶ 43-48. Lawson alleges his Fourteenth Amendment due
These counts include violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, common law
battery, and negligence as an agent of the District (Counts I through V). Id. ¶¶ 38-77.
process rights were violated through the unlawful application of force against him. Compl. ¶¶ 5154. Moving Defendants seek dismissal of all counts against them.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on the pleadings, the Court accepts as
true all of the facts in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.
Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). Dismissal is inappropriate even
where “it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the
merits.” Id. However, the facts alleged must be “more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The allegations in the complaint “must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. Accordingly, a complaint will survive a motion to
dismiss if it provides a sufficient factual basis such that it states a facially plausible claim for relief.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
A. Negligence and Aiding and Abetting Liability
Lawson asserts negligence against Hall as an agent of the District (Count V) and “aiding
and abetting battery/negligence per se/negligence” against the District and unidentified Security
Officials (Count VI). The District moves to dismiss these claims on the basis that they are barred
by the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (the “NJTCA”). The Court disagrees.
The parties agree that under the NJTCA, a “public entity is not liable for the acts or
omissions of a public employee constituting a crime, actual fraud, actual malice, or willful
misconduct.” N.J.SA. 59:2-10.
In other words, there is no respondeat superior liability for
intentional torts as opposed to negligence. The District contends that because Count V is premised
upon Hall’s “‘utilization of force upon [Plaintiff],’” and Count VI is premised on “the ‘assault of
the Plaintiff,’” they are barred under the NJTCA as claims that “arise from a ‘crime’ of a District
employee.” District Br. at 15. But the District’s argument is not based on a proper characterization
of Lawson’s Complaint.
In Count V, Lawson asserts a claim for common law negligence against Hall as an agent
of the District. He alleges that Hall “knew or should have known that his utilization of force upon
the plaintiff was excessive and would unnecessarily harm . . . the Plaintiff.” Compl. ¶ 76. While
Lawson also asserts, under his count for battery (Count IV), that Hall’s acts “were actuated by
actual malice or accompanied by wanton and willful disregard of the foreseeable risk to Faatir’s
health and safety,” Compl. ¶ 63, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d) permits plaintiffs to state as many separate
claims as they have, regardless of inconsistency. Likewise, in Count VI, Lawson pleads liability
against the District and security officials for aiding and abetting battery and—in the alternative—
for aiding and abetting negligence. At this stage, the Court cannot determine whether Lawson’s
alleged injuries were the result of an intentional tort or negligence. Accordingly, Counts V and VI
cannot be dismissed as barred by the NJTCA on the grounds that Plaintiff pled an intentional tort
at this time.
Additionally, the District asserts in passing that aiding and abetting negligence is not a
legally cognizable claim. This is not the case. New Jersey recognizes a cause of action for aiding
and abetting where one party “knows that the other’s conduct constitutes a breach of duty and
gives substantial assistance or encouragement to the other so to conduct himself.” Restatement
(Second) of Torts § 876(b) (followed by Tarr v. Ciasulli, 181 N.J. 70, 83 (2004)); see also Failla
v. City of Passaic, 146 F.3d 149, 158 (3d Cir. 1998) (noting that New Jersey adopts a definition of
civil aiding and abetting liability consistent with the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 876(b)).
Under New Jersey law, aiding and abetting requires a plaintiff to show that: (1) the principal
performed an unlawful act; (2) the defendant knowingly and substantially assisted in the
principal’s violation, and (3) that the defendant was generally aware of his role as part of an overall
tortious activity at the time he provided assistance. State Dep’t of Treasury, Div. of Inv. ex rel.
McCormac v. Qwest Commc’ns, Int’l, Inc. 387 N.J. Super. 469, 483 (App. Div. 2006).
Here, Lawson has alleged all the elements of an aiding and abetting claim. He alleges that
Hall used “excessive force” on Plaintiff; that security officials “witnessed and directly observed”
the alleged assault, but did not “stop the beating or in any manner protect the minor student;” and
that the employees “reported a false version of the incident.” Compl. ¶¶ 81-84. Accordingly,
Counts V and VI cannot be dismissed at this time for failure to state a claim.
