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LIEBER v. VILLAGE OF SPRING VALLEY

March 31, 1999

SHLOMO LIEBER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VILLAGE OF SPRING VALLEY; SPRING VALLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT; HOWARD GOLDIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS CHIEF OF THE SPRING VALLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT; OFFICERS O'SULLIVAN, GUALANO, JOHN DOE 1, JOHN DOE 2, AND JOHN DOE 3, EACH INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A POLICE OFFICER OF THE SPRING VALLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT; EAST RAMAPO CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT; FINKELSTEIN MEMORIAL LIBRARY; ELEANOR WOLVEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE DIRECTOR OF THE FINKELSTEIN MEMORIAL LIBRARY; VINCENT ABRAHAMS, LENNIE SMOLENSKI, AND MAGGIE THOMAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SECURITY OFFICERS OF THE FINKELSTEIN MEMORIAL LIBRARY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barrington D. Parker, Jr., District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Shlomo Lieber originally brought this suit pro se against the Village of Spring Valley, seeking damages stemming from an alleged July 29, 1996 false arrest and unlawful imprisonment at the Spring Valley Police Station, after a "trespass" at the Finkelstein Memorial Library (the "Library"). Lieber also instituted a separate action against the Library, which was consolidated with this action on May 15, 1998.

On June 4, 1998, Eric A. Israel, Esq. filed a Notice of Appearance for Lieber in both cases. On August 27, 1998, this Court granted Lieber leave to serve an amended complaint, which was done on August 31, 1998. The same day, Lieber's counsel served by fax another amended complaint, which "supercede[d] all prior versions." The amended complaint names as defendants the Village of Spring Valley, the Spring Valley Police Department, Spring Valley Chief of Police Howard Goldin (sued individually and officially), various police officers of the Spring Valley Police Department (sued individually and officially) (collectively, the "Spring Valley defendants"), and the East Ramapo Central School District, Finkelstein Memorial Library, the library director Eleanor Wolven (sued individually and officially), and several security officers employed by the Library (collectively, the "Library defendants"). Lieber seeks damages and injunctive relief against the Library defendants for their allegedly unwarranted expulsion and banning of Lieber from the Library without a pre-banning hearing, their instigation of Lieber's false arrest by Spring Valley police officers on the grounds of trespass, and their malicious prosecution of Lieber based on trespass charges.

Lieber's claims against the Spring Valley defendants relate to an alleged false arrest, a full-body strip search, false imprisonment in the police station and a locked cell, the use of excessive force in executing the strip search and in forcing Lieber into the lobby of the police station, and deficient supervision and training of the Spring Valley police officers that amounted to deliberate indifference to Lieber's constitutionally protected rights.

Defendants now move for dismissal of the amended complaint on the grounds of: 1) undue delay in making the application to amend; 2) futility of the amendment; and 3) prejudice to the defendants. The defendants also seek dismissal of the New York common law claims (Lieber's Claims 12, 13, and 14) on the grounds that 1) Lieber failed to properly serve a notice of claim on the defendants as set forth in General Municipal Law §§ 50-e and 50-i, and 2) Lieber's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. In addition, defendants contend that the "relation back" doctrine does not apply to allow Lieber to maintain his claims against the newly added defendants. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is denied in part and granted in part.

BACKGROUND

In deciding a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b), the court is, of course, obligated to construe the pleadings in the plaintiff's favor. Cooper v. Parsky, 140 F.3d 433, 440 (2d Cir. 1998). The following facts are accordingly construed.

Lieber suffers from a mental illness known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ("OCD"). This illness compels him to engage in repetitive actions and avoid certain circumstances out of a fear of contamination or other perceived danger. His condition was first diagnosed in 1979.

Over the past few years, Lieber has frequented the Library, where he reads books and newspapers available to the general public. In late 1995 or early 1996, Lieber contends that he personally informed defendant Eleanor Wolven, the Library Director, of his mental disability.

Lieber alleges that on July 25, 1996, he went to the third floor of the Library to read the newspapers there. When he arrived, a Library patron, Mr. Friedman, was holding several newspapers Lieber wished to read, and was conversing with a Library employee, a male with a ponytail, who had made disparaging remarks to Lieber on several occasions because of his disability. Because his OCD created an obsessive fear of dirtying his hands with newspaper print, Lieber was wearing disposable gloves, a fact that Mr. Friedman and the Library employee allegedly mocked.

Lieber contends that he approached Mr. Friedman and asked to read the newspapers he was holding. Friedman said no, and went downstairs with the papers, a practice forbidden by a sign posted on the third floor of the Library. Lieber brought the violation to the attention of a female employee of the Library, but Friedman returned to the third floor with the newspapers.

Before talking to Friedman, Lieber had inquired of another Library patron, Eva Kaplan, whether he could look at a section of the newspaper that she was reading. Following the incident with Friedman, Lieber again asked Kaplan for the section of the paper, which she gave him, he read, and returned to her. At this point, Lieber contends that the employee of the library with the ponytail told Lieber that he was bothering Kaplan. Although Lieber denied bothering Kaplan, the man with the ponytail called for Library security.

Lieber contends, upon information and belief, that Library security guards tried to intimidate Kaplan into making a complaint against Lieber based on the events of that day. On July 26, 1996, however, Kaplan wrote and addressed a note to the Director of the Library, stating, "Mr. Shlomo Lieber has not disturbed me in any way during my presence at the library on July 25, 1996. I do not wish to lay any complaints against him."

When Library security arrived, defendant security officers Vincent Abrahams and Lenny Smolenski took Lieber's belongings, picked Lieber up from his chair, took him to the elevator, and removed him from the building. Once outside, the officers asked Lieber his name, address, and telephone number. Because the officers refused to return his belongings to him, Lieber declined to answer these questions. The officers refused to tell Lieber why he had been involuntarily removed from the library.

In the meantime, Library personnel had called the Spring Valley police department. Two Spring Valley police officers soon arrived. They took Lieber's name and mailing address, retrieved his belongings from the security officers, and told Lieber that he should not return to the Library.


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