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John L. Mccart v. the Village of Mount Morris

August 4, 2011

JOHN L. MCCART, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF MOUNT MORRIS, THE MOUNT MORRIS POLICE DEPARTMENT, DAVID BEERS, AND OTHER KNOWN OR UNKNOWN MEMBERS OF THE MOUNT MORRIS POLICE DEPARTMENT DEFENDANTS.



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

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, John L. McCart ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983") and New York state law, alleging violations of his civil rights, malicious prosecution, false arrest, battery, tortious interference with business relations, negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention, and intentional infliction of emotional distress relating to his allegedly unlawful arrest on March 16, 2008. See Compl. (Docket #1).

Defendants, the Village of Mount Morris, the Mount Morris Police Department and David Beers (collectively "Defendants") move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 56"). Defendants specifically contend that several of Plaintiff's state law claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that Plaintiff failed to timely comply with state law notice of claim requirements. Defendants also contend that Plaintiff has failed to establish a claim for municipal liability, that qualified or state law immunity should bar the claims against Defendant Beers in his individual capacity, and that Plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case with respect to all of his claims.

For the reasons set forth herein, this Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant Beers' Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's claims for state law malicious prosecution and false arrest based on qualified immunity are denied without prejudice to renew.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the parties' submissions pursuant to Local Rule 56 and the record in this case and are not in dispute except where noted. On March 16, 2008, Plaintiff was present at his bar, McCart's Tavern ("McCart's"), in the Village of Mount Morris. Officer David Beers was patrolling the street on which McCart's Tavern is located and he noticed a group of people blocking the sidewalk in front of McCart's and another establishment. Officer Beers estimated that fifteen people were on the sidewalk, while Plaintiff states that there were roughly eight to ten people.

Officer Beers testified that he approached the group and told them to go back inside, in an attempt to clear the sidewalk for pedestrians. Some people complied with the his order, but others remained outside. Plaintiff then came out of the bar, after hearing from patrons that they were ordered to come inside. Officer Beers again directed Plaintiff and the remaining people to go inside, stating that if they did not comply with the order they would be arrested. Plaintiff testified that he "just looked" at Officer Beers and he thought he was kidding. Officer Beers stated in the accusatory instrument that Plaintiff then said "do what you have to do" in response to his order to disperse and that failing to disperse would result in arrest. Plaintiff could not recall his words, but testified that he said something like "what for" or "whatever."

Plaintiff was arrested for disorderly conduct in violation of N.Y. Penal Law § 240.20(6). Plaintiff testified that when he was arrested he was the only person left outside, as everyone else had apparently followed Officer Beers' order to go inside. Officer Beers indicated that he believed that two other people may have been outside with Plaintiff at the time he was arrested. Plaintiff was placed in handcuffs, taken to the police station, placed in a holding cell for approximately fifteen minutes, and released a few hours later. Plaintiff testified that he was handcuffed for approximately one half-hour, including the time that he was in the holding cell. Plaintiff was not injured as a result of the application of handcuffs and there is no evidence to suggest that Officer Beers applied more force than he typically would need to apply to secure handcuffs on a person. Plaintiff was released with an appearance ticket later that night.

On June 24, 2008, the criminal charge against Plaintiff was dismissed by the Village Court on the motion of the Plaintiff because, the Village Court wrote, "he raise[d] good points regarding [his] right to be there" in his motion papers. Defendants have submitted a handwritten note from the Court, which notes that the case was dismissed "in the interest of justice."

Plaintiff also states that a patron was later arrested on August 9, 2008. Plaintiff alleges that the arrest occurred under similar circumstances, however, other than the fact that the arrest occurred, the record does not contain evidence regarding the factual context of this arrest or whether it was also challenged as unconstitutional. The arrest of his patron forms the basis of several of Plaintiff's claims.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See 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." See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The nonmoving party, however, may not rely on "[c]onclusory allegations, conjecture, and speculation," Kerzer v. Kingly Mfg., 156 F.3d 396, 400 (2d Cir.1998), but must affirmatively "set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). To discharge this burden, "a plaintiff must come forward with evidence to allow a reasonable jury to find in his favor" on each of the elements of his prima facie case. See Lizardo v. Denny's, Inc., 270 F.3d 94, 101 (2d Cir.2001); see also D'Amico v. City of New York, 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir.1998) ("non-moving party may not rely on mere conclusory allegations nor speculation, but instead must offer some hard evidence showing that its version of...events is not wholly fanciful.")).

A. Notice of Claim and Statute of Limitations

Defendants argue that Plaintiff failed to timely file a notice of claim pursuant to New York General Municipal Law ("GML") § 50-e with respect to his state law claims for false arrest, battery, tortious interference with business relations, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.*fn1 They further contend that his claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. See Def. Mem. of Law at 6-7 (Docket #18).

Pursuant to GML § 50-e(1)(a), a notice of claim must be filed in any suit founded in tort against a municipality or its employees "within ninety days after the claim arises." The statute of limitations for such claims is one year and ninety days. See GML § 50-i(1)(c); see also Baez v. New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., 80 N.Y. 2d 571, 576 (N.Y. 1992)(applying the one year and ninety day limitations period to claims against municipal employees). Plaintiff contends that his claims did not accrue until June 24, 2008, the date that the Village Court dismissed the disorderly conduct charge. Based on this date, he contends that he timely filed a notice of claim on September 19, 2008 and this law suit on September 16, 2009.

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's state law claims for false arrest, battery, tortious interference with business relations, and intentional infliction of emotional distress accrued on March 16, 2008, the date of his arrest. With this accrual date, to be timely, Plaintiff must have filed his notice of claim by June 16, 2008 and this lawsuit by June 16, 2009. In their view, the only state law claim that is timely is the malicious prosecution claim, which accrued on June 24, 2008, when the charge was dismissed.

While Plaintiff's state claim for malicious prosecution accrued on the date that the underlying proceeding was dismissed, his false arrest claim accrued on the date he was released from confinement. See Nunez v. City of New York, 307 A.D.2d 218 (1st Dept. 2003). It is uncontested that Plaintiff was arrested on March 16, 2008 and released within a few hours. Accordingly, Plaintiff's state law cause of action for false arrest accrued on March 16, 2008 and is now time barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Similarly, Plaintiff's state law causes of action for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress accrued on March 16, 2008, as the facts in support of those claims also relate to the allegedly unlawful arrest. Therefore, his state law claims for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress are untimely. Because these claims accrued on March 16, 2008, Plaintiff's notice of claim, filed on September 16, 2008 was also untimely. Accordingly, his state law claims for false arrest, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress are hereby dismissed with prejudice.

But it appears that Plaintiff's claim for tortious interference with business relations accrued after March 16, 2008. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Beers arrested a patron of his bar on August 9, 2008 and that this arrest is the basis for his claim.

Declaration of Jeffrey Wicks at ΒΆ19; Pl. Mem. of Law at 6-7. Defendants have not responded to this argument. Plaintiff's notice of claim and this lawsuit would be timely if measured from August 9, 2008. However, as set forth below, because this Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to establish the requisite elements of a claim ...


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