Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mkubwa Matthews and Zambena Allan v. the City of New York; Police Officer Matthew T. Granahan

September 5, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matsumoto, United States District Judge:


On October 29, 2010, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") and New York law, Mkubwa Matthews and Zambena Allan ("plaintiffs") filed this action against the City of New York ("the City") and individual defendants Sergeant Louis Marino, Police Officers Matthew Granahan, Kenneth Miller, and Vitali, and two unidentified members of the New York City Police Department ("NYPD"), John Doe and Richard Roe (the "Individual Defendants," together with the City, the "defendants"). Plaintiffs assert constitutional claims pursuant to Section 1983 against the Individual Defendants for unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, excessive force, and failure to intervene, a Monell claim against the City for the same constitutional violations, and analogous claims under New York law. Presently before the court is defendants' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings. Having reviewed the parties' submissions and the relevant case law, for the reasons discussed below, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.


The following facts are drawn from plaintiffs' complaint (see ECF No. 1, Complaint ("Compl.")) and are accepted as true for the purposes of this motion, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving plaintiffs. LaFaro v. New York Cardiothoracic Group, PLLC, 570 F.3d 471, 475-76 (2d Cir. 2009).

I.Statement of Facts

A.The Assault of Plaintiff Allan

On December 20, 2007, Matthews and his younger brother Allan attended a birthday party at Secrets Restaurant Bar & Lounge ("Secrets") in Kings County, New York. (Compl. ¶ 29.) Before entering Secrets at approximately 1:00 AM, both plaintiffs were frisked for weapons. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) A few hours later, approximately fifteen unknown male patrons at Secrets robbed and attacked Allan, attempting to steal a gold chain worn around his neck. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.) The assailants brutally assaulted Allan, repeatedly kicking, stomping, and punching him. (Id. ¶¶ 31, 33.) As a result of being badly beaten, Allan lost consciousness and defecated on himself, his eyes were swollen almost shut, his head was injured, and his nose and lips were bleeding. (Id. ¶¶ 34-35.) Additionally, Allan had cuts on his chest and his shirt was ripped and had kick marks on it. (Id. ¶ 35.)

During the assault, Matthews did not know that Allan was being attacked because the beating occurred in a different area of Secrets from where the birthday party was held. (Id.

¶ 38.) After learning of the assault, Matthews came to Allan's assistance and asked whether he was okay. (Id. ¶ 40.) Appearing dazed, Allan was unable to speak and was slipping in and out of consciousness. (Id. ¶ 41.)

Three friends from the birthday party offered to drive plaintiffs a short distance to Kings County Hospital (the "Hospital") in their vehicle, which the friends then drove to the entrance of Secrets to pick up the plaintiffs. (Id. ¶¶ 42-43.) Matthews and one of the friends helped Allan to the vehicle because Allan had trouble walking without assistance due to his injuries. (Id. ¶ 43.)

In the interim, the Individual Defendants had arrived at Secrets in response to 911 calls reporting that a group of individuals had assaulted a Secrets patron and, "upon information and belief," that those individuals then fired gunshots into the air outside of the establishment. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46.) Upon arrival, the Individual Defendants observed that Allan was a badly injured assault and robbery victim and that he had defecated on himself. (Id. ¶ 48.) The Individual Defendants also observed Matthews assisting his injured brother into their friends' vehicle. (Id. ¶ 49.) The Individual Defendants did not see a bulge that could have been a weapon in the waistband of Matthews' pants because his pants fit tightly and could not have concealed a weapon in the waistband. (Id. ¶ 51.) Moreover, the Individual Defendants did not hear plaintiffs say anything indicating that they were carrying a weapon. (Id. ¶ 52.)

B.The Traffic Stop of Plaintiffs

With plaintiffs in the vehicle, plaintiffs' friends drove away from Secrets towards the Hospital, but the Individual Defendants stopped the vehicle en route to the Hospital. (Id. ¶¶ 53-56.) When one of the Individual Defendants approached the vehicle and demanded the driver's license and registration, the driver requested an explanation for the traffic stop. (Id. ¶¶ 57-58.) The officer refused to explain the purpose of the traffic stop, and again requested the driver's license and registration. (Id. ¶ 59.) The driver then complied with the officer's repeated request to provide her license and registration. (Id. ¶¶ 59-60.) Thereafter, without explanation, the Individual Defendants ordered all of the vehicle occupants, including plaintiffs, to exit the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 61.) After the occupants had exited the vehicle, the Individual Defendants asked Matthews their destination, and Matthews explained that they were taking Allan to the Hospital for medical treatment after his assault. (Id. ¶¶ 62-64.)

