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HOLZAPFEL v. TOWN OF NEWBURGH

January 15, 1997

JOSEPH H. HOLZAPFEL, and Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs, against TOWN OF NEWBURGH, New York, and CHARLES M. KEHOE, Chief of Police, Town of Newburgh Police Department, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONNER

 CONNER, Senior D.J.:

 Following a jury trial resulting in a verdict in favor of defendants Town of Newburgh and Charles M. Kehoe, plaintiff Joseph Holzapfel moves for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50 and for a new trial pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motions are denied.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff has been a police officer in the Town of Newburgh Police Department since September 1990. Approximately one year after joining the police force, plaintiff was selected to be a police dog ("K-9") handler and was assigned a German Shepherd named Bandit. Under the Town of Newburgh's Standard Operating Procedures, each K-9 officer keeps his police dog at his home. The Town of Newburgh (the "Town") pays for the dog's food, for any necessary equipment, and for veterinary care. The officer is responsible for feeding, grooming, exercising, and training the dog. In addition, the officer must provide the dog with suitable shelter, ensure that the dog receives appropriate veterinary care, and take every reasonable precaution to maintain a high standard of health for the dog. The officer is also required to maintain the cleanliness of the patrol vehicle to which the officer and dog are assigned.

 On December 11, 1995, plaintiff filed this suit against the Town and Charles Kehoe, the chief of police for the Town of Newburgh Police Department. Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., by failing to compensate him adequately for "off-the-clock" activities that he performed as a police dog handler and assistant trainer. Prior to May 9, 1995, when an injury rendered plaintiff unable to perform his patrol duties, plaintiff worked approximately forty hours per week and received two hours per week of overtime pay for his efforts in tending to Bandit during off-duty hours. Plaintiff, however, asserts that he is entitled to approximately forty-three hours per week of additional overtime pay for time that he claims to have expended on Bandit since 1992. In addition, plaintiff, who is certified as an assistant trainer of police dogs, alleges that between April 1995 and May 9, 1995, he and Anthony Patricola, another Town police officer who had been assigned to be a K-9 officer and whose dog was in training during that time, attended numerous training sessions run by the Orange County Sheriff's Department. The Town of Newburgh did not have its own training program and had contracted with the Orange County Sheriff's Department to provide training for Officer Patricola's dog. Plaintiff claims that he assisted in training Officer Patricola's dog at these sessions in addition to completing his regular forty hours per week of patrol work and caring for Bandit while off duty. Therefore, according to plaintiff, he is entitled to overtime compensation for his efforts with regard to Officer Patricola's dog.

 This court conducted a jury trial in September 1996. The case was submitted to the jury on special verdict questions. The questions, with the jury's answers, are as follows:

 
1. Has the plaintiff Joseph H. Holzapfel proved by a preponderance of the credible evidence that he spent additional time, over and above the 40 hours of regular time plus 2 hours of overtime per week for which he was compensated, in performing work which was (1) reasonably necessary to his duties of feeding, grooming, caring for and training the K-9 unit dog assigned to him and (2) which could not reasonably be performed within such 42 hours of compensated time per week?
 
Yes No X
 
2. Has plaintiff proved by a preponderance of the credible evidence that he performed additional work in training the K-9 unit dog assigned to Police Officer Anthony Patricola at the direction of defendant Town of Newburgh Police Department or with their knowledge and acquiescence and with the reasonable expectation that he would be compensated for such work?
 
Yes No X
 
[If your answer to both Question 1 and Question 2 is "No," you need answer no other questions.]
 
3. If your answer to either Question 1 or Question 2 is "yes," how many hours of such additional work do you find that plaintiff performed during the following periods: *fn1"
 
December 1992 - December 1993 hours
 
December 1993 - May 1995 hours
 
4. Has plaintiff proved by a preponderance of the credible evidence that defendant Town of Newburgh Police Department either deliberately or with reckless disregard of its obligations, failed to pay plaintiff compensation to which he was entitled for work performed during the period from December 1992 to December 1993?
 
Yes No

 In light of the jury's answers to the special verdict questions, the court dismissed plaintiff's complaint.

 II. ANALYSIS

 On the instant motion, plaintiff seeks two types of relief: judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50 and a new trial pursuant to Rule 59. ...


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