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Amanda Broadhurst, An Infant Over the Age of Fourteen By Her Mother v. the County of Rockland

October 31, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Seibel, J.


Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 26.)*fn1 For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.


The following facts are undisputed except where noted. Plaintiff Amanda Broadhurst brings this civil rights action against defendants Deputy Sheriff Garrett Clapp ("Officer Clapp"), Sheriff of Rockland County James F. Kralik ("Sheriff Kralik"), and the County of Rockland ("County") (collectively, "Defendants") based on an incident on October 12, 2006 during which Officer Clapp sprayed Plaintiff in the face with pepper spray (the "Incident"). Against Officer Clapp individually, Plaintiff brings federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her constitutional rights to be free from false arrest and excessive force, and state law claims for assault, battery, and false arrest and imprisonment.*fn2 Against the County, Plaintiff alleges the same state law causes of action on a theory of respondeat superior. Plaintiff alleges against Sheriff Kralik and the County (the "Municipal Defendants") the same Section 1983 claims alleged against Officer Clapp. Finally, against the Municipal Defendants, Plaintiff alleges negligent hiring and retention of Officer Clapp. (Am. Compl. 6--10.)*fn3

A.Officer Clapp's Employment and Training History

Officer Clapp was hired by the County on August 10, 1998. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 72.)*fn4 He successfully completed his training as a new recruit and additional in-service trainings in the use of force, including training on the use of pepper spray, (id. ¶¶ 73--78; Tarley Aff. Ex. C),*fn5 the policy and guidelines on the use of which are set forth in the County's comprehensive General Order, dated January 1, 2005, (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 79). During his employment with the County, he had been investigated for two incidents by the Sheriff's Department. (Id. ¶ 80.) One incident involved Officer Clapp's April 22, 2005 off-duty intervention in an altercation in a bar in New City, New York, where he had been drinking. (Id. ¶ 81; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 82; Dranoff Decl. Ex. H, at 4 ("Police Division Internal Investigation").)*fn6 Three men threatened another bar patron. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 81; Police Division Internal Investigation 4.)*fn7

Officer Clapp identified himself as a police officer and, in attempting to stop the fight, drew his weapon and repeated an improper racial term that had been directed at him. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 81; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 81; Police Division Internal Investigation 4.) Defendants claim that Officer Clapp drew his gun because the men threatened to kill him, (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 81); Plaintiff claims that no other witnesses heard the men threaten to kill Officer Clapp, (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 82--82e). The Sheriff's Department found Officer Clapp to have been "in possible violation" of police firearms and use-of-force policies, placed him on administrative leave, and handled the incident administratively, including counseling and additional training. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 81; Police Division Internal Investigation 4.) The second incident, on September 12, 2005, involved a claim by Officer Clapp's ex-wife. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 80; Dranoff Decl. Ex. G.) Officer Clapp was placed on administrative leave while the allegations were investigated, but he was allowed to return to duty after the Sheriff's Department found the allegations to be baseless. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 80.)

B.The October 12, 2006 Incident

Prior to October 12, 2006, Theresa Broadhurst, Plaintiff's mother, and Plaintiff's school district filed a Person in Need of Supervision ("PINS") Petition due to Plaintiff's chronic truancy. (Id. ¶ 1; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 1.) On October 12, 2006, Plaintiff, 14 years old at the time, and her mother went to the Rockland County Probation Department for an initial meeting with Probation Officer Marianne Kelleher ("Officer Kelleher") concerning the PINS Petition. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 3, 5.) Officer Clapp was stationed in the lobby of the Probation Department when Plaintiff and her mother arrived. (Id. ¶¶ 5--6.)