Moving Defendants contend that Lawson’s Section 1983 conspiracy claim (Count VII)
must be dismissed because he has failed to allege specific facts that support a conspiracy. They
argue that the pleadings fail to allege an express agreement to deprive Lawson of any constitutional
right, and fail to allege that Moving Defendants acted in a concerted fashion. The Court finds that
Plaintiff has stated a conspiracy claim arising from a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights,
but not arising from a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights.
In New Jersey, a civil conspiracy is “a combination of two or more persons acting in
concert to commit an unlawful act, or to commit a lawful act by unlawful means, the principal
element of which is an agreement between the parties to inflict a wrong against or injury upon
another, and an overt act that results in damage.” Morgan v. Union County Bd. of Chosen
Freeholders, 268 N.J. Super. 337, 364 (App. Div. 1993), certif. denied, 135 N.J. 468 (1994)
(quoting Rotermund v. U.S. Steel Corp., 474 F.2d 1139, 1145 (8th Cir. 1973) (internal quotations
omitted)). Most importantly, the “gist of the claim is not the unlawful agreement, ‘but the
underlying wrong which, absent the conspiracy, would give a right of action.’” Id. at 364 (quoting
Bd. of Educ. v. Hoek, 38 N.J. 213, 238 (1962)); see also Weil v. Express Container Corp., 360
N.J. Super. 599, 614 (App. Div. 2003), certif. denied, 177 N.J. 574 (2003). Specifically, a plaintiff
must plead: “(1) the circumstances of the alleged conspiracy, such as those addressing the period
of conspiracy; (2) the object of the conspiracy; and (3) certain actions of the alleged conspirators
taken to achieve that purpose.” May v. Chirichello, No. 09-3253, 2009 WL 3818146, at *3 (D.N.J.
Nov. 13, 2009) (citing Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 366 (3d Cir. 1989)). A Section 1983
conspiracy charge must be predicated on a viable constitutional claim. Sweetman v. Borough of
Norristown, PA, 554 Fed. App’x 86, 90 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Andree v. Ashland Cnty., 818 F.2d
1306, 1311 (7th Cir. 1987).
Lawson alleges that Moving Defendants conspired to deprive him of both his Fourth
Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure and his Fourteenth Amendment right to be
free from the use of excessive force. Compl. ¶ 93. With regards to the alleged Fourth Amendment
violation, Lawson has sufficiently alleged the circumstances, object, and actions taken in
furtherance of the conspiracy. The Complaint purports that the conspiracy began when Security
Officials “directly observed and chose not to curtail the violent beating of Plaintiff by Mr. Hall.”
Id. ¶ 94. Later, all Moving Defendants “reported a false version of the incident.” Id. ¶ 95. Lawson
alleges that the object of the conspiracy was to “cover up the incident, falsely detain Plaintiff,
withhold exculpatory evidence from law enforcement authorities and assist Mr. Hall from
initially evading criminal charges.” Id. ¶ 100. Lawson further pleads that Moving Defendants
took the steps of “failing to give an accurate reporting of the incident, misrepresenting the events
to authorities and/or withholding exculpatory evidence” that prolonged Lawson’s detention. Id. ¶
99. While Lawson does not allege an explicit agreement made between Moving Defendants, “[i]t
is enough [for liability] if [defendants] understand the general objectives of the scheme, accept
them, and agree, either explicitly or implicitly, to do [their] part to further them.” Banco Popular
North Am. v. Gandi, 184 N.J. 161, 177 (2005) (quoting Jones v. City of Chicago, 856 F. 2d 985,
992 (7th Cir. 1988)). As such, Plaintiff states a claim for conspiracy to commit a Fourth
Amendment violation. 3
However, to the extent that Lawson seeks to bring a 1983 conspiracy count arising from a
violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, he has not stated a claim. In support of this claim,
Lawson pleads the same facts as above. Although he has alleged the circumstances of the
conspiracy, he has not alleged how the object and acts taken in furtherance of the conspiracy led
to a Fourteenth Amendment violation. Lawson alleges that he was deprived of his Fourteenth
Amendment rights when excessive force was applied against him. But he has not alleged that
Moving Defendants acted in concert to inflict bodily harm on him. Nor has he alleged any acts
that Moving Defendants took to further the infliction of bodily harm.
