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Diaz v. City of New York

December 29, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Azrack, United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiffs Wanda Diaz, Moises Santana, Gilberto Diaz, Tanairi Rios, and Moises Santana, Jr. bring this action against the City of New York, police officer Angelo Burgos, and "Unidentified New York City Police Officers" alleging violations of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") and New York law. More specifically, plaintiffs allege that defendants violated their Fourth Amendment rights by conducting an illegal search and seizure, using unreasonable force, and unlawfully destroying plaintiffs' property. Plaintiffs further allege that defendants have interfered with their constitutional right to family integrity under the Ninth Amendment. Plaintiffs claim that a captain supervising the officers conducting the search should be liable for failing to supervise the officers, and that the City of New York is liable for a policy and custom that led to the violations attributed to the officers. Plaintiffs further claim that defendants failed to intervene to prevent these alleged constitutional violations. And finally, plaintiffs allege that defendants committed assault and battery, false arrest, and the negligent hiring, supervising and training of officers under New York law.

By motion dated July 15, 2005, defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The parties consented to have a United States Magistrate Judge preside over this case for all purposes, including entry of judgment, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the plaintiffs, I grant summary judgment as to plaintiffs': (1) Fourth Amendment claims of unlawful search and seizure and unlawful detention; (2) Ninth Amendment claims of interference with family integrity; (3) Supervisory Liability claim; (4) Monell claim against defendant City of New York; and (5) New York State false arrest and negligent hiring, supervision and training claims. I deny summary judgment on plaintiffs': (1) Fourth Amendment claims of excessive force, destruction of property and failure to intervene; and (2) New York State assault and battery claims. In addition, I find that summary judgment should not be granted based on the individual officers' claim of qualified immunity to these surviving claims.


The following facts are taken from the parties' Local Civil Rule 56.1 Statements and the Declaration of Wanda Diaz, and are undisputed unless otherwise noted. On February 16, 2006, New York City Police Officer Angelo Burgos obtained a search warrant for 879 Bergen Street, Apartment 12A, in Brooklyn, New York based on information provided by a confidential informant ("CI"). (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.) According to Burgos' affidavit, the CI had observed Moises Santana selling drugs out of the apartment, and had observed a large quantity of heroin currently in the apartment. (Id. ¶ 2.) Based on conversations with the CI, Burgos believed that heroin trafficking was taking place at 879 Bergen Street, Apartment 12A. (Id. ¶ 3.) A State Supreme Court Justice granted a "no knock" warrant for a search of 879 Bergen Street based on Officer Burgos' affidavit and the testimony of the CI. (Id. ¶ 7; Id. Ex. 3) The "no knock" provision was approved because the evidence sought in the warrant, heroin, could be disposed of quickly. (Id. ¶ 8.)

On February 23, 1999 at approximately 7:30 pm Officer Burgos, along with other police officers and an Emergency Service Unit ("ESU"), arrived at 879 Bergen Street to execute the warrant. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 9.) Officer Burgos pointed ESU to the door of Apartment 12A and waited in the stairwell while ESU executed the entry. (Id. ¶ 10.) Once ESU secured the apartment, they gave the officers an "all clear" signal and the officers, including Burgos, entered the apartment. (Id. ¶ 12.)

Wanda Diaz was at home with the father of her children, Moises Santana, Sr., and her children Tanairi Rios and Moises Santana, Jr., when her door was forced open with a loud crashing noise as police officers entered the apartment. (Declaration of Wanda Diaz "Diaz Declaration" ¶¶ 3-4.) Moises Santana, Sr. and Wanda Diaz were handcuffed. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 13.) Diaz described that a police officer "pushed me to the floor with his knee in my back" when she was handcuffed. (Diaz Declaration ¶ 5.) The officers "were yelling and screaming at me to get down on the floor [sic] mixed with obscenities" and "stuck a shot gun in my face and told me to 'Stay still!'" (Diaz Declaration ¶ 6.) Diaz also contends that the officers repeatedly struck her on her legs with the end of the shot gun. (Diaz Declaration ¶ 6.) The officers then "put the shot gun to my head and yelled 'Tell me where the fucking drugs are,' to which she responded 'I don't know what you are talking about.'" (Diaz Declaration ¶ 7.) Diaz states that she was bleeding from her right knee as a result of being pushed onto the floor. (Id. ¶ 7.)

Diaz saw Santana, Sr. in the kitchen with red beams of light on his forehead, and believed them to be targeting lights for firearms; "I thought we were all going to be shot and die." (Id. ¶ 9.) The children remained in their bedroom during the search and only came out briefly so that the officers could search their bedroom. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 15.) The defendants contend that a female officer was present with the children during the search, but Diaz disputes that claim. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 14; Diaz Declaration ¶ 11.) Diaz asked if she could see her children, explaining that one of her sons suffered from a debilitating asthma condition, but the officers refused. (Diaz Declaration ¶¶ 5, 9.) Diaz then asked if her handcuffs could be loosened because she was beginning to lose feeling in one of her arms, but the officers refused. (Id. ¶ 12.) She claims that Officer Burgos took her into the bathroom and "continuously slammed the back of [her] head into the wall," while screaming at her. (Id. ¶ 13.) She also states that he threatened to take away her children, and call the Welfare Department. (Id.)

