The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Presently before the Court is plaintiff's motion to strike
certain affirmative defenses, raising the issues of whether
the notice of claim and statute of limitations provisions of
New York's General Municipal Law apply in an action brought
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons stated below, the Court
finds that, as a matter of law, the provisions of New York
General Municipal Law §§ 50-e and 50-i are inapplicable to
section 1983 actions.
Meiselman claims that upon her arrival at the Facility, her
property was seized. She also alleges that she was
maliciously pinched and kicked by the defendant Richardson, a
corrections lieutenant of Suffolk County, and strip-searched
by the defendants Crosby and Laspisa, also Suffolk County
corrections officers. Plaintiff further alleges that she was
unjustly questioned as to the sale and use of illegal drugs
and involvement in prostitution and was denied her request to
contact her attorney. Finally, Meiselman asserts that
Southampton and its employees displayed gross negligence
amounting to "deliberate indifference to [her] constitutional
rights" by failing to notify her of her obligation to appear
in court on January 22, 1988 and of the warrant issued for
her arrest on that date due to her nonappearance
(see Plaintiff's Reply Memorandum in Support at p. 1).
Meiselman thereafter commenced this civil rights action on
January 25, 1990 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking $500,000
in compensatory damages against all of the defendants, and
$900,000 in punitive damages against the individual defendants.
In its amended answer dated June 11, 1990, Southampton
asserts as its second affirmative defense, "that the Court
has no jurisdiction over the defendant, Town of Southampton,
since jurisdictional prerequisites to the cause of action as
prescribed by statute have not been met" (see Amended Answer of
Town of Southampton ¶ 14). In its fourth affirmative defense,
Southampton alleges "that the claims of the plaintiff in this
action are barred by reason of the Statute of Limitations of
the State of New York General Municipal Law Section 50 which
are [sic] applicable to the said claim by operation of law"
(see Amended Answer of Town of Southampton ¶ 16). Meiselman now
moves, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f), for dismissal of these
two affirmative defenses on the grounds that they are sham and
The issue presented is whether the provisions of New York's
General Municipal Law governing tort actions against
municipalities is applicable to section 1983 actions. The
defendant argues that the claim is subject to the ninety day
notice of claim requirement set forth in section 50-e, and
the one year and ninety day statute of limitations set forth
in section 50-i. In opposition, plaintiff contends that as a
matter of law, no notice of claim is required and the
applicable statute of limitations is three years under New
York's general personal injury statute.
a) Applicable Standard on a Motion to Strike a Defense
Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f), a court may strike "any
insufficient defense" from a pleading. Some courts are
reluctant to grant a motion to strike a defense absent a
showing that the movant would be prejudiced if the defense
were allowed to stand (see, e.g., Bennett v. Spoor Behrins
Campbell & Young, Inc., 124 F.R.D. 562, 563-64 (S.D.N.Y. 1989);
Ciminelli v. Cablevision, 583 F. Supp. 158,162 (E.D.N.Y. 1984).
However, where an affirmative defense is clearly insufficient
as a matter of law, in this Court's view, it is best to
eliminate such a defense at the earliest possible stage.
Allowing these defenses to stand might lead to unnecessary and
protracted litigation, needlessly complicating this case.
Postponing such a determination until trial serves no useful
purpose since there is nothing more that could possibly be
introduced in support of the defendant's argument which would
alter the inevitable result.
With these basic principles in mind, and for the reasons
that follow, the Court finds that the defendant's second and
fourth affirmative defenses are insufficient as a matter of
law. In making such a determination, however, the Court makes
no ruling at this time as to whether this action is in fact
timely pursuant to New York's three-year general personal
injury statute of limitations;
only that as a matter of law section 50-i is inapplicable.
b) Second Affirmative Defense: Notice of Claim Requirement
New York General Municipal Law § 50-e requires that a notice
of claim be served within ninety days after the claim arises,
as a condition precedent to the commencement of a tort action
against a municipality. As a second affirmative defense,
Southampton asserts that Meiselman's failure ...