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George Adam v. the Metropolitan Transporation Authority

March 15, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John G. Koeltl, District Judge


The plaintiff, George Adam, brought this action against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority ("MTA") and the MTA police department (collectively, the "Municipal Defendants"), as well as MTA police officers Arnold E. Pfeiffer and Raymond T. Reichel, MTA detectives Henershot and Rucano, Sgt. Giel, Lt. Devlin, and John and Jane Does 1-2 (collectively, the "Individual Defendants"). The plaintiff alleges claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New York state law. The defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

I The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. "The Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., LP, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994). "[T]he trial court's task at the summary judgment motion stage of the litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are any genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding; it does not extend to issue-resolution." Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1224. The moving party bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter that "it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The substantive law governing the case will identify those facts which are material and "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Behringer v. Lavelle Sch. for Blind, No. 08 Civ. 4899, 2010 WL 5158644, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 17, 2010).

In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)); see also Gallo, 22 F.3d at 1223. Summary judgment is improper if there is any evidence in the record from any source from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43 F.3d 29, 37 (2d Cir. 1994). If the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party must produce evidence in the record and "may not rely simply on conclusory statements or on contentions that the affidavits supporting the motion are not credible . . . ." Ying Jing Gan v. City of New York, 996 F.2d 522, 532 (2d Cir. 1993); see also Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114-15 (2d Cir. 1998) (collecting cases); Behringer, 2010 WL 5158644, at *1.

II The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. The plaintiff was a machinist for the Long Island Rail Road ("LIRR") assigned to the Oyster Bay train yard. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.) At about 6:50 a.m. on June 19, 2006, the plaintiff, after working the night shift, was seated in the train yard break room with the lights off using his laptop computer. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 3, 6; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 3, 6.) A co-worker, Tom Atanasio, entered the break room and turned on the lights. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 7, 9; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 7, 9.) The plaintiff stood up, told Atanasio he was going to turn the lights off again, and then turned off the lights and sat back down. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10.) Atanasio turned on the lights again and began yelling at the plaintiff. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 11; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 11.) When the plaintiff tried to get up from his seat, Atanasio pushed him down. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 14; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 14.) Then, Atanasio walked to the other side of the room and started to cut some strawberries with a knife. (Defs.'56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 18, 19; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 18, 19.)

The foreman, Ernie Kozee, overheard the commotion and entered the break room. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 22; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 22.) In Kozee's presence, Atanasio said, "Let's just drop it," to which the plaintiff replied, "No. You got a problem . . . ." The plaintiff then said, "You know what? I'm getting out of here. I don't need this." (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 23, 24; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 22-24.) Kozee asked Atanasio and the plaintiff if there was a problem; neither responded and all three men left the room. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 25-26; Pl.'s56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 25-26.)

The plaintiff reported this incident to his union representative, to Kozee, and to the supervisor of the Oyster Bay yard. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 27, 28; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 27, 28.) Later that morning, MTA officers Pfeiffer and Reichel arrived at the train yard to question the parties who were involved in the incident. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 31, 32; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 31, 32.) Atanasio told the officers that the plaintiff stabbed him with a knife. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 35; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 35.) The officers observed a bleeding cut on Atanasio's arm, which was about two inches long but did not look serious. (Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Opp'n to Defs'. Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Mem.") Ex. B ("Pfeiffer Dep.") at 65-68.)*fn1

An ambulance was called for Atanasio, after which the bleeding was stopped with a band-aid. (Pfeiffer Dep. at 79-80; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 67; Pl.'s Mem. Ex. J.) The officers informed the plaintiff that Atanasio had accused him of stabbing him with a knife and wanted to press charges; they then arrested the plaintiff. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 35, 37, 38; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 35, 37, 38.)

The plaintiff was arraigned the following morning on a felony complaint. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 43; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 43.) He was released from custody the same day, after the court issued an order of protection that prohibited the plaintiff from having any contact with Atanasio. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 46, 47; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 46, 47; Jemal Decl. Ex. E ("Adam Dep." at 300-01.)

On September 6, 2006, the plaintiff, who was at the courthouse for a matter related to his first arrest, was rearrested, this time for violating the order of protection. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 48; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 48.) The arresting MTA detectives told the plaintiff that Atanasio alleged that the plaintiff had called the train yard on August 30, 2006 and spoke with him, thereby violating the order of protection. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 49; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 49; Adam Dep. at 301-03.) The plaintiff, although admitting that he had called the train yard, denied speaking with Atanasio. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 50-53; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 50-53; Adam Dep. at 301-03.) The plaintiff was released from custody on or before September 18, 2006. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 55; Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 55.)

The plaintiff alleged in his complaint that he accepted an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal ("ACD"), pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law ("CPL") § 170.55, for all criminal charges. (Compl. ¶ 37; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 54.) On this motion for summary judgment, however, the plaintiff asserts that his criminal contempt charge was dismissed due to a legal impediment on March 23, 2007, pursuant to a joint application under CPL § 170.30(1)(f). (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 54; Pl.'s Mem. Ex. G ("Sentence Minutes").) The plaintiff also alleges that the charges stemming from the first arrest were dismissed pursuant to the ACD on March 16, 2007. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 54.)

The plaintiff filed a notice of claim on May 2, 2007, and filed this law suit on October 12, 2007. (Jemal Decl., Ex. A.).

III A. As an initial matter, the defendants move to dismiss the plaintiff's claims under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments as vague and conclusory. In his complaint, the plaintiff referred to alleged violations of the First and Eighth Amendments and the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. (Compl. ¶ 40.) However, the plaintiff never made any of those provisions the basis for his federal causes of action, which are specifically asserted in Counts 1, 2, and 3 as false imprisonment, false arrest, and malicious prosecution, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In response to the motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff did not attempt to respond to the argument that any such claims are unsubstantiated. Any such claims are therefore abandoned. See Bowen v. Cnty. of Westchester, 706 F. Supp. 2d. 475, 492 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (collecting cases). Moreover, there is no evidence in support of such claims and the plaintiff made it clear at argument that he was not pursuing them. Therefore, those claims must be dismissed.

B.The defendants move to dismiss the plaintiff's claim for municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 against the MTA and the MTA police ...

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