The officers searched the apartment. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 16.) Diaz and Moises, Sr. informed the officers that there was $4,700.00 in cash in the apartment, and when the officers could not find it they grabbed Moises, Sr. and screamed for him to show them where the money was being held. (Diaz Declaration ¶ 15.) Moises, Sr. then showed the officers where the cash was hidden. (Id.) When Burgos asked Santana to whom the money belonged, Santana stated that it belonged to him. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17.) After further inquiry, Burgos learned that Santana was on public assistance. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18.) Lieutenant Mihnovich then instructed Burgos to take the money for forfeiture proceedings because Santana could not account for it. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18.)

Diaz alleges that she and Moises, Sr. were held on the couch for two hours, and then held standing in their bedroom for two more hours. (Diaz Declaration ¶ 16.) She also contends that the officers "made a mess" and destroyed personal property and furniture, including her platform bed. (Id. ¶ 19.) A police captain arrived approximately five hours after the search began, and Diaz claims that "the physical and verbal abuse stopped" once he arrived. (Id. ¶ 20.) Diaz heard the captain say "This was a false alarm." (Id.) Diaz claims that the children were crying, scared and upset, and Moises, Jr. said he was having trouble breathing so Diaz gave him an oxygen treatment. (Diaz Declaration ¶ 21.)

Burgos took photographs of the apartment, and told Santana and Diaz to come to the precinct to receive copies of the receipt for the money taken from the apartment. (Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 20-21; See Defs.' Memo. in Supp. of Summ. J. Ex. 8) Diaz and the children went to Interfaith Hospital, and Diaz claims that she suffered leg pain from being struck with the shot gun, her right knee was swollen, she had limited range of motion, and she was unable to sleep. (Diaz Declaration ¶ 22.) Diaz claims that she "continues to seek psychiatric treatment," she is "scared of everyone and everything," and she "dropped out of school and [is] scared to go outside." (Diaz Declaration ¶ 23.)


1. Summary Judgment Standard

The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment should be granted only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 (1986). "[T]he burden is upon the moving party to demonstrate that no genuine issue respecting any material fact exists," Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., L.P., 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994), but "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). "An issue of fact is 'material' for these purposes if it 'might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law,'" while "[a]n issue of fact is 'genuine' if 'the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.'" Konikoff v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 234 F.3d 92, 97 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

In determining whether any material facts are in dispute, the court "must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor."

Am. Cas. Co. of Reading, Pa. v. Nordic Leasing, Inc., 42 F.3d 725, 728 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Consarc Corp. v. Marine Midland Bank, N.A., 996 F.2d 568, 572 (2d Cir.1993)); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. To defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must "'set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). The non-moving party, however, "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. at 586 (citations omitted). Mere conclusory allegations, speculation or conjecture will not avail a party resisting summary judgment. See Kerzer v. Kingly Mfg., 156 F.3d 396, 400 (2d Cir. 1998); Kulak v. City of New York, 88 F.3d 63, 71 (2d Cir. 1996). The non-moving party must come forth with "significant probative evidence" demonstrating that a factual dispute does in fact exist. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-250 (citations omitted).

2. Section 1983

Plaintiffs seek to recover from defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish liability under Section 1983, plaintiffs must show that

(1) the defendants acted under color of state law and

(2) as a result of the defendants' actions, the plaintiffs suffered a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Annis v. County of Westchester, 136 F.3d 239, 245 (2d Cir. 1998); Eagelson v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865, 872 (2d Cir. 1994); Lehman v. Kornblau, 134 F. Supp. 2d 281, 287 (E.D.N.Y. 2001). Section 1983 creates no substantive rights, but "provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere." Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 816 (1985) (plurality opinion).

Here, the fact that the officers acted "under color of state law" is not disputed, because the actions giving rise to the plaintiffs' claims were committed by police officers in the course of their duties. See Davis v. City of New York, 373 F. Supp. 2d 322, 329 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (defendants acting in their capacity as police officers were "clearly acting 'under color of state law.'") Therefore, the discussion will focus on the second element - whether as a result of the defendants' actions, the plaintiffs suffered a deprivation of their Constitutional rights.

A. Fourth Amendment Claims

Plaintiffs make several claims that relate to the entry and search of their apartment. Specifically, the plaintiffs claim that the defendants violated their Fourth Amendment rights by an unlawful search and seizure, the unnecessary destruction of property and the unlawful use of force. Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment as to these claims.

I) Illegal Search and Seizure

Plaintiffs base their illegal search and seizure claim on their allegations that the officers "unreasonably and unnecessarily" searched and seized the plaintiffs' property, that the plaintiffs "remained in handcuffs for over five hours while the officers searched a small two-bedroom apartment," and that they were "verbally, mentally and physically abused by the ...

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