Jutrowski v. Township of Riverdale, No. 17-2594 (3d Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Jutrowski was involved in a single-car accident while intoxicated. During his subsequent arrest, Jutrowski was kicked in the face, breaking his eye socket. Two Riverdale Police Officers and two New Jersey State Troopers involved in the arrest and their employers acknowledge that an officer kicked Jutrowski. Each officer asserts he neither inflicted the blow nor saw who did so. Jutrowski, whose face was pinned to the pavement when the kick occurred, cannot identify his assailant. Jutrowski brought excessive force and conspiracy claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court, relying on Third Circuit precedent that a civil rights action defendant must have “personal involvement” in the alleged wrongs, determined that Jutrowski’s inability to identify his attacker defeated his claims and granted the defendants summary judgment. The Third Circuit affirmed as to Jutrowski’s excessive force claim but reversed and remanded his conspiracy claim. Despite the unfortunate situation created for plaintiffs who are unable to identify their attackers through no fault of their own, a plaintiff alleging that one or more officers engaged in unconstitutional conduct must establish the “personal involvement” of each named defendant to survive summary judgment. Nonetheless, where a plaintiff adduces sufficient evidence of an after-the-fact conspiracy to cover up misconduct, even of an unidentified officer, he may be able to state a claim for the violation of the due process right of access to the courts.