RAGSDALE v. LORA et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Brian R. Martinotti on 9/9/2021. (ams, )
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NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
THOMAS RAGSDALE, Jr.,
HECTOR LORA, et al.,
Case No. 2:20-cv-16123 (BRM) (ESK)
MARTINOTTI, DISTRICT JUDGE
Before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Vincent Gentile (“Gentile”),
Luis Guzman (“Guzman”), and the City of Passaic (the “City”) (collectively, “Moving
Defendants”) seeking to dismiss Plaintiff Thomas Ragsdale, Jr.’s (“Ragsdale”) Amended
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). 1 (ECF No. 23.) Ragsdale opposed
the motion. (ECF No. 24.) Moving Defendants replied. (ECF No. 25.) Having reviewed the
submissions filed in connection with the motion and having declined to hold oral argument
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b), for the reasons set forth below and for good
cause appearing, Moving Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.
For the purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the Court “accept[s] as true all factual
allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences from the facts alleged in the light most
favorable to [the plaintiff].” Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing
Defendant Hector Lora (“Lora”) does not join this motion.
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Worldcom, Inc. v. Graphnet, Inc., 343 F.3d 651, 653 (3d Cir. 2003)). The Court also considers any
“document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint.” In re Burlington Coat Factory
Secs. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Shaw v. Dig. Equip. Corp., 82 F.3d 1194,
1220 (1st Cir. 1996)).
At the relevant time, Ragsdale was employed as a police officer by the City. (ECF No. 16
¶ 7.) Lora is the City’s mayor. (Id. ¶ 6.) Guzman is the chief of the City’s police department (the
“PD”). (Id.) Gentile is the deputy chief of the PD. (Id.) Ragsdale alleges he was subject to
unconstitutional retaliation by Defendants for his perceived political association with his then
colleague Richard Diaz (“Diaz”). (ECF No. 24 at 2.)
In 2008, the City’s former mayor Sammy Rivera (“Rivera”) was sent to prison and
succeeded by Alex Blanco (“Blanco”). (ECF No. 16 ¶ 11.) While Blanco was the City’s mayor,
Diaz became a captain in the PD and assigned Ragsdale to the detective bureau. (Id. ¶ 12.) In the
bureau, Ragsdale was under the command of Gentile, who labeled Ragsdale as “Richie’s boy”
(Richie being a reference to Diaz) and repeatedly said to Ragsdale, and in the presence of the other
officers in the bureau, that Ragsdale was assigned there “to spy for Richie.” (Id.; ECF No. 23-2 at
16.) In 2016, Blanco was sent to prison and was succeeded by Lora. (ECF No. 16 ¶ 13.) While
Blanco was facing criminal indictments and charges in 2016, Diaz mounted an insurgent campaign
against Lora as Blanco’s successor, which was followed by his defeat in a city election and the
termination of his employment with the City. 2 (ECF No. 24 at 2.) Ragsdale asserts he was subject
to Defendants’ retaliation in violation of the First Amendment, due to his perceived support of
Diaz’ candidacy and his association with those known to support Diaz, including his friend Roy
Ragsdale has not clarified whether Diaz directly competed with Lora for the mayor’s position.
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Bordamonte (“Bordamonte”). (Id.; ECF No. 16 ¶ 25.) In this regard, Ragsdale alleges four
incidents of retaliation.
First, in or about 2006, Ragsdale issued traffic citations to Rivera’s daughter and was then
assigned a walking post on the night shift, which Ragsdale claims was a retaliation. (ECF No. 16
The second incident involves Ragsdale’s lack of promotion to a sergeant position. In 2015,
Ragsdale took a civil service examination seeking a promotion to the rank of sergeant. (Id. ¶ 14.)
The exam results were released in November 2015 on a list (the “2015 List”), where Ragsdale was
ranked 18th out of the 64 candidates in the PD. (Id.) Between November 2015 and fall 2017,
everyone ahead of Ragsdale on the 2015 List was either promoted to sergeant or removed from
the list for certain reasons, except for Kenobi Ramirez who was immediately ahead of Ragsdale.
