Garlanger v. Verbeke

Citation223 F.Supp.2d 596
Decision Date27 September 2002
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 01-3574 (SSB).
PartiesJoseph GARLANGER, Plaintiff, v. Edward VERBEKE, in his personal capacity; I. Sandor Lengyel, in his personal capacity; Carson Dunbar, in his capacity as Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police; Police Personnel or Officers a/k/a John Does 1-20, Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey

William H. Buckman, Esq., Moorestown, NJ, for Plaintiff.

Joann L. Kagan, Esq., Deputy Attorney General, Trenton, NJ, for Defendants.

ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) AND TO STRIKE PURSUANT TO FED. R. CIV. P. 12(f) AND DEFENDANT DUNBAR'S MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO FED. R. CIV. P. 4(m)

BROTMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Joseph Garlanger instituted this action against the Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police and state troopers Edward Verbeke and Sandor Lengyel on July 30, 2001, asserting various federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and related state constitutional and tort claims arising out of his arrest, detention, and prosecution on charges of making terroristic threats. Plaintiff requested, and was granted, leave to file an Amended Complaint which was subsequently filed with the Court on February 8, 2002. The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal civil rights claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Presently before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and to strike pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) and Defendant Carson Dunbar's motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The following recitation of the relevant facts underlying Plaintiff's claims is drawn exclusively from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. On August 4, 1999, New Jersey state police officers, Edward Verbeke and Sandor Lengyel, were dispatched to Tri-State Mulch, a business located in Hainesport, New Jersey, based on an allegedly "anonymous" and "unsubstantiated tip" that the business's owner, Joseph Garlanger, had been making threats of violence. (Compl. at ¶ 8.) Garlanger alleges that, "immediately" upon his return from making a delivery, Verbeke, Lengyel, and several unidentified officers grabbed him, pulled him from his truck, threw him to the ground, handcuffed him, placed their feet on his neck, and withdrew their service revolvers and pointed them directly at him. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Verbeke and Lengyel then allegedly proceeded to search his premises "without consent, a warrant or other legal basis." (Id.) According to Garlanger's complaint, the officers did not question him or "any of his known associates" or otherwise attempt to independently verify the information provided by the anonymous informant before taking action to subdue him and search his establishment. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Garlanger was then transported to the New Jersey State Police barracks in Bordentown, New Jersey, where he was allegedly "questioned against his will, harassed, yelled at, and berated." (Id. at ¶ 13.) He was ultimately charged with one count of making terroristic threats in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3 of the New Jersey Criminal Justice Code, (id. at ¶ 42)1, and, lacking the funds needed to post bail, confined in the Burlington County jail pending trial. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Garlanger further alleges that, at some point thereafter, Verbeke and Lengyel contacted the mother of his son and advised her to obtain a restraining order against him, and that, as a result, he was "forced to engage in extended family court proceedings" to regain the same visitation and parental rights he had enjoyed with his son before defendants interfered with his personal family affairs. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Garlanger was ultimately acquitted on March 16, 2000, of all charges stemming from the August 4, 1999, incident at his place of business. (Id. at ¶ 43.)

On July 30, 2001, Garlganger instituted this action against the Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police and troopers Verbeke and Lengyel seeking compensatory and punitive damages, prospective injunctive relief, and attorney's fees and costs based on a panoply of alleged federal civil rights violations and related state constitutional and tort claims. Counts II, III, IV, V, VI, X, and XI of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint assert federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986, for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, illegal strip search, negligent hiring, training, and supervision, and violations of Plaintiff's parental rights and rights to privacy, due process, and equal protection.2 Counts VII, VIII, and IX assert common law state tort claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress and Count I alleges violations of rights protected under Article I, para. 1 (due process), 5 (equal protection), and 7 (prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures) of the New Jersey state constitution. Defendants have moved to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the following grounds: (1) Plaintiff's state law claims are barred as a consequence of Plaintiff's failure to comply with the notice provisions of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act ("TCA"), N.J.S.A. 59:8-1, et. seq.; (2) the allegations in Plaintiff's complaint fail to sufficiently state a claim under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985 and 1986; and (3) Defendant's Verbeke and Lengyel are entitled to qualified immunity from Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. Defendants also move, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f), to strike Counts I, X, XI, on the grounds that the "exact same or similar claims" are asserted in Count II of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. Finally, Defendant Carson Dunbar moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief against him, in his capacity as Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, based on Plaintiff's failure to timely serve him with a summons and copy of the complaint in this matter as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m).

II. LEGAL STANDARD GOVERNING A MOTION TO DISMISS UNDER FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A court's inquiry into the legal sufficiency of a plaintiff's pleadings under this standard is necessarily very limited, as the issue to be decided "is not whether plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support [his] claims." Burlington Coat Factory Securities Litigation, 114 F.3d 1410, 1420 (3d Cir.1997) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974)). The court must accept as true all of the well-pleaded, material allegations contained in the complaint and any reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. See Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts, Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir.1998). Dismissal of claims under 12(b)(6) should be granted "only if, after accepting as true all of the facts alleged in the complaint, and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, no relief could be granted under any set of facts consistent with the allegations of the complaint." Id. In examining the legal sufficiency of a litigant's complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may not, as a general matter, give consideration to materials beyond the allegations contained in the pleadings, although matters of public record and exhibits attached to, "explicitly relied upon," or "integral to" the complaint may also be taken into account. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

A. NEW JERSEY TORT CLAIMS ACT

Defendants' seek dismissal of Plaintiff's state law claims for unlawful force (Count I), wrongful arrest (Counts I and VII), false imprisonment (Count I), malicious prosecution (Counts I and VIII), interference with parental rights (Count I), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IX) based on Plaintiff's failure to comply with the notice of claim provisions of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act ("TCA"), N.J.S.A. 59:8-1, et. seq.3 The TCA, which was originally enacted by the New Jersey legislature in 1972, abrogated the traditional doctrine of sovereign immunity and established a uniform and comprehensive statutory scheme for adjudicating tort claims against public entities and their employees. See Feinberg v. State of New Jersey, 137 N.J. 126, 133, 644 A.2d 593 (1994) (observing that the TCA "modifies the doctrine of sovereign immunity and creates limited situations in which parties may assert tort claims against public entities."). In adopting this statutory framework, the state legislature sought "to remedy the haphazard, costly, and inconsistent approach to governmental liability" which had emerged from the body of judicial opinions preceding enactment of the legislation, Fuchilla v. Layman, 109 N.J. 319, 343, 537 A.2d 652 (1988) (Handler, J., concurring); Feinberg, 137 N.J. at 134, 644 A.2d 593 (citing S.E.W. Friel Co. v. New Jersey Turnpike Auth., 73 N.J. 107, 113, 373 A.2d 364 (1977)), and "to provide compensation to tort victims without unduly interfering with governmental functions and without imposing an excessive burden on taxpayers." Greenway Development Co., Inc. v. Borough of Paramus, 163 N.J. 546, 552, 750 A.2d 764 (2000) (citing N.J.S.A. 59:2-1 cmt.).

Consistent with the legislation's goal of restricting governmental liability in tort, the Act provides that, in order to maintain a tort claim against a public entity or public employee, a plaintiff must file a notice of claim with the appropriate public entity within 90...

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