Although the Individual Defendants observed Allan's injuries and knew he required medical assistance, they further detained plaintiffs and searched the vehicle without the occupants' consent. (Id. ¶¶ 65-66.) The search revealed a gun inside the pocket of a jacket located in the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 67.) The Individual Defendants knew that the jacket and gun belonged to one of plaintiffs' friends, and not to plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 68.) Nevertheless, the Individual Defendants arrested all five of the vehicle occupants and transported them to the 77th Precinct. (Id. ¶¶ 69-70.) In effecting the arrests, the Individual Defendants "brutally handcuffed" plaintiffs, causing pain and numbness to plaintiffs' wrists. (Id. ¶¶ 91, 97.) Plaintiffs asked the Individual Defendants to loosen the handcuffs, but they refused. (Id. ¶ 92.)

C.The Coerced Confession

At the 77th Precinct, the Individual Defendants denied Matthews' requests to release Allan so that he could go to the Hospital and obtain medical attention. (Id. ¶¶ 75-76.) Although Matthews informed the Individual Defendants that the gun was not his and that he did not know who possessed it, the Individual Defendants attempted to coerce Matthews into signing a written confession by withholding medical treatment from his brother Allan. (Id. ¶¶ 74-75.) The Individual Defendants told all five arrestees that they would not be released and Allan would not receive medical attention until one of them signed a written confession admitting to possession of the gun. (Id. ¶ 71.) Because the individual who possessed the gun failed to confess, Matthews capitulated to police coercion and signed a written confession so that Allan could receive medical assistance. (Id. ¶¶ 72-74, 77-78.)

At approximately 9:25 AM on December 20, 2007,*fn1

approximately thirty minutes after Matthews signed a false confession, Allan and the three other vehicle occupants were released from custody. (Id. ¶¶ 79-80.) After his release, Allan sought medical treatment at the Hospital and was diagnosed with several ailments, including a detached retina from head trauma. (Id. ¶ 81.)

D.The Prosecution of Plaintiff Matthews

Matthews was subsequently charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second and Third Degrees. (Id. ¶ 82.) The Individual Defendants provided false information to the Assistant District Attorney, the Grand Jury, and during suppression hearings to justify the stop and search of the vehicle occupied by plaintiffs and to explain Matthews' arrest. (Id. ¶¶ 84-85.) Each of the Individual Defendants had a different version of the events occurring after they arrived at Secrets on the night of the arrest. (Id. ¶ 47.) Based on the Individual Defendants' fabricated testimony, however, the Grand Jury indicted Matthews. (Id. ¶ 86.) Moreover, at a Mapp, Dunnaway, and Huntley hearing on May 18 and 20, 2010, defendants Granahan, Miller, and Marino testified falsely about the stop, seizure, and search of the vehicle occupied by plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 88.) On July 27, 2010, the charges against Matthews were dismissed, due to the inconsistent false statements made by the Individual Defendants. (Id. ¶ 89.) Before the charges were dismissed, Matthews had appeared in court on approximately nine occasions. (Id. ¶ 90.)

E.Other Relevant Allegations

From the time of the initial traffic stop on December 20, 2007 to the dismissal of Matthews' charges on July 27, 2010,*fn2

the Individual Defendants observed each other violate plaintiffs' rights under the United States Constitution and did nothing to prevent the constitutional violations. (Id. ¶ 93.)

Individual defendant Sergeant Marino has a history of police misconduct involving substantiated allegations of dishonesty. (Id. ¶ 99.) Specifically, the City and NYPD suspended Marino for thirty days and placed him on modified duty for three years because he failed to report and was untruthful about an incident where a friend and fellow police officer shot an individual. (Id. ¶ 101.) Although the City and its policy makers were aware of Marino's prior misconduct, he nevertheless was promoted to sergeant and was given the supervisory responsibility to ensure that police officers adhere to police procedure, state law, and constitutional law. (Id. ¶ 100.)