In sum, Count VII is dismissed only to the extent it asserts Fourteenth Amendment
violation. However, Plaintiff has stated a conspiracy claim arising from a violation of his right to
be free from unreasonable seizure. Plaintiff is granted leave to amend the claim with respect to
his allegations that Moving Defendants conspired to violate his Fourteenth Amendment rights.
C. Supervisor Liability
The Court notes that while the parties do not dispute whether Plaintiff’s purported detentions—
both in school and at the juvenile facility—indeed constitutes a Fourth Amendment violation,
Plaintiff will need to provide a basis that the facts alleged here actually arose to the level of a
Fourth Amendment violation.
Defendants Morgan and Scott assert that Count VIII, Supervisor Liability pursuant to
Section 1983, must be dismissed because the Complaint does not allege their specific involvement
in the alleged violations of Lawson’s rights. In addition, Scott claims that she is entitled to
qualified immunity. 4 The Court finds that Plaintiff has stated a supervisor liability claim arising
from a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, but not arising from a violation of his Fourteenth
1. Personal Capacity Under Section 1983
As a general rule, government officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional
conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; Monell
v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (finding no vicarious liability
for a municipal “person” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court held that
“[b]ecause vicarious or supervisor liability is inapplicable to . . . [Section] 1983 suits, a plaintiff
must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official’s own individual actions,
has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. Thus, each government official is liable
only for his or her own conduct. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recognizes supervisor liability
where a supervisor “participated in violating plaintiff’s rights, directed others to violate them, or,
as the person[s] in charge, had knowledge of and acquiesced in [their] subordinates’ violations.”
Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 127 n. 5 (3d Cir.2010). “[P]ersonal involvement by
a defendant remains the touchstone for establishing liability for the violation of a plaintiff’s
constitutional right.” Dare v. Township of Hamilton, No. 13-1636, 2013 WL 6080440, at *7
(D.N.J. Nov. 18, 2013) (citations omitted).
The parties do not dispute that Count VIII is asserted against Morgan and Scott in their individual
As with his conspiracy claim, Lawson pleads supervisor liability arising from both a
deprivation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure and his Fourteenth
Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force. Here, Lawson has alleged the personal
involvement of both Morgan and Scott in the violation of his constitutional rights to be free of
unreasonable seizure. First, he alleges their knowledge and acquiescence. He states that Morgan
and Scott “learned of the altercation between Mr. Hall and [Lawson] almost immediately after it
happened,” and was aware that “a false version of the incident, wherein Mr. Hall was the victim
and [Lawson] was the aggressor, was reported by [Scott’s] subordinates.” Compl. ¶¶ 106-108.
Second, Lawson also sets forth affirmative actions by Morgan and Scott to “misrepresent the
events to authorities and/or withhold crucial exculpatory evidence.” Id. ¶ 99. These acts together
allegedly furthered Lawson’s detention at school and at the juvenile facility, the basis of his Fourth
However, Lawson has not stated a supervisor claim arising from any deprivation of his
Fourteenth Amendment rights. He has not alleged any facts suggesting that either Morgan or Scott
participated in or directed others to use excessive force against Lawson. While he alleges that
Morgan and Scott’s actions “communicated a message of approval of the physical abuse inflicted
upon the Plaintiff,” Lawson’s allegations also indicate that any knowledge or approval only
occurred after Morgan and Scott learned of the alleged assault on Lawson. Accordingly, Count
VIII cannot be dismissed to the extent that it states a claim arising from a Fourth Amendment
violation. Plaintiff is granted leave to amend the claim with respect to his allegations that
supervisor liability arises from a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights.
