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Ruston v. Town Board for the Town of Skaneateles

December 22, 2008

LAWRENCE RUSTON AND JANET RUSTON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE TOWN BOARD FOR THE TOWN OF SKANEATELES, PAUL "BILL" PAVLUS, THADDEUS ASTEMBORSKI, BARBARA SPAIN, DAVID G. LAXTON, THEODORE MURDICK, THE PLANNING BOARD FOR THE TOWN OF SKANEATELES, MARK TUCKER, JOSEPH SOUTHERN, KENNETH JONES, ALAN BRIGGS, LEWIS WELLINGTON, DESSA BERGEN, ROBERT LOTKOWICTZ, THE VILLAGE OF SKANEATELES, JOHN DOE AND JANE DOE 1-20, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs asserted three causes of action against Defendant Village of Skaneateles ("Village"): (1) conspiracy to violate civil rights, under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(3); (2) violation of substantive due process rights, under the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) violation of equal protection of law, under the Fourteenth Amendment.*fn2 Currently before the Court is Defendant Village's motion to dismiss these claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that the statute of limitations has run; that they fail to state a claim; and that there is a failure to show causation.*fn3

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Lawrence Ruston and Janice Ruston own twenty-seven acres of property in the Town of Skaneateles ("Town"), but outside Defendant Village. Starting first from 1990-1991 and again from 2000 until the filing of this suit, Plaintiffs have endeavored to subdivide and develop their property.

Plaintiffs' first cause of action for conspiracy alleges that Defendants have conspired to violate Plaintiffs' civil rights by, among other things, (1) having Plaintiffs' attorney become Defendant Village's attorney; (2) ignoring Plaintiffs' contractual rights and other rights to continued connection to Defendant Village's sewer system; (3) using litigation to delay Plaintiffs' development proposals; (4) selectively applying policy to Plaintiffs' proposals; (5) using Plaintiffs' sewer connection to take their property, i.e., having the Town Defendants require Plaintiffs to connect to Defendant Village's sewage system and having Defendant Village deny them access to the sewage system to the end of preventing Plaintiffs from subdividing and developing their property.

Plaintiffs' second cause of action for violation of constitutional rights is a substantive due process claim.*fn4 Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Village arbitrarily and irrationally deprived them of a property interest in sewage service from Defendant Village's sewage system. Finally, Plaintiffs' third cause of action for equal protection violations alleges that Defendant Village applied a "no new connections policy" with respect to its sewage system differently to similarly situated property owners in the Town.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court "must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and consider those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106, 111 (2d Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (citation omitted). The court "must limit itself to the facts stated in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits and documents incorporated by reference in the complaint." Hayden v. County of Nassau, 180 F.3d 42, 54 (2d Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). If the court looks at additional materials, it should convert the motion into a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d).*fn5

"[A] complaint must plead 'enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Patane, 508 F.3d at 111-12 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, --- U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed. 2d 929 (2007)). The Second Circuit interprets Twombly to require "a flexible 'plausibility standard,' which obliges a pleader to amplify a claim with some factual allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible" rather than a heightened fact-pleading requirement. Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 157-58 (2d Cir. 2007). A court should dismiss a complaint that consists of "'conclusory allegations unsupported by factual assertions . . . .'" Americorp Fin., Inc. v. St. Joseph's Hosp. Health Ctr., 180 F. Supp. 2d 387, 390 (N.D.N.Y. 2001) (quoting De Jesus v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 87 F.3d 65, 70 (2d Cir. 1996)).*fn6

B. Statute of Limitations as a Basis for Dismissal

Defendant Village asserts that the statute of limitations bars some of Plaintiff's claims. The statute of limitations for Plaintiffs' causes of action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 in New York is three years. See Paige v. Police Dep't of City of Schenectady, 264 F.3d 197, 199 n.2 (2d Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).*fn7 "'While state law supplies the statute of limitations for claims under § 1983, federal law determines when a federal claim accrues. The claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the harm.'" Connolly v. McCall, 254 F.3d 36, 41 (2d Cir. 2001) (quoting Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865, 871 (2d Cir.1994)).

Plaintiffs, who filed their complaint on August 1, 2006, have alleged that Defendant Village denied them sewage access in November of 2004,*fn8 well within the statute of limitations' time frame. Plaintiffs allege that this decisionviolated their substantive due process rights and their equal protection rights. Additionally, Plaintiffs allege that the conspiracy between the Town Defendants and Defendant Village resulted in the November 2004 denial as well as the other deprivations that the Town Defendants caused. Therefore, the Court finds that, based on the allegations in the complaint, the statute of limitations does not prevent Plaintiff from asserting any of its claims against Defendant Village.*fn9 Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant Village's motion to dismiss these causes of action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on this ground.

C. Failure to State a Claim as a Basis for Dismissal

1. Plaintiffs' § 1985(3) Conspiracy Claim

To state a claim for a violation of § 1985(3), "the plaintiff must allege and prove four elements: (1) a conspiracy; (2) for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws; and (3) an act in furtherance of the conspiracy; (4) whereby a person is either injured in his person or property or deprived of any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States." United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., Local 610, AFL-CIO v. Scott, 463 U.S. 825, 828-29 (1983). "[A] conspiracy is actionable under § 1985 only if it involves a discriminatory animus based on race or some other invidious classification." Posr v. Court Officer Shield No. 207, 180 F.3d 409, 419 (2d Cir. 1999) (citing United Bhd.of Carpenters, Local 610 ...


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