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DEVITO v. INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF VALLEY STREAM

January 21, 1998

JAMES V. DEVITO, Plaintiff, against THE INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF VALLEY STREAM; GEORGE DONLEY, as Mayor of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream; MICHAEL BELFIORE, as Trustee of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream; PAUL BROWN, as Trustee of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream; THOMAS WILLIAMS, as Village Attorney of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream; VINCENT W. ANG, as Village Clerk of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream; ROBERT J. GUNTHER, as Superintendent of Public Works of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream; and THOMAS VIANI, as an Independent Contractor of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: HURLEY

 HURLEY, District Judge:

 This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Rule 56 motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's cause of action for violation of his civil rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants (sometimes hereinafter the "Village") maintain that this cause of action is time-barred; alternatively, they attack Plaintiff's civil rights claim on its substantive merits.

 For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Section 1983 cause of action against the Village is dismissed on timeliness grounds. Plaintiff's pendent state law claims are also dismissed.

 BACKGROUND

 On November 28, 1994, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging, inter alia, that he was employed as the Village Building Inspector for the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream for approximately fourteen years "until he retired and resigned under duress on November 29, 1991." (Compl. P 2.) The gravamen of the Complaint is that Plaintiff was forced to resign from his position.

 
in furtherance of a common plan, scheme and conspiracy whereby defendants sought to terminate the employment of numerous individuals employed by the defendant, VILLAGE, because they did not support said defendants in the 1991 election and in order to create employment opportunities within the Village for those individuals who had supported said defendants in the 1991 election.

 (Id. P 15.) The Complaint further alleges the following series of events: (1) in September 1991, Defendants Williams, Ang and Gunther met with Plaintiff and informed him that "unless he resigned from his employment position and took an early retirement, [he] would be brought up on disciplinary charges and would forfeit his retirement benefits"; (2) in October 1991, Defendants Donley, Belfiore and Brown "approved" Plaintiff's early retirement; (3) on October 22, 1991, Defendant Viani was hired as a Village Independent Contractor; and (4) on November 29, 1991, Plaintiff retired as Village Building Inspector. (Id. PP 2, 12-13, 17-18.)

 After converting Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings to one for summary judgment, in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), the Court, by Memorandum and Order dated October 9, 1996 (hereinafter " DeVito I ")), dismissed on timeliness grounds Plaintiff's Section 1983 cause of action against Defendants Donley, Belfiore, Brown, Williams, Ang, Gunther and Viani in their individual capacities. Specifically, the Court determined that, for statute of limitations purposes, the alleged harmful act committed by the Defendants individually "occurred in September of 1991 when Defendants Williams, Ang and Gunther informed Plaintiff that 'unless he resigned his employment position and took an early retirement, [he] would be brought up on disciplinary charges and would forfeit his retirement benefits," (DeVito I at 6 (quoting Compl. P 12)), or, alternatively, "at the latest in October of 1991 when Plaintiff's early retirement was 'approved.'" (DeVito I at 6.) The Court further reasoned that "Plaintiff's subsequent retirement on November 29, 1994 was merely the 'inevitable consequence' of the [alleged harmful] decision previously made by Defendants." (Id. at 6 (quoting Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 257-58, 66 L. Ed. 2d 431, 101 S. Ct. 498 (1980)).)

 With respect to Plaintiff's claims against the Village, the Court in DeVito I initially noted that "'a cause of action against [a] municipality *fn1" does not necessarily 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 county 'policy or custom.'" (DeVito I at 7 (quoting Pinaud v. County of Suffolk, 52 F.3d 1139, 1156-57 (2d Cir. 1995)(internal quotations omitted)).) Although the Court observed that Plaintiff had failed to provide "any indication that the reasons provided [by the Village] in September 1991 for Plaintiff's 'forced retirement' were spurious and that he later discovered the true animus for [the Village's] action," (DeVito I at 9), it went on to hold that a material issue of fact existed on the question of when Plaintiff first learned, or reasonably should have learned, that his "forced retirement" was the product of a Village policy or custom. (Id.)

 Nevertheless, the Court invited further submissions on the issue of the delayed accrual theory enunciated in Pinaud. The instant motion followed.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Summary Judgment Standards

 The legal principles employed by the Court when ruling upon a motion for summary judgment are well-established. Summary judgment may be granted only when it is shown "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987). The moving party bears the initial burden "of showing the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact." Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 26 L. Ed. 2d 142, 90 S. Ct. 1598 (1970). The substantive law governing the case will determine those facts that are material, and "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).

 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 ...


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