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KRAMER v. CITY

November 1, 2004.

CARYLL KRAMER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY, NEW YORK CITY NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT, POLICE OFFICER CRAIG DE OLIVIERA, DETECTIVE PATRICK KENNEDY, SHELD 2041, AND UNIDENTIFIED NEW YORK CITY POLICE OFFICERS Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HAROLD BAER, JR., District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff, Caryll Kramer brought a civil rights claim, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants, the City of New York ("City"), New York City Police Department ("NYPD"), Police Officer Craig De Oliviera ("Oliviera"), Detective Patrick Kennedy ("Kennedy"), Shield 2041, and Unidentified New York City Police officers (collectively, "Defendants"). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, Defendants move for summary judgment.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, Defendants motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

  A. Factual Background

  Noel Kramer had consulted the same physician, Dr. Jonathan Raskin ("Raskin"), for over 12 years. In fear, Noel Kramer asked Raskin to run tests to determine whether, in fact, Plaintiff had attempted to kill him. Raskin, aware of Plaintiff's alleged alcoholism, alleged abusiveness, and his patient's belief that his wife had attempted to poison him (Raskin Dep. at 23:5-24:16), ran tests in April 2001, and the results indicated that the arsenic level in Noel Kramer's blood were seven times greater than normal. (Raskin Dep. at 21:7-15).

  In response to consistent illness because of his wife's food and fear for his safety, on May 10, 2001, Noel Kramer, accompanied by Oliveira and a nurse's aide, entered the 17th Precinct and lodged a complaint, which alleged that his wife, the Plaintiff here, had attempted to poison him. In support of his allegation, Noel Kramer informed the police of (1) a lab analysis that indicated an increased level of arsenic (NYPD Compl. Rep. #2001-17-0032932); (2) "that his doctor couldn't explain why he had such high levels of arsenic in his system"; (3) that his wife would not allow anyone else to prepare his food; and, (4) that his relationship with his wife had significantly deteriorated. (Kennedy Dep. at 18:23-24:2).

  To discern the legitimacy of Noel Kramer's criminal complaint, the New York County District Attorney's Office directed that newly prepared food be tested for poison. (Hughes Dep. at 23:22-24:14). On the evening of May 10, 2001, at the direction of the Assistant District Attorney, Noel Kramer returned to his apartment and ordered food. The police entered the apartment and Plaintiff refused to follow the police officer's directions. (Heiman Dep. at 22:11). Plaintiff went for her purse and Heiman pushed the pocketbook away and looked inside to make sure there were no weapons. (Heiman Dep. at 22:11; Kennedy Dep. at 66:10-67:22; Sullivan Dep. at 31:2-19; Pl. Dep. at 137:9-138:22). The Detectives handcuffed Plaintiff and escorted her out of the apartment. (Pl. Dep. at 139:16-20). Plaintiff never complained or sought treatment for any injuries that resulted from the arrest and never sought medical treatment for any injuries she allegedly sustained as a result of being handcuffed. (Pl. Dep. at 147:7-151:23).

  Upon arrival at the 17th Precinct, the police locked Plaintiff in a holding cell. (Pl. Dep. at 156:4-9). Plaintiff was in the holding cell for several hours, but not searched until she requested to use the bathroom. (Pl. Dep. at 154:19-155:23). On the evening of the arrest, while at the 17th Precinct, Plaintiff requested the use of the ladies room twice. (Pl. Dep. at 154:23). During both occasions, a female law enforcement officer escorted Plaintiff into the bathroom where Plaintiff "had to bear" her "derriere." (Pl. Dep. at 154:18-24). The following morning, May 11, 2001, Plaintiff was escorted to Central Booking and later that day arraigned for attempted murder in the second degree and resisting arrest. Bail was set at $100,000. (N.Y. County Dock. No. 2001NY041680, dated May 11, 2001).

  In response to the arrest, Noel Kramer cancelled all of his wife's credit cards, changed all the joint bank accounts over to his name, and stopped payments on Plaintiff's health insurance. (Pl. Dep. at 174:17-183:15). On November 16, 2001, the charges against Plaintiff were dismissed after the District Attorney's Office failed to prosecute.

  B. Procedural History

  On April 29, 2002, Plaintiff filed an action against the City, the NYPD, Oliviera, and Noel Kramer in New York County Supreme Court. Kramer v. New York, No. 108657/02 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Nov. 26, 2003). Plaintiff alleged that on May 10, 2001 she was falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted because of the accusations fabricated by Noel Kramer and Oliviera. In response, Oliviera filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the State Court action. On November 26, 2003, Judge Soto dismissed the malicious prosecution charge, but the false arrest and imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel/slander, and defamation of character charges against Oliviera survived. Id.

