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CEA v. ULSTER COUNTY

March 12, 2004.

MARGARET CEA, TERESA CEA, and MEGAN CEA, by her mother and natural guardian Margaret Cea, Plaintiffs,
v.
ULSTER COUNTY, ULSTER COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, J. RICHARD BOCKELMANN, MARK CUNNINGHAM, ANTONIA REMSEN, FRANK P. FALUOTICO, AMY O'BRIEN, and MICHAEL EARL KNOX, Defendants; STEVEN GUY CEA, Plaintiffs, v. VINCENT G. BRADLEY, in his administrative capacity and personal capacity; ULSTER COUNTY; ULSTER COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE; J. RICHARD BOCKELMANN, in his administrative capacity and personal capacity; FRANK P. FALUOTICO, in his personal capacity, a/k/a Mark P. Faluotico; MARK CUNNINGHAM, in his personal capacity; ANTONIA REMSEN, in her personal capacity; JEAN BRANDT, in her personal capacity; JOHN DOE 1, responsible for transporting the plaintiff from the City of Kingston Court to the Ulster County Jail on 3/29/99 in their personal capacity f/k/a Ulster County Correctional Officers; JOHN DOE 2, responsible for transporting the plaintiff from the City of Kingston Court to the Ulster County Jail on 3/29/99 in their personal capacity f/k/a Ulster County Correctional Officers; JOHN DOE 3, responsible for transporting the plaintiff from the City of Kingston Court to the Ulster County Jail on 3/29/99 in their personal capacity f/k/a Ulster County Correctional Officers; JOHN DOE 4, responsible for transporting the plaintiff from the City of Kingston Court to the Ulster County Jail on 3/29/99 in their personal capacity f/k/a Ulster County Correctional Officers; and MICHAEL EARL KNOX, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERICK SCULLIN, Chief Judge, District Page 2

MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION*fn1

  In his amended complaint, Plaintiff Steven Cea asserts thirteen causes of action. Plaintiff's first cause of action alleges that Defendant Bradley denied him due process and Page 3 infringed on his rights under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.*fn2 His second and third causes of action allege that Defendant Faluotico. swore to a false instrument in violation of Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and in violation of his right to equal protection under the New York State Constitution. He also alleges that Defendant Faluotico. falsified the criminal information, failed to verify the information, caused an invasion of Plaintiff's home in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and that his actions led to malicious prosecution and physical injury in violation of his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. See Snyder Aff. at Exhibit "A" at ¶¶ 147-153. Plaintiffs fourth cause of action alleges that Defendants Cunningham and Remsen unlawfully seized him and used excessive force. See id. at ¶¶ 154-168. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Knox confined him and deprived him of liberty. See id. at ¶¶ 166-167. Plaintiff's fifth cause of action alleges that Defendants Cunningham and Remsen engaged in an unlawful search and seizure without a warrant and without probable cause by searching the bedrooms of his house in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment. See id. at ¶¶ 169-173. Plaintiffs sixth cause of action alleges that Defendants Cunningham and Remsen denied him medical treatment. See id. at 174-186.*fn3 Plaintiff's seventh cause of action Page 4 alleges, once again, that Defendants unlawfully detained him and denied him medical treatment. See id. at ¶¶ 187-191. Plaintiffs eighth cause of action alleges, once again, that Defendants Cunningham, Remsen and the Ulster County Sheriff's Office deprived him of liberty. See id. at ¶¶ 192-194. Plaintiff's ninth cause of action alleges that Defendant Bradley violated his right to equal protection and repeats his allegation that Defendants conducted an illegal search of his home. Plaintiff's tenth cause of action repeats the claim that Defendants' search of Plaintiff's home violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. See id. at ¶¶ 199-200. In his eleventh cause of action, Plaintiff alleges that the Ulster County Sheriff's Office and Defendant Bockelmann ratified the actions of the individual Defendants. See id. at ¶¶ 201-211. In his twelfth cause of action, Plaintiff asserts that he was deprived of his state and common law rights and that the County is vicariously liable for the torts of the individual Defendants. See id. at ¶¶ 212-214. Finally, in his thirteenth cause of action, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were negligent and that the County failed to adequately hire, train and supervise its employees.

  Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court heard oral argument in support of, and in opposition to, this motion on February 25, 2004, at which time the Court issued an oral decision from the bench. The Court also advised the parties that a written decision would follow. The following constitutes the Court's written decision regarding the pending motion. Page 5

  II. BACKGROUND*fn4

  Plaintiff's claims arise from an incident that occurred on March 29, 1999. Based upon a criminal information that Defendant Faluotico prepared, an arrest warrant was issued against Plaintiff for the crime of Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree, as a result of Plaintiff's failure to turn in his pistol and pistol permit pursuant to a New York State Supreme Court order. See Snyder Aff. at ¶¶ 6-7 and Exhibit "F" (a copy of the arrest warrant and the Criminal Information) and Exhibit "G" (a copy of the Letter — Orders of the Supreme Court, Ulster County, issued by Justice Vincent G. Bradley, revoking Plaintiff's pistol permit because of pending criminal charges against him and ordering Plaintiff to surrender possession of his permit and his pistol).

  According to Plaintiff's deposition testimony, on March 29, 1999, he heard someone pounding on his door, saw several figures outside his house telling him to open the door, and refused to open the door. See id. at ¶ 22 and Exhibit "H" at 66-70. Plaintiff called an attorney and his brother on the telephone and then heard glass breaking. See id. at ¶ 22 and Exhibit "H" at 77-86. One of the individuals kicked the door in and then Defendant Cunningham, with his weapon drawn, stepped into the house and pointed his gun at Plaintiff and his daughter, Teresa Cea. See id. at ¶ 22 and Exhibit "H" at 88-89. Defendant Cunningham then stepped closer to Plaintiff, stuck the gun in his face, and cocked the hammer of the gun, at which point Plaintiff asked him if he was going to shoot him. See id. at ¶ 22 and Exhibit "H" at 89-94. Plaintiff then looked at his wife and children and, when he turned back, Defendant Cunningham had Page 6 reholstered his gun and then sprayed Plaintiff with pepper spray. See id. at ¶ 22 and Exhibit "H" at 94-100.

  Plaintiff also testified that, after Defendant Cunningham sprayed him, Plaintiff asked him if he was Black Irish and Defendant Cunningham then grabbed him in a choke hold around his neck and dragged him while still sitting in his chair to the front door. See id. at ¶ 23 and Exhibit "H" at 108-116. In addition, Plaintiff testified that, after he was sprayed, he saw two officers go into the house and walk past the living room. See id. at ¶ 23 and Exhibit "H" at 112-13.

  After Plaintiff was taken into the entranceway, he asked for medical assistance. See id. at ¶ 23 and Exhibit "H" at 118. Defendants called an ambulance and medical personnel arrived, treated Plaintiff for pepper spray, and then left after Plaintiff refused to sign papers refusing treatment or transfer because he could not see them. See id. at ¶ 23 and Exhibit "H" at 118-21. According to the ambulance report, the paramedics washed out Plaintiff's eyes and Plaintiff refused transport and refused to sign the release for refusal of treatment/transportation. See id. at ¶ 24 and Exhibit "I."

  Plaintiff was transferred from his home to the Esopus substation, booked and taken to Kingston City Court. See id. at ¶ 25 and Exhibit "H" at 128-30. Plaintiff had pain in his eyes, throat, chest and neck, had difficulty breathing, and was in pain all over. See id. at ¶ 25 and Exhibit "H" at 130-31. Plaintiff again asked for a doctor but was told that he should have signed the papers and that he was the one who refused medical treatment. See id. at ¶ 25 and Exhibit "H" at 131.

