Once the moving party has come forward with support demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact remains to be tried, the non-moving party "must come forward with affidavits, depositions, or other sworn evidence as permitted by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, setting forth specific facts showing that there exists a genuine issue of material fact." Rule v. Brine, Inc., 85 F.3d 1002, 1011 (2d Cir. 1996). In reviewing these materials, the Court "is required to draw all factual inferences in favor of, and take all factual assertions in the light most favorable to, the party opposing summary judgment." Id.
Nevertheless, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 (emphases omitted). Moreover, "conclusory allegations will not suffice to create a genuine issue. There must be more than a 'scintilla of evidence,'" Delaware & Hudson Ry. Co. v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 902 F.2d 174, 178 (2d Cir. 1990)(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252), and "more than 'some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'" Aslanidis v. United States Lines, Inc., 7 F.3d 1067, 1072 (2d Cir. 1993)(quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986)). Put another way, "the non-movant cannot escape summary judgment merely by vaguely asserting the existence of some unspecified disputed material facts, . . . or defeat the motion through mere speculation or conjecture." Western World Ins. Co. v. Stack Oil, Inc., 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d Cir. 1990)(citations and internal quotations omitted). "When no rational jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight, there is no genuine issue of material fact and a grant of summary judgment is proper." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994).
II. Accrual of Plaintiff's Section 1983 Claim Against the Village
A. Accrual Standards
The limitations period for Section 1983 actions "is found in the 'general or residual [state] statute [of limitations] for personal injury actions.'" Ormiston v. Nelson, 117 F.3d 69, 71 (2d Cir. 1997)(quoting Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-50, 102 L. Ed. 2d 594, 109 S. Ct. 573 (1989)). In New York, that period is three years, as provided under New York Civil Practice Law and Rules Section 214(5). See, e.g., Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865, 871 (2d Cir. 1994); Day v. Morgenthau, 909 F.2d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1990). The three-year statute of limitations applies with equal force to claims against a municipality. See Singleton v. City of New York, 632 F.2d 185, 189 (2d Cir. 1980). Although state law supplies the limitations period for Section 1983 claims, "federal law governs the determination of the accrual date (that is, the date the statute of limitations begins to run)." Ormiston, 117 F.3d at 71; accord Veal v. Geraci, 23 F.3d 722, 724 (2d Cir. 1994). Under federal law, the limitations period accrues "when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury that is the basis of the action." Cullen v. Margiotta, 811 F.2d 698, 725 (2d Cir. 1987); see Singleton, 632 F.2d at 192 ("The crucial time for accrual purposes is when the plaintiff becomes aware that he is suffering from a wrong for which damages may be recovered in a civil action.").
In order "to sustain a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against a municipal defendant, the plaintiff must show the existence of an officially adopted policy or custom that caused injury and a causal connection between that policy or custom and the deprivation of a constitutional right." Fox v. Doran, 974 F. Supp. 276, 282-83 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)(citing Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978)). Therefore, "a cause of action against the municipality does not necessarily begin to accrue upon the occurrence of a harmful act, but only later when it is clear, or should be clear, that the harmful act is the consequence of a [municipal] 'policy or custom.'" Pinaud, 52 F.3d at 1157. "'Where no single act is sufficiently decisive to enable a person to realize that he has suffered a compensable injury, the cause of action may not accrue until the wrong becomes apparent.'" Id. (quoting Singleton, 632 F.2d at 192-93).
While "in some circumstances, factual issues related to statute of limitations should be put before a jury," Eagleston, 41 F.3d at 871, the timeliness of a cause of action may properly be determined by the Court on summary judgment if no rational jury could find that the action was filed within the statutory limitations period. See id. (finding district court properly determined that Section 1983 action untimely where no disputed facts were presented); Childers Oil Co. v. Exxon Corp., 960 F.2d 1265, 1273 (4th Cir. 1992)(" If resolution of statute of limitations defense presents a genuine question of material fact, a jury should resolve it. If not, a statute of limitations defense may be applied as a matter of law."); Hofstetter v. Fletcher, 905 F.2d 897, 904-05 (6th Cir. 1988)(holding trial court properly instructed jury with respect to statute of limitations where evidence could have supported finding that RICO action filed timely); Barrett v. United States, 689 F.2d 324, 333 (2d Cir. 1982)(determining that accrual of claim must await resolution at trial where plaintiffs "raised factual issues concerning whether or not they had reason to know of . . . injuries"); D'Angelo v. City of New York, 929 F. Supp. 129, 132 (S.D.N.Y. 1996)("Since a rational jury could conclude that plaintiff could not have reasonably been aware of [his] claim [within the statutory period], defendants' motion [to dismiss action as time-barred] must be denied."); Hooper v. Sachs, 618 F. Supp. 963, 981 (D. Md. 1985)("Reasonable men, in the opinion of this court, could draw different conclusions from the facts presented herein regarding when the plaintiffs should have known of the injury allegedly caused them."), aff'd, 823 F.2d 547 (4th Cir. 1987).
Keeping in mind the foregoing principles, the Court proceeds to address the merits of the Village's motion.
B. Application to the Instant Case
The Village contends that Plaintiff knew or should have known of their alleged policy or custom of taking adverse action against those persons who did not support the new administration in the March 1991 election when he was confronted in September 1991 by the Village Attorney, Village Clerk and Superintendent of Public Works and forced to choose between retirement or disciplinary action on account of alleged private work that he performed during Village business hours. In support thereof, the Village points to Plaintiff's own deposition testimony, as well as numerous newspaper articles appearing in the Valley Stream Herald, Valley Stream Maileader and Newsday.
In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims that the Village conspired to terminate him because he "supported and/or participated in the 1991 campaign to reelect the incumbent [Village] candidates." (Compl. PP 11, 15.) The incumbent candidates, of course, lost the election. At his deposition, Plaintiff was asked what facts he had to support his allegation that the Village developed a policy or custom to terminate certain Village employees based upon their political affiliation and/or preferences with respect to the March 1991 election. Plaintiff responded that there were five village employees who were dismissed." (Williams Aff. P 8 & Ex. K.) The following colloquy then ensued between Plaintiff and the Village's attorney:
Q. Who are they?
A. I forget their names. It was in the newspaper. Eventually they went to Court and they made a settlement with the village. Based on that, that was another reason why I realized the village didn't want me there. What they did to the other five employees. They were not Civil Service employees. So they couldn't dismiss me as easily as they did the other five.