  On January 7, 2004, Plaintiff filed a Federal action based on the same May 10, 2001 events. The action alleged that Plaintiff's civil rights were violated, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and named the City, the NYPD, Kennedy, and Oliviera as defendants. The City and NYPD consented to the removal of the state-law action to federal court. On March 26, 2004, Judge Soto stayed the state law claims against Oliviera and, pursuant to Plaintiff's request, dismissed the allegations against Noel Kramer.

  II. APPLICABLE STANDARD

  A court will not grant a motion for summary judgment unless it determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the undisputed facts are sufficient to warrant judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R. Civ. P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(e). In determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the Court must resolve all ambiguities, and draw all inferences, against the moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curiam); Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987). It is not the court's role to resolve issues of fact; rather, the court may only determine whether there are issues of fact to be tried. Donohue, 834 F.2d at 58 (citations omitted). However, a disputed issue of material fact alone is insufficient to deny a motion for summary judgment, the disputed issue must be "material to the outcome of the litigation," Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986), and must be backed by evidence that would allow "a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

  III. DISCUSSION

  Pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 56, Defendants move for summary judgment contending that at this stage of the litigation: plaintiff's false arrest claim should be dismissed because there was probable cause; plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim is barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and also fails as a matter of law; plaintiff fails to state a claim under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment; any purported conspiracy claim must be dismissed; Detective Patrick Kennedy is entitled to qualified immunity; and, plaintiff's state law claims should be dismissed as a matter of law.

  A. False Arrest

  Plaintiff alleges that Kennedy lacked the requisite information that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that Plaintiff had committed or is about to commit a crime and, therefore, failed to have probable cause to justify an arrest. See Boyd v. City of N.Y., 336 F.3d 72 (2d Cir. 2003). Plaintiff's § 1983 claim for false arrest "derives from an individual's right to remain free from unreasonable seizures." Caldarola v. Calabrese, 298 F.3d 156 (2d Cir. 2002). This includes the right to remain free from arrest absent probable cause. Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d Cir. 1996). When reviewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001), the complaint alleges that the police arrested Plaintiff without probable cause in violation of the constitution. Lee v. Sandberg, 136 F.3d 94, 102 (2d Cir. 1997) ("The right not to be arrested without probable cause is a clearly established right.").

  However, at the time of the arrest, it was "equally well established that the existence of probable cause is an absolute defense to a false arrest claim and affords the arresting officer qualified immunity from litigation." Caldarola, 298 F.3d at 162. "Probable cause is a complete defense to a cause of action for false arrest." Smith v. Edwards, 175 F.3d 99, 105 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal citation omitted). "Probable cause exists when an officer has knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been committed by the person to be arrested." Savino v. City of N.Y., 331 F.3d 63, 77 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal citation omitted).

  Noel Kramer walked into the 17th Precinct on May 10, 2001 and alleged that his wife was attempting to murder him. In support of his allegations, Noel Kramer informed the police of (1) consistent illness which he believed resulted from his wife's food preparation; (2) his wife's unwillingness to allow anyone but herself to prepare his dinner; and, (3) a deteriorating marriage. Noel Kramer also provided the police with information regarding lab results that indicated a high level of arsenic in his blood and corroboration of the test results by a nurses' aid. (Pl. Dep. at 123:23-124:9; NYPD Compl. Rep. #2001-17-0032932). Taken together, these allegations establish probable cause to arrest Plaintiff and "there can be no claim for false arrest where the arresting officer had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff." Escalera v. Lunn, 361 F.3d 737, 743 (2d Cir. 2004).

  Accordingly, this claim must be dismissed.

  B. Qualified Immunity*fn2

  Assuming arguendo that Plaintiff was falsely arrested, the individual defendants are still entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity shields a government official acting in an official capacity from suit for damages under Section § 1983 provided that the official did not violate "clearly established rights of which an objectively reasonable official would have known." Kinzer v. Jackson, 316 F.3d 139, 143 (2d Cir. 2003). "A qualified immunity defense is established if (a) the defendant's action did not violate clearly established law, or (b) it was objectively reasonable for the defendant to believe that his action did not violate such law." Kent v. Katz, 312 F.3d 568, 573 (2d Cir. 2002). The focus of a qualified immunity analysis is on "objective circumstances rather than an officer's subjective motivation." Bradway v. Gonzales, 26 F.3d 313, 319 (2d Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). "The Supreme Court has stated that the immunity accorded officials by this doctrine protects all ...


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