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In the Matter of the Claims of Michael Dayton and Barbara Nieves v. the City of Middletown

March 31, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge


Michael Dayton ("Dayton") and Barbara Nieves ("Nieves"), individually, and Nieves, as guardian for her five children (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), have brought this action against the City of Middletown ("Middletown"), five officers of the City of Middletown Police Department named as John Doe "1" through "5" ("Middletown Officers"), Orange County, and the Department of Social Services Orange County ("DSS") (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging violations of their Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983"), as well as various New York state law claims. Orange County, DSS, and Middletown have moved to dismiss. The Middletown Officers have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, Orange County's and DSS's motion to dismiss is granted; Middletown's motion to dismiss is granted in part; and the Middletown Officers' motion for summary judgment is denied.

I. Background

The following allegations are assumed to be true only for the purposes of deciding the instant motions.*fn1

A. Factual Background

1. The November 19, 2008 Incident

On November 19, 2008, Nieves was driving a car in the City of Middletown, New York, with Dayton and their five children onboard. (Am. Compl. ¶ 17.) At approximately 9:30 p.m., Robert Pearson ("Pearson"), a convicted felon wielding a knife, allegedly jumped into the car, stabbed Felicity Dayton under her arm, held a knife to Nieves' throat, and threatened to kill everyone in the vehicle. (Id.)*fn2 Dayton "[s]omehow" was able to restrain Pearson, while "simultaneously" Nieves drove to the City of Middletown Police Station. (Id.) Once Plaintiffs arrived at the police station, Nieves allegedly requested help from nearby police officers and tried to explain to them the events that had just transpired. (Id.) Police officers then approached the rear of the vehicle and ordered Dayton to release Pearson. (Id.) Dayton refused, explaining that releasing Pearson might result in Pearson attacking the occupants of the vehicle. (Id.) However, according to Plaintiffs, the police did not heed Dayton's warning, opting instead to strike Dayton on the head, rendering him unconscious. (Id.) When the police hit Dayton, he released Pearson, who Plaintiffs claim then attacked Grace Dayton, cutting her head. (Id.)

The police then allegedly pulled Dayton from the vehicle, struck him twice on his back, grabbed him by his genitals, threw him to the ground, handcuffed him, and forced him to lay on the ground for approximately fifteen to twenty-five minutes. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiffs maintain that during this time, Nieves repeatedly tried to explain to the police that they were unnecessarily restraining Dayton and had "assaulted the wrong man." (Id. ¶ 19.) Nieves and the children witnessed the entire episode ("the November 19th incident"). (Id. ¶¶ 17, 19.)*fn3

2. The Family Court Proceedings

In the days that followed, the police purportedly entered into a conspiracy to cover-up their alleged "negligence" in the November 19th incident. (Id. ¶ 20.) Specifically, the Middletown police allegedly "aid[ed] the propagation and/or prosecution of false charges against" Nieves and Dayton by DSS, "whereby the infant children were removed from their lawful custody on 'trumped up' family court proceedings" that were "a ruse." (Id.) These charges resulted in the temporary placement of the five Dayton children in foster care on November 21, 2005, with the signed consent of Nieves. (Decl. of Laura Wong-Pan ("Wong-Pan Decl.") Ex. C.)*fn4 On November 25, 2008, DSS filed a Petition of Child Neglect (the "Petition") against Dayton and Nieves in Family Court of New York, County of Orange ("Family Court"). (Id. Ex. B.)*fn5 Subsequently, at a proceeding on December 15, 2008, the Family Court entered a Temporary Order of Protection ordering Dayton to stay away from the five children and their home. (Id. Ex. D.) At this proceeding, Dayton and Nieves, who were present and each represented by separate counsel, both stated under oath that they consented to the finding of neglect based on inadequate guardianship, and testified that nobody had threatened them or promised them anything in order to obtain their consent to the neglect finding. (Id. Ex. E, at 4-10.) Dayton also stated under oath that he understood the provisions of the Temporary Order of Protection, which prevented him from having any contact with the children except for visitation supervised by DSS. (Id. Ex. E, at 11.) However, according to Plaintiffs, DSS and/or Orange County "forced" Dayton to submit to this protective order preventing him from living with his children or visiting with them unsupervised, and "coerced" and "strong-armed" Nieves to consent to the finding of neglect in order to regain custody of her children. (Am. Compl. ¶ 21.) At the December 15, 2008 proceeding, a dispositional hearing was scheduled for March 3, 2009, and the Dayton children were returned to the care of Nieves. (Wong-Pan Decl. Ex. E, at 3, 18.) On January 27, 2009, the Family Court entered a Determination of Fact-Finding based on the December 15, 2008 proceeding, again stating that Dayton and Nieves had each appeared with counsel and "voluntarily, intelligently and knowingly consented to the entry of an order of fact-finding," and issuing the findings of neglect and orders of supervision and protection discussed at the December 15, 2008 proceeding. (Id. Ex. F.) At the March 3, 2009 proceeding, the Family Court judge extended the Order of Protection until March 3, 2010. (Id. Ex. G.) The Order of Protection indicates that Dayton and Nieves again were each represented by attorneys, and "consented to the issuance of this order of protection. (Id.)

According to Plaintiffs, DSS and/or Orange County "did the aforementioned acts" to keep Dayton under the threat of family and/or criminal charges, "with the hope that [Dayton] could not defend himself on the family/criminal case and either plead to a lesser charge and/or not sue" them and the Middletown Officers. (Am. Compl. ¶ 30.) Moreover, as a part of the alleged conspiracy, Defendants purportedly "did everything possible to prevent" Dayton from being "released from [the] false family court charges, despite possessing . . . evidence that he was innocent" (id. ¶ 29), and withheld information that would have exonerated Dayton in the Family Court proceedings, (id. ¶ 33).

Plaintiffs claim that the beating allegedly suffered by Dayton during the November 19th incident resulted in "permanent injures" to Dayton and exacerbated injuries he had previously sustained in a motor vehicle accident, rendering it impossible for him to work or do household chores. (Id. ¶ 22.) In addition, Plaintiffs assert that Dayton, Nieves, and their five children all have experienced emotional distress as a result of Defendants' actions. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 24, 33-34.)

B. Procedural Background

On January 30, 2009, Plaintiffs served a notice of claim (the "1/1/09 Notice of Claim") on Middletown and the Middletown Officers indicating that Dayton would be asserting federal and state law claims against them. (Decl. of Robert N. Isseks ("Isseks Decl.") Ex. A.) On May 30, 2009, Plaintiffs served an amended notice of claim ("the 5/30/09 Amended Notice of Claim") on Middletown, the Middletown Officers, Orange County, and DSS, adding Nieves and the five Dayton children as claimants, and indicating that Plaintiffs would also be suing Orange County and DSS. (Wong-Pan Decl. Ex. A.) Plaintiffs commenced the instant action by filing their Complaint on September 23, 2009. (Dkt. No. 1.) On March 2, 2010, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 8.)

On July 28, 2010, Orange County and DSS moved to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 14.) On July 30, 2010, Middletown and the Middletown Officers also moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), and in the alternative, moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Dkt. No. 18.)

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

1. Rule 12(b)(6) "On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a complaint, the court must accept a plaintiff's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in [the plaintiff's] favor." Gonzalez v. Caballero, 572 F. Supp. 2d 463, 466 (S.D.N.Y. 2008); see also Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) ("We review de novo a district court's dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), accepting all factual allegations ...

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