2. Qualified Immunity
Although qualified immunity is an affirmative defense, “a complaint may be subject to
dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) when an affirmative defense appears on its face. Thus, qualified
immunity will be upheld on a 12(b)(6) motion only when the immunity is established on the face
of the complaint.” Brown v. Daniels, 128 Fed. App’x 910, 915 (3d Cir. 2005). Under the doctrine
of qualified immunity, “government officials performing discretionary functions generally are
shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional laws of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). A right may be clearly established even if there
is no “previous precedent directly in point.” Good v. Dauphin County Soc. Servs. for Children &
Youth, 891 F.2d 1087, 1092 (3d Cir. 1989) (denying qualified immunity and citing case law from
other jurisdictions). “The ultimate issue is whether . . . reasonable officials in the defendants’
position at the relevant time could have believed that, in light of what was in the decided case law,
that their conduct would be lawful.” Id.
Here, Scott has not asserted a basis for why she is entitled to qualified immunity for claims
that arise from her alleged involvement in abridging Lawson’s rights to be free from seizure.
Moreover, a student’s right to be free from unreasonable seizures has been “clearly established”
as to students in school. The United States Supreme Court has held that the Fourth Amendment
extends this constitutional guarantee to searches and seizures by state officers, including public
school officials. See New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985); see also Gottlieb v. Laurel
Highlands Sch. Dist., 272 F.3d 168, 172 (3d Cir. 2001); Shuman ex rel. Shertzer v. Penn Manor
Sch. Dist., 422 F.3d 141, 147 (3d Cir. 2005). Therefore, qualified immunity does not provide a
basis for dismissal at this time.
D. Municipal Liability
Finally, in Counts IX and X, Lawson alleges municipal liability against Moving
Defendants for adopting policies and hiring practices that led to violations of Lawson’s
Constitutional rights. Moving Defendants assert that these claims should be dismissed because
Lawson has not alleged a policy, custom, or practice, or any causal link between the policy or
custom and the alleged Constitutional violations. The Court agrees.
1. Municipal Liability for Unlawful Policy/Custom
A municipality may be liable under Section 1983 for a policy or practice of violating
constitutional rights. See Monell, 436 U.S. 658. The Third Circuit recognizes three ways in which
a municipality may be vicariously liable for the torts of their employees under a policy or custom:
“(1) the individual acted pursuant to a formal government policy or a standard operating procedure
long accepted within the government entity; (2) the individual himself has final policy-making
authority such that his conduct represents official policy; or (3) a final policy-maker renders the
individual’s conduct official for liability purposes by having delegated to him authority to act or
speak for the government, or by ratifying the conduct or speech after it has occurred.” Hill v.
Borough of Kutztown, 455 F.3d 225, 245 (3d Cir. 2006). To state a 1983 claim for municipal
liability, a plaintiff must allege the existence of: (1) a policy or lack thereof; (2) a policy maker
that effectuated said policy; and (3) a constitutional violation whose “moving force” was the policy
in question. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694.
Here, there is no dispute that Lawson has alleged that Robert Morgan and Gloria Scott
“were the final policymakers” of the District and the High School. Compl. ¶ 119. However,
Lawson has not sufficiently alleged a policy or custom. A “policy is made when a ‘decision maker
possessing final authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the action’ issues an official
proclamation, policy, or edict. A course of conduct is considered to be a ‘custom’ when; though
not authorized by law, such practices of state officials [are] so permanent and well-settled as to
virtually constitute law.” Andrews v. City of Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469, 1480 (3d Cir. 1990).
Lawson alleges a “policy, practice and/or custom for the School in internally locking the exit doors
on the first floor near the in-school suspension classroom.” Compl. ¶ 120. Yet, he has not pointed
to any facts to suggest that the locking of the exit doors was indeed pursuant to any “official
proclamation, policy, or edict.” Lawson does not allege any additional incidents where the door
was locked, or any facts about the alleged policy, such as when it was adopted. His pleadings
support a narrative that the alleged door-locking “policy” was only in place for a day, and only
harmed himself. “Where a Complaint contains an allegation of a municipal policy or custom that
is merely conclusory and vague, claims against the municipality are properly dismissed.” Wright
v. Borough of Buena, No. 05-4782, 2016 WL 1644869, at *5 (D.N.J. June 12, 2005); see also Rios
v. City of Bayonne, No. 12-4716, 2015 WL 2400756, at *2 (D.N.J. May 19, 2015) (holding that
plaintiff’s allegations that “the City of Bayonne has a policy and practice of not disciplining
officers if they are found to have violated a citizen’s right” was too conclusory to state a Monell
Even if Lawson’s allegation of policy is sufficient, he has not alleged causation. For claims
of municipal liability, “a plaintiff bears the additional burden of proving that the municipal practice
was the proximate cause of the injuries suffered.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850-51
(3d Cir. 1990).
