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Cotton v. McCarthy

September 28, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny United States District Judge



Pro se Plaintiff Maurice Cotton brings this action against Defendants Erin McCarthy, Thomas Beyers, Christopher Sterlace, Boyd Lee Dunlop, and the City of Buffalo, alleging violation of his civil rights, and personal injury, personal property, and property rights claims. On September 30, 2008, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure based on the failure to state a claim. On October 2, 2008, Plaintiff moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted, and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied.


A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b)(6). When determining whether a complaint states a claim, the court must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007); Goldstein v. Pataki, 516 F.3d 50, 56 (2d Cir. 2008).

Although the complaint need not include detailed factual allegations, the plaintiff must show the "grounds of his entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). The complaint must plead enough facts to be plausible on its face, Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570), and the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.; Goldstein, 516 F.3d at 56.

Finally, because of the distinct disadvantage that pro se litigants face, federal courts routinely read their submissions liberally, and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994). As Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, this Court has reviewed his submissions and arguments accordingly. Importantly, however, "conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss." Smith v. Local 8191 B.T. Pension Plan, 291 F.3d 236, 240 (2d Cir. 2002) (citation and quotation omitted).

B. Section 1983

Title 42 United States Code Section 1983 creates a civil cause of action for an individual whose constitutionally protected rights have been violated by a state actor. In order to sufficiently allege a section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) the conduct complained of was committed by a person under color of state law, and (2) the conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Pitchell v. Callan, 13 F.3d 545, 547 (2d Cir. 1994).

C. Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment Claim for False Arrest or Imprisonment under Section 1983

In light of the requirement that courts liberally construe Plaintiff's pro se papers, this Court construes Plaintiff's claim for false arrest or imprisonment as alleging a Fourth Amendment violation of his constitutionally protected rights. See e.g., Feurtado v. City of New York, 337 F. Supp. 2d 593, 597 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (construing pro se plaintiff's claim for false imprisonment to allege a Fourth Amendment violation); Sepulveda v. City of New York, No. 01-CV-3054, 2003 WL 21673626, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Jul. 17, 2003) (construing pro se plaintiff's claims for false arrest and imprisonment as making a Fourth Amendment claim); see also Guadagni v. N.Y.C. Trans. Auth., No. 08-CV-3163, 2009 WL 1910953, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. June 30, 2009) (claims for false arrest and imprisonment "rest on an individual's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures, including arrest without probable cause . . .") (internal citations omitted).

To prove a claim under section 1983 for false arrest or imprisonment, Plaintiff must prove that: (1) the Officers intended to confine him; (2) he was conscious of the confinement; (3) he did not consent to the confinement; and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged. Feurtado, 337 F. Supp. 2d at 597 (citing cases). "Probable cause acts as a privilege and exists where 'the arresting 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.'" Id. (quoting Singer v. Fulton County Sheriff, 63 F. 3d 110, 118 (2d Cir. 1995)).

In his statement of claim, plaintiff alleges that on August 31, 2005, he used a ladder to enter the upstairs of a house he claimed to live in. Plaintiff also alleges that police officer Thomas Beyers climbed the ladder and ordered him to go downstairs and open the front door, and that after opening the door he told the police officers there was mail with his address and employee uniforms with his name on them inside. Additionally, plaintiff states that the police officers searched but did not find ...

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