negligently and recklessly targeted, caused, conducted, established, solicited, promoted and participated in and allowed a covert "sting" or "informant" or "information gathering" operation on plaintiff's property, without plaintiffs' consent or knowledge, expressed or implied, as a "tool of law enforcement" so as to investigate the waste hauling industry.
P 17 The defendant, LLOYD F. WARD, . . . was an employee of the defendant STATE as a senior investigator of the defendant [New York State Police].
P 18 At all times hereafter mentioned, the defendant LLOYD F. WARD, while within the scope and authority of his employment as a law enforcement officer with defendant NYSP on behalf of defendants OCTF and NYDEC, was an informant working for the defendant STATE and assigned to defendant NYDEC and was a participant, solicitor and operator of the construction and demolition landfill facility on plaintiffs' property without plaintiffs' consent or knowledge, expressed or implied.
(emphasis added). These allegations in the amended complaint make plain that Bubenicek and Ward have been sued in their official capacities only, without seeking to hold them individually responsible for the actions they are alleged to have taken on the Prisco property. Accordingly, Bubenicek and Ward are sued solely in their official capacities, and the conflict plaintiffs rely on for their disqualification motion does not exist in the present action.
Plaintiffs advance two other conflicts between the state departmental defendants and Bubenicek and Ward that require disqualification of the Attorney General's office in plaintiffs' view. First, plaintiffs assert that the Attorney General's office is privy to privileged information from Bubenicek and Ward stemming from the defense of an earlier action filed by the Prisco's before the New York State Court of Claims. However, since only the State of New York can be a defendant in the Court of Claims, neither Bubenicek nor Ward could have been a defendant in that action in any capacity, and the Attorney General cannot have represented them or gained access to any privileged information thereby. Second, plaintiffs point out that the Attorney General is presently pursuing a criminal investigation against Bubenicek in Albany County, New York, concerning his activities on the Prisco property. Once again, however, the criminal investigation does not create a conflict here, since Bubenicek is not a defendant in his individual capacity in this action. In both the criminal investigation and in the instant action, the state seeks to show that Bubenicek was acting illegally and without sanction from the state. No conflict exists on these facts.
Since Bubenicek and Ward are not defendants in the suit in their individual capacities, the fact that there is a conflict between them in their individual capacities and the position taken by the Attorney General's office in its representation of them in their official capacities is irrelevant. Should Bubenicek and Ward be joined as individual defendants, they will certainly need separate counsel. Absent their joinder as individuals, however, there is simply no conflict in this case, and no basis for disqualification. Plaintiffs' motion to disqualify the Attorney General's office from representing Bubenicek and Ward in this action is accordingly denied.
II. State's Motion for Summary Judgment
The state has moved for summary judgment on the issue of its liability for any of the environmental damage caused by the landfill on the Prisco site. To prevail on such a motion, the moving party must establish that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that [it] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Rule 56(c), F.R.Civ.P. The court is not to "determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine [factual] issue" which must be reserved for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). All evidence submitted must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986), and the court must resolve all doubts, ambiguities and inferences in the non-movant's favor. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 8 L. Ed. 2d 176, 82 S. Ct. 993 (1962). Further, "not only must there be no genuine issue as to the evidentiary facts, but there must also be no controversy regarding the inferences to be drawn from them." Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987).
The state argues that even if Bubenicek and Ward in fact operated the Prisco landfill, they did so in their individual rather than their official capacities, and that the state therefore cannot be liable for any resulting damages. In support of this argument the state has presented extensive affidavit evidence that Bubenicek and Ward's superiors never authorized their operation of the Prisco site, and that the official policies of NYDEC and the other state agency defendants require explicit authorization before an agency employee may operate a landfill facility or conduct an investigative operation.
The state is correct as a general matter that the status in which Bubenicek and Ward operated the Prisco site will determine state liability in this case. If they were acting as state officers, the state may be liable. If, on the other hand, Bubenicek and Ward's acts did not have the imprimatur of state authority, then the state cannot be held accountable for the damages they caused. See Dunton, supra, 729 F.2d 903. Determining whether the actions Bubenicek and Ward took are attributable to the state, however, requires analysis of several theories of secondary liability, including respondeat superior, actual and apparent authority, and ratification of the acts of an agent.