(Id. ¶ 15.) When Ragsdale was ranked second among the remaining candidates on the 2015 List,
the PD had two vacancies for sergeants. (Id. ¶ 16.) In August and October 2017, two sergeants
retired, which increased the number of vacancies to four; such a vacancy situation continued until
May 2018. (Id. ¶ 17.) Despite the vacancies, Defendants did not promote any candidate to sergeant
between fall 2017 and May 2018. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 20.) In or about November 2017, Ragsdale took
another examination for sergeant candidates, which produced a new list in about May 2018 (the
“2018 List”), where Ragsdale was no longer ranked second. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 21.) After the 2018 List
was published, Lora and Guzman immediately promoted four patrol officers to sergeants. (Id. ¶
The third incident involves Ragsdale’s summer assignment as a School Resource Officer
(“SRO”). (Id. ¶ 26.) There has been a custom and practice at the PD that the SROs choose their
summer assignments from a list of available assignments by seniority. (Id.) In June 2018, Guzman
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and Gentile allowed a less senior police officer and SRO, Lucho Candelaria (“Candelaria”), to
choose his assignment ahead of Ragsdale, so that Lora could extend a political favor to
Candelaria’s father. (Id. ¶ 27.) This left Ragsdale with a less desirable assignment. (Id.)
The fourth incident is about training and overtime opportunities. Since about 2010,
Ragsdale has had overtime assignments as a police dispatcher for the PD. (Id. ¶ 28.) In spring
2020, Gentile denied Ragsdale’s request to attend a training to renew Ragsdale’s certification as a
police dispatcher. (Id.) The denial led to reduced overtime opportunities for Ragsdale. (Id.) Other
PD officers who were not politically associated with Diaz received the training and overtime
On November 13, 2020, Ragsdale filed the original Complaint. (ECF No. 1.) On March
24, 2021, with the Court’s leave and without an opinion issued, Ragsdale filed the Amended
Complaint. (ECF No. 16.) The Amended Complaint alleges Defendants’ retaliation against
Ragsdale for exercising his rights of freedom of association under the First Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States and Article I of the Constitution of the State of New Jersey,
asserting claims under: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Lora, Guzman, and Gentile (collectively, the
“Individual Defendants”) in Count 1; (2) the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (“NJCRA”), N.J. Stat.
Ann. § 10:6-1, against Individual Defendants in Count 2; and (3) respondeat superior against the
City in Count 3. (Id.) On July 12, 2021, Moving Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the
Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 23), Ragsdale
opposed the motion (ECF No. 24), and Moving Defendants replied (ECF No. 25).
“[A] complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed
factual allegations.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted).
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However, the plaintiff’s “obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires
more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.”
Id. (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). A court is “not bound to accept as true a
legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan, 478 U.S. at 286 (citations omitted).
Instead, assuming the factual allegations in the complaint are true, those “[f]actual allegations must
be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing
5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp 235–36 (3d ed. 2004)).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for misconduct alleged.” Id. This “plausibility standard” requires the complaint to allege
“more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully,” but it “is not akin to a
probability requirement.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Detailed factual allegations”
are not required, but “more than an unadorned, the defendant-harmed-me accusation” must be
pled; it must include “further factual enhancement” and not just conclusory statements or a
recitation of the elements of a cause of action. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).
“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a contextspecific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Id. at 679. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the
mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged—but it has not ‘show[n]’—‘that the
pleader is entitled to relief.’” Id. (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). However, courts are “not
compelled to accept ‘unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences,’” Baraka v.
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McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Schuylkill Energy Res. Inc. v. Pa. Power
& Light Co., 113 F.3d 405, 417 (3d Cir. 1997)), nor “a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation.” Papasan, 478 U.S. at 286 (citations omitted).
