A man kicked in the face by police during a 2010 traffic stop can't sue for excessive force without identifying which officer kicked him, but he can seek to prove his rights were violated by a cover-up after the fact, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Emil Jutrowski sued two police officers and two state troopers after the incident in Morris County. Jutrowski had been drinking at a bar in East Hanover and was pulled over in the town of Riverdale. During a struggle outside his vehicle, Jutrowski alleges he was kicked in the face and suffered a fractured eye socket as he was being held face down on the pavement.

Because of his position, Jutrowski said he wasn't able to see who kicked him. The defendants didn't dispute that Jutrowski was kicked, but none admitted doing it or seeing who did.

Last year, a federal judge in New Jersey dismissed Jutrowski's claims because he wasn't able to identify which officer kicked him and was "essentially asking the court (and as a result, a jury) to guess as to which individual defendant should be held liable."

The judge also dismissed Jutrowski's claim of a conspiracy by the officers to cover up what happened, writing that Jutrowski hadn't provided any evidence the officers had communicated with each other after the incident.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia agreed this week that Jutrowski can't sue for excessive force unless he establishes the personal involvement of each defendant. But the three-judge panel differed from the earlier ruling on the issue of conspiracy.

Citing some inconsistencies between the reports produced by the officers, the appeals court judges concluded that "what Jutrowski put forward concerning alleged federal and state conspiracies to deprive him of access to the courts was sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact" that could be considered by a jury.

Robert DeGroot, an attorney representing Jutrowski, said Friday he would continue to pursue the conspiracy claims in court.

"In effect, the court is saying if the cops act in concert to deprive someone of their constitutional rights, we're going to allow this avenue to pursue them," he said. "Mr. Jutrowski had his constitutional right to a full and fair access to the courts abridged."

The state attorney general's office, which represented the two state troopers, declined to comment on the ruling.