To establish causation, a plaintiff must demonstrate “a plausible nexus or
affirmative link between the municipality’s custom and the deprivation at issue.” Id. “Causation
can be established only be demonstrating that the municipal action was taken with deliberate
indifference as to its known or obvious consequences.” Andrews v. Phila., 895 F.2d 1469, 1480
(3d Cir. 1990). “If . . . the policy or custom does not facially violate federal law, causation can be
established only by demonstrating that the municipal action was taken with deliberate indifference
as to its known or obvious consequences.” Chambers v. School District of Phila., 587 F.3d 176,
193 (2009). Here, Lawson has not alleged a policy or custom that violates federal law on its face.
Instead, he alleges that locked-door policy “was deliberately indifferent to the rights of students to
be free from unreasonable seizures in general, and was specifically a substantial cause of the
physical seizure of the Plaintiff,” which he avers is a Fourth Amendment violation. Compl. ¶ 121.
However, he has not alleged any additional facts as to why or how his alleged seizure was an
obvious consequence of the policy. In addition, Lawson simply makes a conclusory statement that
“as a direct result of the defendants’ above-described policy, practice and/or custom, Plaintiff was
deprived of his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizure and the infliction of
excessive force.” Id. ¶ 123. This is not enough. Lawson has not alleged any supporting facts as
to why or how the School’s locked-door policy specifically led to the alleged seizure and assault
on him. Indeed, Lawson’s Complaint suggests that the alleged seizure and assault occurred
independent of the locked door because it began before he reached the exit door.
2. Municipal Liability for Unlawful Hiring Practices
To bring a claim of deliberate indifference in hiring under Section 1983, a plaintiff must
be able to plausibly allege that “‘this officer was highly likely to inflict the particular injury
suffered by the plaintiff’ and that the decisionmaker was deliberately indifferent to that likelihood
in hiring the offending party.” Lapella v. City of Atlantic City, No. 10-2454, 2012 WL 2952411,
at *9 (D.N.J. July 18, 2012) (quoting Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs of Bryan Cty., Okl. V. Brown, 520
U.S. 397, 411 (1997)). Lawson, however, again fails to allege sufficient non-conclusory facts to
support this claim. He simply states: “In failing to adequately screen Robert Hall for employment
. . . Defendants, Principal Robert Morgan and/or Superintendent Gloria Scott, were deliberately
indifferent to the safety risk upon the high school students in his custody and charge.” Compl. ¶
129. Lawson alleges no facts about the process by which Hall was hired. The Complaint identifies
no warning signs in his background that a diligent search would have uncovered. And it fails to
allege that such facts, if uncovered, would have prevented a prudent employer from hiring Hall.
Accordingly, Lawson’s Counts IX and X for municipal liability are dismissed without
For the foregoing reasons, summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint. An appropriate order accompanies this
Date: February 27, 2017
/s Madeline Cox Arleo__________
MADELINE COX ARLEO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Morgan and Scott argue that Counts IX and X must be dismissed with prejudice as to them
because they are redundant of the claims against the District. In general, claims against individuals
in their official capacity are redundant with claims against public entities. As the Supreme Court
has noted, “[t]here is no longer a need to bring official-capacity actions against local government
officials, for under Monell . . . local government units can be sued directly for damages and
injunctive or declaratory relief.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n. 14 (1985). But
whether such claims should be dismissed with prejudice as to the individual defendants depends
on whether “those defendants must answer other charges against them in the same action.” Crump
v. Passaic Cty., 147 F. Supp. 3d 249, 259 (D.N.J. Dec. 2, 2015). Because a claim for supervisor
liability against Morgan and Scott in their individual capacities (Count VIII) remains in this case,
the Court declines to dismiss Lawson’s municipal liability claims against Morgan and Scott with
prejudice at this time. See id., (declining to dismiss federal claims against government officials
sued in their official capacity where state law claims were pending).
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