Finally, plaintiffs allege that the NYPD has a policy, practice, or custom (1) to search vehicles and apartments without probable cause, (2) to arrest all occupants of a vehicle or apartment regardless of whether the police have reason to believe weapons or contraband belong to a particular individual, and (3) to create false versions of events to justify their actions. (Id. ¶¶ 103-06.)

F.Plaintiffs' Claims

On October 29, 2010, plaintiffs filed the instant complaint asserting constitutional claims pursuant to Section 1983 against the Individual Defendants for unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, excessive force, and failure to intervene, and a Monell claim against the City for the same constitutional violations. Additionally, plaintiffs assert analogous claims under New York law against the Individual Defendants for false arrest and malicious prosecution, and against the City under the doctrine of respondeat superior. (Compl. ¶¶ 112, 114, 117, 123, 130.) Plaintiffs allege that, as a result of the Individual Defendants' conduct, plaintiffs sustained "physical pain and suffering, as well as psychological and emotional trauma," feared for their safety, and suffered humiliation. (Id. ¶¶ 98, 128.) Plaintiffs seek $2 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages, as well as costs and reasonable attorney's fees. (Id. at 22.)

G.The Instant Motion

Defendants' Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings seeks the dismissal of plaintiffs' claims on the grounds that (1) plaintiffs fail to state a claim for each cause of action, (2) defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, and (3) the state law claims should be dismissed because plaintiffs failed to file a Notice of Claim and Allan failed to file suit within the statute of limitations. (See ECF No. 35-5, Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings ("Defs. Mem.") at 1-2, 19.) Plaintiffs filed an opposition brief to defendants' motion (see ECF No. 33, Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings ("Pls. Opp'n")), and defendants filed a reply brief (see ECF No. 36, Defendants' Reply Memorandum of Law in Further Support of their Motion to Dismiss ("Defs. Reply")).*fn3


II.Standard for Judgment on the Pleadings

In deciding a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, courts apply the same standard as that applicable to a motion to dismiss, accepting the allegations in the complaint as true and drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. LaFaro, 570 F.3d at 475-76. To survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the "complaint must plead 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) (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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of the cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice"; "[w]hile legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 678-79.

III.The Section 1983 Claims

The plaintiffs bring claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged deprivation of their rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. In relevant part, Section 1983 provides that:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . ., subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . . 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989) (internal quotation marks omitted). To state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that "(1) the challenged conduct was attributable at least in part to a person who was acting under color of state law and (2) the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States." Snider v. Dylag, 188 F.3d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1999).

The defendants do not appear to dispute that, at all relevant times, the Individual Defendants were acting under color of state law as NYPD employees. (See Compl. ¶¶ 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22.) Rather, defendants contend that plaintiffs fail to state a plausible cause of action for each of their constitutional and state law claims, or, in the alternative, that the Individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. (Defs. Mem. at 1-2.) Each of plaintiffs' constitutional claims under Section 1983 will be discussed in turn.*fn4

A.Unreasonable Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures . . . ."

U.S. Const. amend. IV. "An investigatory stop is permissible under the Fourth Amendment if supported by reasonable suspicion, and a warrantless search of a car is valid if based on probable cause." Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 693 (1996) (citation omitted) (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) (investigatory stop); California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565 (1991) (warrantless automobile search)). Plaintiffs allege that the Individual Defendants initially subjected them to an unreasonable search and seizure from the time of the traffic stop until the discovery of the firearm. (Compl. ¶¶ 107-08;

Pls. Opp'n at 7-10.) Defendants argue that reasonable suspicion existed for the traffic stop, but do not appear to oppose plaintiffs' argument that the Individual Defendants lacked probable cause for the vehicle search. (Defs. Reply 1-3.)

1.Reasonable Suspicion for the Terry Stop

"Temporary detention of individuals during the stop of an automobile by the police, even if only for a brief period and for a limited purpose, constitutes a 'seizure' of 'persons' within the meaning" of the Fourth Amendment." Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809--10 (1996). Consistent with the Fourth Amendment, "the police can stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes." United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989) (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 30). Such a detention is known as a Terry stop and requires that "the officer [have] a reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.