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CLARK v. TOWN OF TICONDEROGA

July 23, 2002

DIANE CLARK, PLAINTIFF,
V.
THE TOWN OF TICONDEROGA; TICONDEROGA TOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT; JEFF COOK, CHIEF OF TICONDEROGA POLICE DEPARTMENT; JAMES LAPIERRE, OFFICER OF THE TICONDEROGA POLICE DEPARTMENT; RANDY BEVINS, OFFICER OF THE TICONDEROGA POLICE DEPARTMENT; R. STEPHEN YAW, OFFICER OF THE TICONDEROGA POLICE DEPARTMENT; DAN CHARLTON, OFFICER OF THE TICONDEROGA POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kahn, District Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

On July 20, 1999, Plaintiff asked the defendant Ticonderoga Police Department ("Police Department") to aid her in removing herself and three minor children from the residence she shared with her husband, Edward Clark ("Clark"), and relocating to the residence of Anne DuRoss ("DuRoss"). Plaintiff told the Police Department that she was afraid Clark would try to kill her because she was leaving their home and had filed a domestic violence report against Clark. On July 23, 1999, Clark arrived at the DuRoss residence and verbally and physically abused Plaintiff. Unnamed officers from the Police Department were called to the DuRoss residence and Clark was charged with Harassment in the Second Degree.

An Order of Protection prohibiting Clark from being in or around Plaintiffs current residence and place of employment was issued on July 26, 1999. Plaintiff claims that defendant Officer Yaw presented the Order of Protection to her and also told her that the Police Department was aware that Clark was dangerous and would consequently "keep an eye" on her.

Several days later, on July 31, 1999, Clark confronted Plaintiff at her place of employment, in violation of the Order of Protection, and again physically and verbally abused Plaintiff. Clark then followed Plaintiff to the DuRoss residence and hid in the backyard while Plaintiff contacted the Police Department. When defendant Officers LaPierre and Bivens arrived at the DuRoss residence, Plaintiff was describing the evenings events when Clark approached the Officers and Plaintiff and again verbally abused Plaintiff. Officer LaPierre informed Clark that his actions were in violation of the Order of Protection and called for back-up. Officer LaPierre asked Plaintiff if she wanted Clark arrested and Plaintiff claims she replied affirmatively. Apparently, the only crime with which Clark was charged on the evening of July 31, 1999 was a misdemeanor violation of the Order of Protection, and he was not detained in jail that night.

On August 7, 1999, Clark forcibly entered the residence at which Plaintiff was staying and physically attacked Plaintiff with a hunting knife in the presence of her three minor children. Although Clark stabbed Plaintiff repeatedly, she was able to place a call to the defendant Police Department by dialing the "911" emergency service. Plaintiff was then taken to a Vermont hospital where she underwent surgery to repair her vertebrae, stomach, intestines, colon and other internal organs. Following the attack, Clark escaped into the woods surrounding the residence and subsequently committed suicide.

Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendants alleging a pattern of discriminatory treatment of women who are victims of domestic violence in violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Presently before this Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) must be denied "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim [that] would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). In assessing the sufficiency of a pleading, "all factual allegations in the complaint must be taken as true," LaBounty v. Adler, 933 F.2d 121, 123 (2d Cir. 1991), and all reasonable inferences must be construed in favor of the plaintiff. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Bankers Trust Co. v. Rhoades, 859 F.2d 1096, 1099 (2d Cir. 1988).

[C]onsideration is limited to the factual allegations in [the] complaint, to documents attached to the complaint as an exhibit or incorporated in it by reference, to matters of which judicial notice may be taken, or to documents either in plaintiffs' possession or of which plaintiffs had knowledge and relied on in bringing suit.

Brass v. American Film Technologies, Inc., 987 F.2d 142, 150 (2d Cir. 1993).

The Rules do not require the plaintiff to set out in detail the facts upon which the claim is based, but only that a defendant be given "fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). Individual allegations, however, that are so baldly conclusory that they fail to give notice of the basic events and circumstances of which the plaintiff complains are meaningless as a practical matter and, as a matter of law, insufficient to state a claim. Barr v. Abrams, 810 F.2d 358, 363 (2d Cir. 1987).

It is with this standard in mind that the Court addresses ...


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