  Plaintiff was charged with criminal contempt and resisting arrest and, after appearing in Kingston City Court, was transported to jail. See id. at ¶ 26 and Exhibit "H" at 133-34. Plaintiff Page 7 again requested medical attention while en route to the jail. When he arrived at the jail, he was placed in the main reception area and was left waiting there until a nurse came and told him that they did not have the facilities to treat him. See id. at If 26 and Exhibit "H" at 137-38. Plaintiff asked for medical assistance while at the jail but he was laughed at or ignored. See id. at ¶ 26 and Exhibit "H" at 143-44. Once Plaintiff left the jail, he was nearly unconscious. See id. at ¶ 26 and Exhibit "H" at 144. Plaintiff went to his attorney's office, and his attorney told him to go to the hospital. See id. at ¶ 26 and Exhibit "H" at 145-47. Plaintiff went to Castle Point VA Hospital with complaints of severe pain in the neck, left arm, shoulder, hands, and upper torso. See id. at Exhibit "H" at 148.

  Subsequently, after a probable cause hearing, Justice Feeney dismissed the charge of criminal contempt in the second degree. With these facts in mind, the Court will address each of the issues raised in Defendants' motion in turn. Page 8

  III. DISCUSSION*fn5 *fn6

 A. Summary judgment standard*fn7

  A court will grant a motion for summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material Page 9 fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party has the burden to demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must come forward with specific facts demonstrating that a genuine issue exists for trial. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). The ultimate inquiry is whether a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party based upon the evidence presented. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). "All reasonable inferences and any ambiguities are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party." Thompson v. Gjivoje, 896 F.2d 716, 720 (2d Cir. 1990) (citation omitted).

  With this standard in mind, the Court will address Defendants' motion.

 B. Plaintiff's federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

  1. Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Bockelmann and Knox in their individual capacities

  Under § 1983, supervisors may be held liable for their own actions as well as, in some instances, the acts of their subordinates. See Rose v. Zillioux, No. 5:98-CV-1882, 2001 WL 1708796, *8 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 27, 2001) (citation omitted). A supervisor may be held liable for violating a plaintiff's rights in several ways:

  "[He] may have directly participated in the infraction. . . .[He], after learning of the violation through a report or appeal, may have failed to remedy the wrong. . . .[He] may be liable because he [] created a policy or custom under which unconstitutional practices occurred, or allowed such a policy or custom to continue. . . . Lastly, [he] may be personally liable if he [] was grossly negligent in managing subordinates who caused the unlawful condition or event. . . ." Page 10

 Id. (quotation omitted).

  With respect to Plaintiffs claims against Defendant Bockelmann, Plaintiff does not allege that Defendant Bockelmann was present during the incident or that he was, in any way, personally involved in the acts that allegedly violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Moreover, although Plaintiff alleges in a conclusory fashion that Defendant Bockelmann condoned or adopted the actions of his subordinates, he offers no evidence to support this claim. Accordingly, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to all of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Bockelmann in his individual capacity.

  With respect to Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Knox, Defendants assert that Defendant Knox did not participate in the arrest or imprisonment of Plaintiff and that, at his deposition, Plaintiff could not state a specific allegation of a constitutional deprivation against Defendant Knox.*fn8 Page 11

  Plaintiff has not responded to Defendants' arguments regarding his claims against Defendant Knox. Moreover, based upon his testimony at his deposition, Plaintiff has failed to articulate a specific basis for his claims against Defendant Knox. Accordingly, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to all claims against Defendant Knox.

  2. Plaintiff's false arrest and/or false imprisonment claims*fn9

  "A Section 1983 claim for false arrest [or false imprisonment] rest[s] on the Fourth Amendment right of an individual to be free from unreasonable seizures, including arrest without probable cause.'" Sulkowska v. City of N.Y., 129 F. Supp.2d 274, 287 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (quotation omitted). To establish a false arrest claim under either federal or New York law, a plaintiff must demonstrate that ""`(i) the defendant intended to confine [the plaintiff], (ii) the plaintiff was conscious of the confinement, (iii) the plaintiff did not consent to the confinement, and (iv) the confinement was not otherwise privileged.'"" Id. (quotation omitted). An arrest is "otherwise privileged, if there was probable cause to arrest." Id. (citations omitted). Thus, if there was probable cause for the arrest, there can be no claim for false arrest. See Martinetti v. Town of New Hartford Police Dep't, 112 F. Supp.2d 251, 252 (N.D.N.Y. 2000) (citation omitted). The general rule is that "[a]n arrest pursuant to a valid warrant ...


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