While, as a general rule, the court may not consider anything beyond the four corners of
the complaint on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Third Circuit has held that “a
court may consider certain narrowly defined types of material without converting the motion to
dismiss to a summary judgment motion, including items that are integral to or explicitly relied
upon in the complaint.” Coulter v. Doerr, 486 F. App’x 227, 228 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing In re
Rockefeller Ctr. Props. Sec. Litig., 184 F.3d 280, 287 (3d Cir. 1999)).
Ragsdale’s Claims Against the Individual Defendants Should Be Dismissed
Moving Defendants argue Ragsdale’s claims fail as to the Individual Defendants for
several reasons: (1) the Amended Complaint fails to identify any protected activity; (2) Ragsdale
makes no connection between the Individual Defendants and any protected activity; (3) Ragsdale’s
allegations of retaliation are barred by the two-year statute of limitations for § 1983 and the
NJCRA. (ECF No. 23-2 at 12–14.) Moving Defendants further contend the particular facts of four
alleged incidents of retaliation indicate they are not actionable: (1) Ragsdale’s issuing a traffic
summons cannot trigger the protection under the Constitution, and his consequent assignment to a
walking post has nothing to do with the Individual Defendants; (2) Ragsdale’s lack of promotion
was due to his poor performance on the 2018 promotional examination; (3) though Candelaria was
permitted to pick an assignment before Ragsdale despite being less senior, it was done as a favor
by Lora to Candelaria’s father rather than as an act of retaliation against Ragsdale; and (4)
Ragsdale’s failure to attend training is too petty an incident to warrant the Court’s consideration.
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(Id. at 14–16; ECF No. 25 at 14.) Moving Defendants also point out the Amended Complaint does
not allege Ragsdale’s perceived political association with Diaz; instead, it only alleges Ragsdale’s
association with Bordamonte, a fellow police officer recognized to be affiliated with Diaz. (ECF
No. 25 at 9.) Moving Defendants maintain a political association is protected only if it relates to a
political party or candidate; the Amended Complaint does not allege such a protected association,
as it makes no mention of Diaz running for the City’s mayor. (Id. at 14.)
Ragsdale argues simple vindictiveness against perceived political opponents is sufficient
evidence for a retaliation claim; if a plaintiff is perceived to have engaged in the First-Amendmentprotected conduct by giving support to a political candidate of his choice, the government’s
retaliation against the plaintiff for his protected conduct is actionable. (ECF No. 24 at 3.) Ragsdale
insists even a minor retaliation for a protected activity can be the basis of a First Amendment
retaliation claim. (Id.)
Ragsdale’s Allegations of Retaliation Are Mostly Time-Barred
In New Jersey, the “NJCRA, like § 1983, is subject to the State’s general two-year personal
injury statute of limitations.” Waselik v. Twp. of Sparta, Civ. A. No. 16-4969, 2017 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 76646, at *13 (D.N.J. May 18, 2017) (citations omitted). The NJCRA and § 1983 claims
“accrued when plaintiffs knew or should have known about those alleged violations of their
rights.” Michael Bessasparis & Sht Corp. v. Twp. of Bridgewater, Civ. A. No. 1040-19, 2021 N.J.
Super. Unpub. LEXIS 820, at *20 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. May 6, 2021) (citations omitted); see
also Prunkel v. Cty. of Bergen, Civ. A. No. 17-5154, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143973, at *14 (D.N.J.
Aug. 23, 2018) (“A cause of action arising under § 1983 accrues ‘when the plaintiff knew, or
should have known, of the injury forming the basis of [the] action.’” (quoting Sameric Corp. v.
City of Phila., 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1988))).
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Here, Ragsdale commenced this litigation on November 13, 2020, asserting NJCRA and §
1983 claims against the Individual Defendants. The two-year statutory period therefore applies.
