The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMAHON, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S FEDERAL
CLAIMS AND EXERCISING SUPPLEMENTAL JURISDICTION OVER THE
RELATED STATE CLAIMS
Plaintiff, Winsome Stewart, decided to change her automobile
insurance. Everything went wrong from there.
On March 22, 1998, Ms. Stewart, an African American, was
driving within the Village of Spring Valley, New York, when she
was involved in a minor two car accident. The police were called.
Defendant P.O. Earnest Levy of the Spring Valley Police
Department, also an African American, responded to the scene. He
asked for and obtained Ms. Stewart's license, registration and
insurance information. As is customary, he contacted the New York
State Department of Motor Vehicles concerning the two drivers. He
learned that Ms. Stewart's license had been suspended and that
her registration had also been suspended because her insurance
had lapsed. After receiving that information, Officer Levy issued
Ms. Stewart two summonses — one for her suspended license and one
for her suspended registration. He then seized her license plates
and contacted a local towing franchise, defendant Dom's Towing,
to tow her car. His conduct in this regard was entirely lawful,
since a police officer may not permit an unlicensed motorist to
drive an unregistered and uninsured vehicle on the roads in this
All would have been well if Ms. Stewart had simply been able to
retrieve her car and get on with her life. Unfortunately, she
could not. Her car had been stolen from Dom's storage lot,
apparently by driving her car through a chain link fence and out
onto West Central Avenue. Ms. Stewart knew that her car had been
stolen because it was she who discovered the theft when she went
to Dom's on March 25, intending to take her car home. The police
were called. Defendant Officer Gulano arrived to investigate.
Plaintiff went home.
It appears that the Spring Valley police recovered the stolen
car that same night, but never contacted Ms. Stewart. Instead,
the police put the car into storage at Joe's Tires, where it sat
until October 5, when someone called plaintiff's pastor and told
him where the car was being stored. Plaintiff went immediately to
Joe's, but Joe refused to release the car until someone paid him
$4000 in storage fees. Plaintiff, lacking $4000, was forced to
leave her car in storage. Because she does not have the money to
pay the fee, she is allegedly incurring additional storage
charges of $20 per day. By this time, her storage costs doubtless
exceeds the book value of the car (a 1992 Toyota).
Plaintiff, lacking reliable transportation, alleges that she
has lost employment as a home health aide because of the loss of
her car. She contends that she could no longer attend college
because she no longer had a job with which to pay the fees. Once
a taxpaying citizen, plaintiff has been forced to move in with
her daughter and has even sought public assistance. This should
never have happened to Ms. Stewart. She believes that she is
entitled to some redress.
Ms. Stewart has sued Spring Valley, Dom's Towing and the two
police officers named above for violating her constitutional
rights. Defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing those
claims must be granted. Indeed, plaintiff concedes as much in
response to the various motions. Therefore, I grant the motion
for summary judgment dismissing all plaintiff's federal claims.
Plaintiff has also pleaded claims in common law negligence
against both Spring Valley and Dom's, and here she would appear
to be on firmer ground. Someone screwed up, and screwed up badly.
Spring Valley has moved (on information and belief) to dismiss on
the ground that no Notice of Claim was filed. In that, the
Village is not correct: plaintiff's counsel attached to his
affidavit a copy of the Notice of Claim, which was filed on
December 24, 1998. Plaintiff contends that this was within three
months of the date on which plaintiff's claim accrued, which was
October 5, 1998, the date she learned of her car's recovery, but
was unable to retrieve it due to the excessive storage charges.
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, which added her State law
negligence claim against the Village based on its failure to
apprise her of the location of her vehicle, was filed more than
30 days after service of the Notice of Claim, and the Amended
Complaint pleads compliance with the statute. See Cplt. ¶ 55.
Spring Valley's counsel would do well to be a bit more careful;
carelessness with Ms. Stewart's affairs may yet turn out to be
I elect to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the pendent
State law claims. I am referring this matter to Magistrate Judge
Fox with instructions that he set an expedited schedule for
finishing discovery and conduct a settlement conference as soon
as possible. It would be in everyone's interest if Ms. Stewart
got her car back sooner rather than later. The parties
are advised that this case will be tried during calendar year
1999 if it is not settled.
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