Without addressing the viability of the respondeat superior or actual and apparent authority theories of liability, the court notes that disputed issues remain that are material to the ratification theory. Accordingly, the state's motion for summary judgment must be denied.
Ratification is the express or implied adoption of acts of another by one for whom the other assumes to be acting but without authority. Holm v. C.M.P. Sheet Metal, Inc., 89 A.D.2d 229, 455 N.Y.S.2d 429, 432 (4th Dep't 1982); see also Skyline Agency, Inc. v. Ambrose Coppotelli, Inc., 117 A.D.2d 135, 502 N.Y.S.2d 479, 489 (2d Dep't 1986). Ratification of the acts of an agent only occurs where the principal has full knowledge of all material facts and takes some action to affirm the agent's actions. Holm, supra, 455 N.Y.S.2d at 432; Bernstein on behalf of Comm'r of Banking and Ins. v. Centaur Ins. Co., 644 F. Supp. 1361 (S.D.N.Y. 1986). Accordingly, a principal may ratify and thereby become liable for the acts of an agent even if those acts were initially unauthorized. In this case, the evidence reveals a dispute as to whether the state kept the Prisco site open for a period of time despite a request by the local NYDEC office that it be closed for environmental violations. Bubenicek sought department intervention to keep the Prisco site open because it was useful to the state as an informant facility, and he may have succeeded. Compare Deposition of Richard A. Gardineer, Sept. 19, 1989, at 44 (stating that Bubenicek's request to keep the site open was denied); with Deposition of Richard A. Gardineer, July 9, 1991, at 126 (stating that Prisco site was kept open for several weeks over Gardineer's objection). If the state authorities decided, after being given full information about the environmental violations at the Prisco site, to keep it open in order to maintain an informant site, the state may have ratified the unauthorized acts of Bubenicek and Ward, even if those acts are not imputable to the state through the doctrines of apparent authority or respondeat superior. Having ratified the acts, the state would be liable for the resulting damages.
The evidence also reveals disputed facts relevant to a second theory of ratification. Bubenicek allegedly told other state employees that the Prisco site was a sting operation or informant site, see, e.g., deposition of Judith Ferry, Sept. 19, 1989, at 16-17, and that the state was gaining valuable information on the illegal activities of the hazardous waste hauling industry through operation of the site. See Declaration of George Bradlau, Dec. 17, 1991, PP 3, 4 (acknowledging that OCTF knew that Bubenicek was in contact with the Prisco site and that NYDEC was receiving information from the site); Deposition of Warren Reiss, Sept. 6, 1989, at 32-34 (stating that NYDEC was involved in using the Prisco site for gathering information about the waste hauling industry). If the state was actually receiving such information through operation of the Prisco site, the state may have knowingly benefited from the acts of its agents Bubenicek and Ward, and may thereby have ratified those acts. See Hewett v. Marine Midland Bank of Southeastern New York, N.A., 86 A.D.2d 263, 449 N.Y.S.2d 745 (2d Dep't 1982) ("If the principal accepts the benefits of its agent's misdeeds, with actual or imputed knowledge, it ratifies the agent's action."); see also Marine Midland Bank v. John E. Russo Produce Co., 50 N.Y.2d 31, 44, 427 N.Y.S.2d 961, 968, 405 N.E.2d 205 (1980); H/R Stone, Inc. v. Phoenix Business Systems, Inc., 660 F. Supp. 351, 358 n.3 (S.D.N.Y. 1987) (Walker, J.); Abraham Zion Corp. v. Lebow, 593 F. Supp 551, 566 (S.D.N.Y. 1984) (Motley, J.). Having ratified the actions of Bubenicek and Ward, the state would be liable for the damages resulting to the Prisco site.
Since disputed issues remain that are material at least to this ratification theory of state liability, the state defendants' motion for summary judgment must be denied. Rule 56, F.R.Civ.P.
In accordance with the reasoning set forth above, the plaintiffs' motion to disqualify the Attorney General's office is denied, and the summary judgment motion of the state defendants is denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: New York, New York
September 3, 1992
Robert L. Carter