Officer Kelleher greeted Plaintiff and her mother in the reception area of the building in a pleasant manner and escorted the pair to her office. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 10.) In her office, Officer Kelleher attempted to explain to Plaintiff and her mother the nature of the PINS Petition, but was interrupted by Plaintiff who, in a raised voice, stated a number of times that the Petition was "a joke." (Id. ¶¶ 11--15.) At this point, Plaintiff was rude, belligerent, and disrespectful towards her mother. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 12; Pl.'s. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff refused to comply with Officer Kelleher's requests to cooperate and listen. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 16--17.) Officer Kelleher consequently directed Plaintiff two or three times to leave the office and wait in the hallway, which Plaintiff ignored. (Id. ¶¶ 18--21.) Plaintiff also refused her mother's requests to cooperate with Officer Kelleher. (Id. ¶¶ 24--25.) Officer Kelleher remained respectful to Plaintiff, (id. ¶ 23), but warned Plaintiff that if she did not leave the office, the Sheriff would be called, (id. ¶¶ 20, 28). Because Plaintiff would not leave the office despite repeated requests to do so, Officer Kelleher asked Probation Officer Enrique Pabon ("Officer Pabon") to call for assistance from the Sheriff's Department. (Id. ¶¶ 30, 33.)

Officer Clapp, responding to the request for assistance, arrived within a few minutes at Officer Kelleher's office, where Plaintiff sat in a chair. (Id. ¶¶ 35--36.) Officer Kelleher told Officer Clapp what had occurred and explained that she wanted Plaintiff escorted to the waiting area. (Id. ¶ 37.) The parties disagree as to what happened next.

According to Defendants, Officer Clapp, "[i]n a calm tone, . . . repeatedly directed plaintiff to leave the office with him," and Plaintiff refused each time. (Id. ¶¶ 38--41.) Officer Clapp advised Plaintiff that if she did not voluntarily leave with him, she would be placed into custody. (Id. ¶ 42.) Plaintiff refused again and remained in her chair. (Id. ¶ 43.) Officer Clapp then took out his handcuffs and told Plaintiff she was being taken into custody. (Id. ¶ 44.) Plaintiff stood up and Officer Clapp directed her to turn around and put her hands behind her back. (Id. ¶ 45.) Plaintiff did not do so, but rather, without speaking, tried to push her way past him. (Id. ¶ 46.) Officer Clapp, believing that Plaintiff was trying to escape and that she might harm herself or others, attempted to physically restrain Plaintiff and succeeded in getting one handcuff on her. (Id. ¶ 47.) Officer Clapp's account is corroborated by Officer Kelleher, Officer Pabon, and two other probation officers. (Kelleher Aff. 2; Pabon Aff. 2; Del Pilar Aff. 2; Torres Aff. 2).*fn8

But according to Plaintiff, immediately after Officer Kelleher explained to Officer Clapp that Plaintiff refused to leave, Officer Clapp threatened Plaintiff by saying, "If you don't leave the office, I'm gonna handcuff you and pepper spray you." (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 38.) Plaintiff then stood and attempted to comply, but Officer Clapp stood in front of the doorway, intentionally blocking it and preventing Plaintiff from leaving. (Id. ¶¶ 43--44.) As Plaintiff attempted to leave the room, Officer Clapp grabbed her around the waist with his left arm and started to handcuff her. (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 45.) Plaintiff's mother corroborates this account. (Broadhurst Dep. 42:15--17, 44--45, 51.) The parties do not dispute that Plaintiff resisted being handcuffed and that she flailed her arms, striking Officer Clapp in the face. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 48.) Officer Clapp told Plaintiff to stop resisting, but she continued to flail her arms and scream. (Id. ¶ 49.) Though the New York State Training Manual does not require an officer to announce that he will use pepper spray, Officer Clapp repeatedly warned Plaintiff that if she did not calm down, he would have to subdue her with pepper spray. (Id. ¶¶ 50--51.) Out in the hallway with the struggling Plaintiff, Officer Clapp sprayed Plaintiff with pepper spray, which immediately caused Plaintiff to stop fighting and fall to the floor. (Id. ¶ 55; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 55.)

Officer Clapp claims to have sprayed Plaintiff in the face for approximately one second, (Clapp Dep. at 51--52),*fn9 but Plaintiff claims to have been sprayed on her face, mouth, neck, and chest, (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 55; Pl. Dep. at 75),*fn10 and according to her mother, the spray "just kept going and going," (Broadhurst Dep. at 53).*fn11 Officer Clapp then placed Plaintiff into custody, handcuffed her, and advised her that she was under arrest for assaulting an officer. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶ 56.) Plaintiff notes, however, that even though Officer Clapp told her that she was under arrest, (Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 56a), she was "never placed under ...

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