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Joshua Liner v. City of New York

October 25, 2012

JOSHUA LINER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John G. Koeltl, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The plaintiff, Joshua Liner, claims that he was subjected to unconstitutional strip searches while he was incarcerated. The plaintiff, proceeding pro se, alleges that he should have received a settlement payment as a member of the McBean class--a class of pretrial detainees arraigned on certain non-felony offenses who were strip searched and for whom a class action settlement was reached. See McBean v. City of New York, 228 F.R.D. 487 (S.D.N.Y. 2005). The plaintiff also alleges that the McBean strip searches were disproportionately performed on black and Hispanic inmates, and that the McBean settlement funds were disproportionately paid out to black and Hispanic inmates who had outstanding debts to the City of New York.

The plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution were violated. The plaintiff names the City of New York ("the City") and Mayor Michael Bloomberg ("the Mayor") as defendants in this action.*fn1

The City and the Mayor now move to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn2

I.

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the plaintiff's favor. McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007). The Court's function on a motion to dismiss is "not to weigh the evidence that might be presented at a trial but merely to determine whether the complaint itself is legally sufficient." Goldman v. Belden, 754 F.2d 1059, 1067 (2d Cir. 1985). The Court should not dismiss the complaint if the plaintiff has stated "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. 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). While the Court should construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Id.

When presented with a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court may consider documents that are referenced in the complaint, documents that the plaintiff relied on in bringing suit and that are either in the plaintiff's possession or that the plaintiff knew of when bringing suit, or matters of which judicial notice may be taken. See Taylor v. Vt. Dep't of Educ., 313 F.3d 768, 776 (2d Cir. 2002); Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002).

When faced with a pro se complaint, the Court must "construe [the] complaint liberally and interpret it to raise the strongest arguments that it suggests." Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (brackets and internal quotation marks omitted). "Even in a pro se case, however, . . . threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, although the Court is "obligated to draw the most favorable inferences" that the complaint supports, it "cannot invent factual allegations that [the plaintiff] has not pled." Id.

II.

In this case, the plaintiff alleges that he should have received a settlement payment as a member of the McBean class. The McBean settlement required that a proof of claim be submitted by September 11, 2010, although late claims would be considered if submitted no later than December 15, 2010. See Order Approving the March 16, 2010 Stipulation of Settlement, McBean v. City of New York, No. 02 Civ. 5426 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 21, 2010), ECF No. 294. In this case, however, there is no evidence--and the plaintiff does not suggest--that the plaintiff ever submitted a claim. He thus has failed to meet the precondition for participation in the fund that was part of the McBean settlement agreement "so ordered" by the Court. Consequently, he is not entitled to any disbursement from the McBean settlement fund.

The plaintiff contends that he did not receive notice of the settlement and that therefore he should not be bound by the deadline. Nevertheless, it is fair and consistent with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and due process to apply the December 15, 2010 deadline to the plaintiff. The proposed settlement of the class action included an extensive notice program designed to provide more than adequate notice to potential claimants such as the plaintiff. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(c)(2) provides that "[f]or any class certified under Rule 23(b)(3), the court must direct to class members the best notice that is practicable under the circumstances, including individual notice to all members who can be identified through reasonable effort." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(2)(B).

The McBean settlement established a website and sent bilingual claim forms to the last known addresses of potential settlement class members. See Order Approving Notices and Plan of Administration, McBean v. City of New York, No. 02 Civ. 5426 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 27, 2010), ECF No. 243. Individual notice, in the form of a notice packet containing a claim form, was sent to all ascertainable members of the class. See id. A summary of the settlement was posted throughout the State in locations where members of the class were likely to see them. See Order Approving the March 16, 2010 Stipulation of Settlement, McBean v. City of New York, No. 02 Civ. 5426 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 21, 2010), ECF No. 294. The settlement was widely publicized on the radio, television, the internet, and in newspapers. See id.

The notice program was sufficient to comport with the requirements of Rule 23. See Order Approving the March 16, 2010 Stipulation of Settlement, McBean v. City of New York, No. 02 Civ. 5426 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 21, 2010), ECF No. 294, at *7 ("Notice to the Settlement Class was the best practicable notice under the circumstances and complied with Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(2)."); see also McBean v. City of New York, No. 02 Civ. 5426, 2012 WL 3240600, at *1-2 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 6, 2012). Due process requires only that the notice be "reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections." Mullane v. Cent. Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314 (1950) (citations omitted); see also Weigner v. City of New York, 852 F.2d 646, 649 (2d Cir. 1988) (citations omitted). "[N]notice by mail sent to the last known address of the absent class member meets the due process requirement of notice through 'reasonable effort' even where numerous class members have since changed addresses and do not receive notice." In re Prudential Sec. Inc. Ltd. P'ships Litig., 164 F.R.D. 362, 369 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (citations omitted). The McBean settlement program was thorough and included mailings to the last known addresses of potential claimants. Therefore, the fact that the plaintiff alleges he did not receive notice in a timely fashion is irrelevant to whether he is nonetheless bound by the settlement agreement deadline.

"That members of the class may not receive adequate notice is not an uncommon potentiality in class actions, but that potentiality is addressed by the notice provisions agreed-to by the parties, and so ordered by the Court." Yanda v. Vanguard Meter Serv., No. 92 Civ. 2827, 1995 WL 358663, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. June 14, 1995) (denying late filed claims despite claimants' lack of actual notice prior to the deadline for filing). The plaintiff, having failed to submit ...


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