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David A. Stout v. Town of Tonawanda Police Department and Joseph Flanagan

March 31, 2011

DAVID A. STOUT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWN OF TONAWANDA POLICE DEPARTMENT AND JOSEPH FLANAGAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS CAPTAIN OF THE TOWN OF TONAWANDA POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff David Stout commenced this action in New York State Supreme Court on February 20, 2009. Stout, a retired police officer, alleges that Defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his disability and violated his constitutional right to privacy.

Presently before this Court are Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint (Docket No. 11) and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 4). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion is granted and Defendants' motion is denied.

As an initial matter, this Court will grant Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint. Leave to amend is freely granted when justice so requires. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15 (a)(2) ("[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.") Defendants argue that Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint is a futile re-pleading of insufficient facts and conclusions of law. Nonetheless, Defendants have addressed Plaintiff's proposed Amended Complaint in their Motion to Dismiss and are therefore not prejudiced by this Court considering the amended pleading at this time. Accordingly, for the sake of efficiency and expediency, this Court will grant leave to amend and resolve the Motion to Dismiss as against the Amended Complaint. Consistent with the Amended Complaint, the Clerk of Court will be directed to change the caption to reflect the municipal defendant as the Town of Tonawanda, not the Town of Tonawanda Police Department.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

The following facts are accepted as true for purposes of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

Stout was employed by the Town of Tonawanda Police Department ("Department") from 1988 until 2008. (Am. Compl., Docket No. 11, Exhibit A, ¶ 4).

In 2003, Stout was diagnosed with two mental health conditions. (Id. ¶ 6).

In 2007, Stout worked for Police Captain Joseph Flanagan. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9). Flanagan made public comments to Stout that Stout interpreted to be about his mental health. (Id. ¶ 11). These comments became more regular in August of 2007 and included "you're slipping downhill." (Id.) Flanagan regularly made these comments in the presence of other police department employees. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11).

On November 14, 2007, Stout met with Flanagan and three other officers in Flanagan's office. (Id. ¶¶ 13-16). Flanagan presented Stout with a Letter of Counsel ("Letter") that referred to a period of time spanning May through November 2007, and cited Stout for workplace incompetence for reasons including tardiness, mismanagement of time, allowing civilians behind the desk, and using an improper entrance. (Id. ¶ 14). Before that meeting, Stout had received no other disciplinary referrals. (Id. ¶ 11). In the midst of the meeting, Flanagan said, "maybe your psych doctor should tell you you shouldn't be wearing a badge anymore" in front of all the participants. (Id. ¶ 13). In the months that followed that meeting, Stout spent one and a half days in a hospital for elevated blood pressure, remained on sick leave, and eventually retired from the police department. (Id. ¶¶ 17-19).

B. Procedural History

On February 20, 2009, Stout filed suit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Erie, alleging a violation of privacy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and disability discrimination under New York State Human Rights Law ("NYHRL").

On March 23, 2009, Defendants removed the case to this Court. (Docket No. 1). Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss on April 13, 2009. (Docket No. 4). Stout responded on May 15, 2009, and at the same time filed his Motion to Amend the Complaint. Defendants responded on June 1, 2009, ...


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