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Karen L. Liberta and Quintino D. Liberta v. City of Rome; Rome Police Department

February 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David N. Hurd United States District Judge



Plaintiffs Karen Liberta ("Karen" or "plaintiff") and Quintino Liberta ("Quintino") bring this action pursuant to § 1983 against defendants City of Rome, Rome Police Department ("Rome PD"), and Officer Michael Yoxall ("Yoxall"). Plaintiffs allege the following causes of action: (1) false arrest; (2) denial of medical treatment; (3) malicious prosecution; and (4) loss of consortium.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all causes of action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiffs oppose, and defendants have replied to this opposition. Oral argument was held on February 24, 2012, in Utica, New York. Decision was reserved.


The following pertinent facts are presented in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs for purposes of the motion for summary judgment. At approximately 3:30 p.m. on September 18, 2007, Karen was driving her car on Potter Road in Rome, New York, with her daughter, Diana Giglia ("Diana"), in the passenger seat. Plaintiff became unresponsive, and the car began to swerve. Her daughter reached for the steering wheel, guided the car to the side of the road, and put the car in park. Diana then exited the vehicle and, while she was walking around the rear of the car to the driver's side, plaintiff drove off. Diana's brother happened to be driving down the same road and picked Diana up. They proceeded down Potter Road and arrived at the intersection of Route 46 to discover plaintiff had rear-ended a stopped car.

The impact of the collision was minor, and both vehicles pulled off to the side of the road. The police were contacted. The first officer on scene, New York State Trooper Joseph Nitti ("Nitti"), observed that Karen could not stand unassisted and "had slurred and slow speech, droopy eyes, and limited motor skills." Feeney Affirmation, Ex. H, 1. Yoxall, a Rome PD officer, arrived on scene shortly thereafter. Nitti told Yoxall that plaintiff appeared impaired and had advised that she takes medication. Yoxall approached plaintiff, who remained seated in her car, and observed that her speech was very slow and mumbled, and her motor coordination was poor. Plaintiff then fell out of the vehicle and slowly climbed back into the car.

Plaintiff's husband Quintino then arrived on scene and noticed that Karen was drooling and unresponsive as she sat in her car. Quintino informed Yoxall that he believed his wife was having a seizure and needed immediate medical attention. Diana and Quintino also told Yoxall that plaintiff is prescribed medication for a head injury sustained in a prior car accident and does not drink or use illegal drugs. Yoxall advised that he believed their wife and mother was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Yoxall then performed several field sobriety tests, which plaintiff failed. Yoxall placed plaintiff under arrest and transported her to the Rome PD station, where she was tested for drugs and alcohol. A breath test yielded a 0.0% blood alcohol content. A urine sample tested positive for three drugs, which plaintiffs maintain were prescribed to Karen. Karen was charged with "DWI drugs" and "Following too closely." Feeney Decl., Ex. M ("Arrest Report").*fn1 She was released from custody at approximately 6:00 p.m. and returned home without seeking medical treatment. She met with her doctors within several days after the accident. Plaintiff has no recollection of the events from the time of the accident until she was seated in the Rome PD station.


Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on all causes of action because: (1) Yoxall had probable cause to arrest Karen; (2) plaintiffs did not include a denial of medical treatment claim in the complaint or, in the alternative, defendants were not deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's medical needs; (3) no municipal policy or custom caused a violation of plaintiff's civil rights; and (4) Quintino's loss of consortium claim cannot be brought under § 1983. Plaintiffs concede that the Rome PD must be dismissed as it is essentially the same municipal entity as the City of Rome. Plaintiffs also concede to the dismissal of the malicious prosecution claim.

A. Summary Judgment-Legal Standard

The entry of summary judgment is warranted when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2509--10 (1986). A fact is "material" for purposes of this inquiry if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S. Ct. at 2510; see also Jeffreys v. City of New York, 426 F.3d 549, 553 (2d Cir. 2005). A material fact is genuinely in dispute "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S. Ct. at 2510.

When summary judgment is sought, the moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact to be decided with respect to any essential element of the claim. Id. at 250 n.4, 106 S. Ct. at 2511 n.4. The failure to meet this burden warrants denial of the motion. Id. In the event this initial burden is met, the opposing party must show, through affidavits or otherwise, that there is a material issue of fact for trial. Id. at 250, 106 S. Ct. at 2511; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

When deciding a summary judgment motion, a court must resolve any ambiguities and draw all inferences from the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Jeffreys, 426 F.3d at 553. Summary judgment is inappropriate "where a review of the record reveals sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to find in the [non-movant]'s favor." Treglia v. Town of Manlius, 313 F.3d 713, 719 (2d Cir. 2002); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250, 106 S. ...

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