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MARYCLAIRE MASETTA v. THE TOWN OF IRONDEQUOIT

November 29, 2010

MARYCLAIRE MASETTA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE TOWN OF IRONDEQUOIT, THE TOWN OF IRONDEQUOIT POLICE DEPARTMENT, TOWN OF IRONDEQUOIT POLICE OFFICERS JAMES REED AND ALAN J. LAIRD, AND OTHER KNOWN AND UNKNOWN MEMBERS OF THE TOWN OF IRONDEQUOIT POLICE DEPARTMENT DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge Rochester, New York

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, MaryClaire Masetta ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments alleging that her constitutional rights were violated in connection with her arrest and the arrest of her husband, Steven Masetta*fn1 , on December 11, 2004 by the Irondequoit Police Department. Plaintiff also alleges various common law claims in connection with the arrests. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Officers James Reed and Alan Laird unlawfully arrested her and Steven Masetta and employed an unreasonable amount of force in effectuating her arrest.

Plaintiff now moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 56") on the following claims in the Complaint: (1) Excessive Use of Force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, (2) False Arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment and (3) common law battery*fn2 . See Declaration of R. Brian Goewey at ¶7. Defendants oppose this motion and move for summary judgment on the false arrest claim. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied and Defendants' motion for summary judgment for the dismissal of the false arrest claim is granted.

BACKGROUND

On December 11, 2004, Irondequoit Police Officers, Alan J. Laird and James Reed, responded to a report of a fight at the scene of a motor vehicle accident at the intersection of Durand Boulevard and Culver Road in the Town of Irondequoit. See Docket #49-3 at 18-19, #48-2 at 3. When they arrived on the scene, there was a large group of individuals present who appeared to be intoxicated. See Docket #49-4 at 22. Officer Reed described the scene as "chaotic" and said that he and other officers were unable to determine what had happened concerning the accident. Id. at 25. Raymond Walker, Chief of the Sea Breeze Volunteer Fire Department who was also dispatched to the scene, testified that he spoke to Officers Laird and Reed and told them that he attempted to stop a fight between Steven Masetta and the driver of another vehicle involved in the accident, but Steven Masetta grabbed and pushed him and said, "I'm going to kick your fucking ass." See Docket #49-3 at 20, 49-4 at 27, Plaintiff's Exhibit 4. Walker then asked Laird to arrest Mr. Masetta. Id. Officer Laird then approached Steven Masetta and placed him under arrest. See Docket # 49-3 at 22.

Initially, Mr. Masetta was compliant with the arrest, but as Officer Laird was attempting to restrain him he pulled away and a bystander, James Kendrot, also began to pull Mr. Masetta away from Officer Laird. Id. at 23; Docket #49-4 at 33. Officer Laird then turned Mr. Masetta away from Kendrot and attempted to stabilize and restrain him on the hood of a vehicle. Id. at 24, See Docket # 49-4 at 31-2. Mr. Masetta then pulled away from Officer Laird to stand upright. See Docket 49-3 at 28-9. While Laird was attempting to arrest Mr. Masetta, Officer Reed was assisting another responding officer with the arrest of James Kendrot. See Docket #49-4 at 40. At that point, Officer Laird testified that Plaintiff grabbed his left leg and started to pull him away from Mr. Masetta. Id. Officer Laird then asked Officer Reed to take control of Mr. Masetta and Officer Reed handcuffed Mr. Massetta. Id. at 29, Docket #49-4 at 40. Officer Laird then turned towards Plaintiff to attempt to place her into custody. Id. Officer Laird testified that Plaintiff was on the ground and rolling from her back to her stomach while he was attempting to handcuff her, but he did not know how they got on the ground and he did not believe that he pulled her to the ground. Id. at 40-41, Docket #49-3 at 42-43. Plaintiff claims that Officer Laird grabbed her by the hair, threw her on the pavement, stepped on her, and rolled her over to handcuff her. See Docket 48-5 ¶12. In a Subject Management Resistance Report, Officer Laird reported that he used joint manipulation to restrain Plaintiff. See Plaintiff's Exhibit 5.

Plaintiff was charged with two counts of resisting arrest, based on her resistance of Steven Masetta's and her arrest, one count of harassment in the second degree and one count of disorderly conduct. See Defendant's Exhibit E. Steven Masetta was charged with three counts of disorderly conduct, four counts of resisting arrest, two counts of harassment and one count of obstructing emergency medical services. Defendant's Exhibit D, Plaintiff's Exhibit 12. Both Plaintiff and Steven Masetta plead guilty to disorderly conduct*fn3 . See Defendant's Exhibit H and I.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment is appropriate pursuant to Rule 56 where "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). The court must view all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, but "only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 500 U.S. 372, 380-81 (2007). "When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Id. at 1776.

A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). However, the nonmoving party may not rely on "[c]onclusory allegations, conjecture, and speculation," Kerzer v. Kingly Mfg., 156 F.3d 396, 400 (2d Cir.1998), and must affirmatively "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). "When no rational jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight, there is no genuine issue of material fact and a grant of summary judgment is proper." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir.1994) (citing Dister v. Cont'l Group, Inc., 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir.1998)).

A. False Arrest

Plaintiff claims that Steven Masetta's arrest violated the Fourth Amendment because the crime for which he was arrested was not committed in the officers' presence and the arresting officers did not obtain an arrest warrant pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law ("CPL") §140.10(1). See Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law at 1 (hereinafter Plaintiff's Mem.). CPL § 140.10 states that an arrest for a violation is not authorised unless the violation was committed in the officer's presence or the officer obtains an arrest warrant. Plaintiff further argues that her arrest for resisting the arrest of herself and her husband violated the Fourth Amendment because, under New York Law, a person can only be arrested for resisting arrest if the underlying arrest was authorised. Plaintiff's Mem. at 1. While Steven Masetta was later charged with a misdemeanor (obstructing emergency medical services), Plaintiff claims that his arrest on December 11, 2004 was for harassment in the second degree, a violation, and the alleged harassment occurred prior to the officers' arrival on the scene. Plaintiff's Mem. at 3. Further, Plaintiff contends that Officers Laird and Reed did not have an independent reason to lawfully arrest her for resisting her own arrest. Defendants contend that Plaintiff's arrest was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment because there was probable cause to arrest both Steven Masetta and Plaintiff, and therefore, her claims for false arrest must be dismissed. This Court agrees.

"A §1983 claim for false arrest, resting on the Fourth Amendment right of an individual to be free from unreasonable seizures, including arrest without probable cause, is substantially the same as a claim for false arrest under New York law." Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2nd Cir. 1996) (citations omitted); Mandina v. City of Yonkers, 1998 WL 637471, *3 (S.D.N.Y., Sept. 16, 1998). Under New York Law, a claim of false arrest requires that a plaintiff show that the defendant intended to confine her, she was conscious of and did not consent to the confinement, and that the confinement was not otherwise privileged. See Bernard v. U.S., 25 F.3d 98, 102 (2d Cir. 1994). Confinement is privileged if the arresting officer has probable cause to arrest. ...


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