Of the four alleged incidents of retaliation, only the fourth one falls within the two-year statutory
period: the first one involves an unfavorable work assignment that occurred in 2006; the second
one is based on Ragsdale’s lack of promotion between fall 2017 and May 2018; the third one is
about an unfavorable summer assignment in June 2018; and the fourth one involves the loss of
certain training and overtime opportunities in spring 2020. The Court does not discern, and
Ragsdale does not present, any reason to toll the statute of limitations for the four alleged incidents
beyond the date of their occurrences. See Harris v. Homecomings Fin. Servs., 377 F. App’x 240,
243 (3d Cir. 2010) (“In order to equitably toll a statute of limitations, a plaintiff must establish, in
pertinent part, that the defendant actively misled her about her claims or that some other
extraordinary circumstance prevented her from pursuing her claims.” (citing Santos ex rel. Beato
v. United States, 559 F.3d 189, 197 (3d Cir. 2009))). As a result, the first three alleged incidents
of retaliation are time-barred and do not warrant the Court’s consideration.
The continuing violation doctrine cannot change this conclusion. “The continuing
violations doctrine ‘is an equitable exception to the timely filing requirement [so that] when a
defendant’s conduct is part of a continuing practice, [a legal] action is timely so long as the last
act evidencing the continuing practice falls within the limitations period.’” Kleinerman v. Chao,
Civ. A. No. 05-2699, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46822, at *13 (D.N.J. July 11, 2006) (quoting Cowell
v. Palmer Twp., 263 F.3d 286, 292 (3d Cir. 2001)). “The plaintiff bears the burden of
demonstrating that the continuing violation doctrine applies.” Makse v. Spirit Airlines, Inc., Civ.
A. No. 09-2392, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32759, at *10 (D.N.J. Mar. 28, 2011) (citing West v. Phila.
Elec. Co., 45 F.3d 744, 754 (3d Cir. 1995)). Here, Ragsdale “has never claimed the alleged acts
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constituted a continuing violation, and [the Court] deem[s] this argument waived.” Koschoff v.
Henderson, Civ. A. No. 98-2736, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16184, at *24 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 7, 1999);
see also Manning v. Chevron Chem. Co. LLC, 332 F.3d 874, 881, n.3 (5th Cir. 2003) (“[The
plaintiff] suggests that his claims might be timely under a continuing violation theory. [The
plaintiff] fails, however, to adequately brief this issue, so [the court] need not address it.” (citing
Kane Enters. v. Macgregor Inc., 322 F.3d 371, 376 n.3 (5th Cir. 2003))).
Moreover, Ragsdale fails to respond to Moving Defendants’ arguments on the issue with
the statute of limitations, thereby waiving the issue. See Leisure Pass N. Am., LLC v. Leisure Pass
Grp., Ltd., Civ. A. No. 12-3375, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120593, at *11 (D.N.J. Aug. 26, 2013)
(“Plaintiff has waived its opposition to this argument by failing to respond to it.” (citations
Therefore, only the fourth alleged incident of retaliation is not time-barred and warrants
Ragsdale Fails to Plead an Actionable Retaliation
“To plead retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights, a plaintiff must allege ‘(1)
constitutionally protected conduct, (2) retaliatory action sufficient to deter a person of ordinary
firmness from exercising his constitutional rights, and (3) a causal link between the constitutionally
protected conduct and the retaliatory action.’” Mirabella v. Villard, 853 F.3d 641, 649 (3d Cir.
2017) (citations omitted). Here, Ragsdale bases his claims on Defendants’ retaliation against him
due to his perceived political association with Diaz. Therefore, Ragsdale must show his alleged
association with Diaz is a constitutionally protected conduct.
“The first amendment protects the ‘right to associate with others in pursuit of a wide variety
of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends.’” Bennis v. Gable, 823 F.2d
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723, 727 n.4 (3d Cir. 1987) (quoting Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 622 (1984)).
