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LALONDE v. BATES

August 20, 2001

DEBORAH LALONDE, PLAINTIFF, VS. TIMOTHY BATES AND DAVID BRUCE, EACH INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS A POLICE OFFICER OF THE CITY OF ROME, NEW YORK; AND CITY OF ROME, NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David N. Hurd, United States District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Deborah LaLonde ("plaintiff" or "Ms. LaLonde") brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution,*fn1 and New York State law, claiming that Rome City Police Officers Timothy Bates ("Officer Bates") and David Bruce ("Officer Bruce") (collectively referred to as "defendants"), and the City of Rome, New York, violated her civil rights.*fn2 The defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Plaintiff opposed. Oral argument was heard on July 6, 2001, in Utica, New York. Decision was reserved.

II. FACTS

On March 18, 1999, Rome Police Investigator Scott Hall ("Investigator Hall") obtained a warrant from the Rome City Court authorizing the search of Apartment # 2 located at 508 East Bloomfield Street in Rome, New York, a 1986 black Chevrolet Cavalier automobile with the license plate number W174JM, and the person of Juan Breton ("Breton"). This warrant permitted the seizure of crack cocaine and a handgun.

On March 22, 1999, at about 7:30 p.m., Investigator Hall conducted a briefing at the Rome Police Station at which time he provided a number of police officers, including Officer Bates and Officer Bruce, with information regarding the search warrant. He informed the officers that Breton was suspected of being in possession of crack cocaine and a handgun, that he might be alone or accompanied by one or two women, and gave out the license plate number of the black Cavalier covered by the search warrant. During the briefing, two confidential informants called the police station and informed police that Breton was on his way to the apartment named in the search warrant. A number of police officers, including Investigator Hall, Officer Bates, and Officer Bruce, then proceeded to the apartment to await Breton's arrival.

On the date of this incident, plaintiff*fn3 resided in Apartment # 4 at 326 East Bloomfield Street in Rome, New York, which is approximately nine buildings away from the apartment named in the search warrant, and owned a 1986 blue Chevrolet Celebrity automobile, license plate number M800BZ. At approximately 8:00 p.m. on March 22, 1999, Ms. LaLonde left her apartment, went out to her car and started it up. It had been snowing that day, and plaintiff asserts she allowed the heater and rear window defroster to run while she brushed the snow off all the windows and the front and back of the car, including the headlights, taillights, and license plates. Ms. LaLonde then got into her car and exited the parking lot of the apartment complex onto East Bloomfield Street, with the intention of picking her boyfriend up from work.

Almost immediately, plaintiff's car was pulled over by Officers Bates and Bruce. They had been instructed to stop the vehicle by Investigator Hall after he observed the plaintiff's dark colored Chevrolet exiting the parking area of the apartment complex. After pulling her vehicle off to the side of the road and rolling down the driver's side window, plaintiff was verbally instructed to turn off the car and throw her keys out the window. She was then ordered to exit the vehicle, place her hands behind her head and walk backwards toward the officers. Plaintiff was then told to get down on her knees and lie face down on the road with her arms outstretched. Plaintiff complied with all of these demands. Ms. LaLonde repeatedly asked the officers why she had been stopped and what she had done wrong, only to be told to be quiet.
As she was lying in the street, Officer Bruce grabbed the back of plaintiff's jacket as Officer Bates held her right arm behind her back, and they both pulled her off the ground. At this time, Investigator Hall arrived at the scene and instructed Officers Bates and Bruce not to handcuff plaintiff, as she was not a suspect. He then asked plaintiff to get into her car and drive to a nearby parking lot. While at the parking lot, Investigator Hall explained to Ms. LaLonde that the police had made a mistake, apologized to her, and told her she was free to go.

Plaintiff asserts that fifteen to twenty minutes passed between the time she was pulled over to the time she was told she was free to go, and that for at least part of the incident, the officers had their guns drawn. Following this incident, plaintiff was counseled by Certified Social Worker, John Carroll, who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder, with various symptoms including depression, flashbacks, nightmares, and panic attacks, stemming from the incident.

III. DISCUSSION
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment must be granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits show that there is no genuine issues as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986); Lang v. Retirement Living Pub. Co., 949 F.2d 576, 580 (2d Cir. 1991). The moving party carries the initial burden of demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Thompson v. Gjivoje, 896 F.2d 716, 720 (2d Cir. 1990). Facts, inferences therefrom, and ambiguities must be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmovant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Project Release v. Prevost, 722 F.2d 960, 968 (2d Cir. 1983).
When the moving party has met the burden, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Co., 475 U.S. at 586. At that point, the non-moving party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. at 250; Matsushita Elec. Co., 475 U.S. at 587. To withstand a summary judgment motion, evidence must exist upon which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248-49; Matsushita Elec. Co., 475 U.S. at 587. Thus, summary judgment is proper where there is ...

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