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Joseph Malachi Ladoucier v. the City of New York

June 7, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard J. Holwell, District Judge:


Thanksgiving is a "national holiday that is preeminently part of American history . . . [commemorating] the feast held by the Pilgrims and the American Indians to show thankfulness for the harvest." Doe v. Wilson Cnty. Sch. Sys., 524 F. Supp. 2d 964, 982 (M.D. Tenn. 2007). It is also "a day in which many people do not go to work to kickoff the holiday buying-spree season." The Formula, Inc. v. Mammoth 8050, LLC, No. 07-61708-CIV, 2008 WL 60428, at *1 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 3, 2008). But just two days prior to Thanksgiving 2009, plaintiff Joseph Malachi LaDoucier was not in such a festive mood. "On the morning of Tuesday, November 24, 2009, Mr. LaDoucier had a truly terrible morning commute. After inadvertently bumping into a postal worker, Defendant Cheryl Nichols, while exiting a crowded rush hour train, Mr. LaDoucier was verbally abused and stalked by [Nichols], then tackled, stuck and choked in front of his office by [Nichols's] colleague, Defendant Rafael Reveron. To put the proverbial cherry on top of a truly terrible morning," police were called to the scene and LaDoucier was arrested. (Pl.'s Opp'n at 1.) LaDoucier now brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging false arrest and related federal and state claims; and Defendants the City of New York (the "City"), Police Officer Christopher Williams, and Police Sergeant Jimmi Hernandez (collectively the "City Defendants") move to dismiss. Because police had probable cause to make the arrest based on the putative victim's corroborated account, this motion is GRANTED.


The following facts, drawn from LaDoucier's First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), are accepted as true for purposes of this motion.

On the morning of Tuesday, November 24, 2009, at 8:30 a.m., LaDoucier was riding a crowded uptown Lexington Avenue express train to work. (FAC ¶¶ 18, 22, 24.) As the train pulled into Grand Central Station, LaDoucier sought to exit and switch to the uptown Lexington Avenue local train. (Id. ¶¶ 31, 45, 58.) In exiting the crowded train, however, LaDoucier "unintentionally made contact with" Nichols, a United States Postal Service employee. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 32.) Nichols took offense and thereafter began a verbal barrage directed at LaDoucier, while also "bumping up against [LaDoucier] in an instigatory [sic] manner." (See generally id. ¶¶ 36-48.) The altercation continued as the two waited for the uptown local train, apparently ceased while both rode that train, and then continued again after the two exited the train at Fifty-First Street. (See generally id.

¶¶ 46, 57-69.)

Upon reaching the street, LaDoucier was able to separate himself from Nichols. (Id. ¶ 70.) He then made two stops while walking towards his office; first at a cafe to purchase coffee for himself and his co-workers and second at a street "donut cart." (Id. ¶¶ 71-72.) After these purchases, LaDoucier continued towards his office, now with hands full of coffee and donuts. (Id. ¶ 73.) Walking down the street, however, LaDoucier saw Nichols outside a post office conversing with Rafael Reveron, another postal worker "considerably larger than" LaDoucier. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 74, 83.) Reveron began following LaDoucier, pushed him, and made "offensive and threatening remarks" to him. (Id. ¶¶ 79-81.) Just as LaDoucier was reaching his office, Reveron tackled him, scattering the coffee and donuts across the street. (Id. ¶¶ 85-86.) Reveron then struck LaDoucier repeatedly and choked him while sitting on his chest. (Id. ¶¶ 87-88.) Thereafter, security guards from LaDoucier's office called the police and instructed Reveron to cease his assault. (Id. ¶¶ 92-93.)*fn1

Police officers, including Officer Williams and Sergeant Hernandez, arrived at the scene a short time later and questioned several people including LaDoucier, Nichols, Reveron, and a third postal worker, Jerry Pompey. (Id. ¶¶ 95, 98, 99, 105, 115, 118.) Nichols claimed that LaDoucier struck her, Reveron claimed that LaDoucier had struck him in the street, and Pompey claimed that LaDoucier screamed threats at Nichols. (Id. ¶¶ 95, 98, 105, 126.) LaDoucier denied all of the assertions. (Id. ¶¶ 95, 99-104, 125, 127-128.) LaDoucier alleges that police undertook no further investigation, despite "multiple security cameras [being] located at and around the site" of Reveron and LaDoucier's struggle. (Id. ¶¶ 122, 126, 127, 141-142.) Instead, police proceeded to arrest and handcuff LaDoucier, and charged him with two counts of third degree assault. (Id. ¶¶ 106-107, 113-114.) LaDoucier was released on his own recognizance, and twice again returned to court before those charges were dismissed. (Id. ¶¶ 145-148.)

LaDoucier filed this suit on July 2, 2010, and filed his amended complaint on December 6, 2010. He brings several claims invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including false arrest, failure to intervene, malicious abuse of process, and malicious prosecution, along with related state law claims. The City Defendants have now moved to dismiss.*fn2

Nichols has neither made any such motion, nor answered the complaint.


Standard of Review

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Starr v. Sony BMG Music Entertainment, 592 F.3d 314, 321 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). If the factual averments permit no reasonable inference stronger than the "mere possibility of misconduct," the complaint should be dismissed. Starr, 592 F.3d at 321 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). Thus, "[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). In applying this standard of facial plausibility, the Court takes all "factual allegations to ...

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