“[T]he First Amendment also protects an employee from discrimination for failure to support the
winning candidate” and “failure to engage in any political activity.” Galli v. N.J. Meadowlands
Comm’n, 490 F.3d 265, 272–73 (3d Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). Therefore, if the Amended
Complaint alleges Ragsdale’s political support for Diaz who opposed Lora in a political election,
then it is sufficient to raise a reasonable inference that Ragsdale engaged in a constitutionally
protected conduct. See Best v. Hous. Auth., 61 F. Supp. 3d 465, 472 n.10 (D.N.J. 2014) (“[V]iewing
the evidence most favorably to [p]laintiff, the [c]ourt must conclude at [the summary judgment]
stage that his support for Scott Evans, an opponent of Mayor Langford in the 2009 mayoral
election, is sufficient to show that [the plaintiff] engaged in constitutionally protected political
activity.”). In fact, the Amended Complaint need not even allege Diaz was a candidate that directly
competed with Lora in a political election. To assert a First Amendment retaliation claim, Ragsdale
need only demonstrate he was subject to Defendants’ retaliation because of his failure to support
Lora in a political election.
However, the Amended Complaint alleges Ragsdale sustained retaliation from Defendants
because of his perceived political association with Diaz. The alleged association was not shown to
pursue any end or expression so as to trigger the First Amendment’s protection; instead, the
Amended Complaint only suggests the existence of such an association, without indicating the
association or its members’ opposition to or failure to support Lora in a political election. See Boy
Scouts of Am. v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640, 648 (2000) (holding that, for “a group” to be “protected by
the First Amendment’s expressive associational right,” it “must engage in some form of
expression, whether it be public or private”); see also Jacoby & Meyers, LLP v. Presiding Justices
of the First, Second, Third & Fourth Dep’ts, 852 F.3d 178, 188 (2d Cir. 2017) (holding that, to
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qualify as a “constitutionally-protected association,” the association must “offer a means to serve
other First Amendment ends, not that the association is itself a protected First Amendment
activity” (citing Wine & Spirits Retailers, Inc. v. Rhode Island, 418 F.3d 36, 50 (1st Cir. 2005))).
The Amended Complaint fails to sufficiently plead Ragsdale’s constitutionally protected conduct.
In other words, the Amended Complaint fails to raise a reasonable inference of Defendants’
unconstitutional retaliation against Ragsdale.
Even if Ragsdale sufficiently describes his constitutionally protected conduct in his
opposition brief, it cannot cure the Amended Complaint’s pleading deficiency, because “a
statement in a brief will not amend a deficient complaint.” Thomas v. Youderian, 232 F. Supp. 3d
656, 670 n.9 (D.N.J. 2017) (citations omitted).
Accordingly, the Court finds Ragsdale’s claims against Individual Defendants, i.e., Counts
1 and 2, are inviable and warrant dismissal.
The Dismissal of Counts 1 and 2 Is Without Prejudice
Moving Defendants argue Ragsdale should not be given leave to amend, because Ragsdale
had been afforded this opportunity but failed to cure the defects in his complaint. (ECF No. 23-2
at 18.) The Court disagrees.
“A general presumption exists in favor of allowing a party to amend its pleadings.” Hunter
v. Dematic USA, Civ. A. No. 16-00872, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65167, at *12 (D.N.J. May 18,
2016) (citing Boileau v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 730 F.2d 929, 938 (3d Cir. 1984)). “Leave to
amend a complaint should be granted freely in the absence of undue delay or bad faith on the part
of the movant as long as the amendment would not be futile and the opposing party would not
suffer undue prejudice.” Id. (citations omitted); see also Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d
Cir. 2004) (“[E]ven when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, if a complaint is vulnerable to
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12(b)(6) dismissal, a District Court must permit a curative amendment, unless an amendment
would be inequitable or futile.” (citing Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d
This litigation, commenced less than a year ago, is still at an early stage. As of July 2021,
the discovery had just begun: “not all Defendants ha[d] initiated discovery,” Ragsdale “ha[d] only
. . . served a Notice to Produce,” and the parties “fe[lt] that an end date for fact discovery should
not be set until th[is] Motion to Dismiss ha[d] been resolved.” (ECF No. 22 at 1.) Therefore, the
Court does not find granting Ragsdale leave to amend would cause undue delay or prejudice. C.f.
Paoli v. Stetser, Civ. A. No. 12-66, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70247, at *20–21 (D. Del. May 16,
2013) (finding that granting the plaintiff’s request for amendment would cause undue prejudice to
the defendants, because the case was at a “late stage,” when discovery was closed and the
defendants’ motion for summary judgment was pending, “with a trial date to be set pending
resolution of that motion”); AMS Constr. Co. v. Reliance Ins. Co., Civ. A. No. 04-2097, 2006 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 46905, at *8 (E.D. Pa. July 12, 2006) (finding that granting the plaintiffs’ motion to
amend would cause undue delay, when discovery was completed and the “[p]laintiffs waited
approximately 21 months before seeking leave to amend the complaint”); Wine v. EMSA Ltd.
Pshp., 167 F.R.D. 34, 40 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (denying the plaintiff’s motion to amend to avoid undue
delay, “where discovery ha[d] been completed and [d]efendants’ summary judgment motions
ha[d] already been briefed and filed”).
In addition, futility is not a ground to deny Ragsdale an opportunity to amend. “[D]ismissal
without leave to amend is appropriate where a plaintiff has notice of deficiencies and fails to
correct them in a first amended complaint.” Hause v. City of Sunbury, Civ. A. No. 17-2234, 2019
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 213667, at *16 n.6 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2019) (citing Krantz v. Prudential Invs.
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Fund Mgmt. LLC, 305 F.3d 140, 144 (3d Cir. 2002)); see also Cal. Pub. Emples’. Ret. Sys. v.
Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 165 (3d Cir. 2004) (“Plaintiffs chose at their peril not to heed the
District Court’s guidance and avail themselves of an opportunity to rectify the deficiencies of the
[a]mended [c]omplaint. Under this scenario, justice does not require that leave to amend be given.”
(citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a))). Though Ragsdale has amended his complaint once, the amendment
was made without any guidance from this Court on the complaint’s pleading deficiencies. The
Court cannot rule out the possibility that Ragsdale may cure the pleading deficiencies of Counts 1
Finally, the Court does not discern, and Moving Defendants do not assert, any bad faith on
Ragsdale’s part that would make granting Ragsdale leave to amend inequitable.
Accordingly, Counts 1 and 2 will be dismissed without prejudice.
Ragsdale’s Claim Against the City Should Be Dismissed With Prejudice
Moving Defendants maintain the Amended Complaint as to the City must be dismissed,
because it fails to articulate a viable claim against the Individual Defendants. (ECF No. 23-2 at
18.) The Court agrees.
On Count 3, Ragsdale seeks to hold the City liable for the actions of the Individual
Defendants based on respondeat superior. (ECF No. 16 ¶ 42.) Because Ragsdale’s claims against
the Individual Defendants are inviable, the City cannot be held vicariously liable. Therefore, Count
3 warrants dismissal.
Moreover, even if Ragsdale has a viable claim against an Individual Defendant, Court 3
should be dismissed as a matter of law, because “the doctrine of respondeat superior does not
provide an independent cause of action under New Jersey law.” Rowan v. City of Bayonne, 474 F.
App’x 875, 878 n.3 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Carter v. Reynolds, 815 A.2d 460, 463 (N.J. 2003)). As
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a result, Count 3 should be dismissed with prejudice, and no leave to amend is warranted. See
Allen v. Quicken Loans, Inc., Civ. A. No. 17-12352, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 192066, at *20 (D.N.J.
Nov. 9, 2018) (“Because [the plaintiff’s] claims fail as a matter of law, [they] are dismissed with
prejudice.” (citations omitted)); Countryside Oil Co. v. Travelers Ins. Co., 928 F. Supp. 474, 480
n.4 (D.N.J. 1995) (“Because the [c]ourt concludes that claims raised in plaintiff’s brief fail as a
matter of law, the application to amend is denied as futile.” (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178,
For the reasons set forth above, Moving Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.
Ragsdale’s Counts 1 and 2 are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, and Count 3 is
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Ragsdale has 30 days to file a Second Amended Complaint,
and failure to do so will automatically turn dismissals without prejudice into dismissals with
prejudice. An appropriate order follows.
Date: September 9, 2021
/s/ Brian R. Martinotti___________
HON. BRIAN R. MARTINOTTI
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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