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Jackson v. City of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 16, 2013

NANCY JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, P.O. JOHN DAMMACCO, SGT. ALEX MONTESQUIEU and P.O. JOHN DOE #1, Defendants

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For Nancy Jackson, Plaintiff: Robert Milton Rambadadt, The Rambadadt Law Firm, P.C., New York, NY.

For The City of New York, P.O. John Dammacco, Sgt. Montesquieu, Defendants: Max Oliver McCann, LEAD ATTORNEY, New York City Law Department, New York, NY.

OPINION

HON. WILLIAM F. KUNTZ II, United States District Judge.

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ORDER

Nancy Jackson (" Plaintiff" ) commenced this action against the City of New York, Police Officers John Dammacco and John Doe, and Sergeant Alex Montesquieu (collectively, " Defendants" ) in connection with an incident where Plaintiff was pulled over while driving and arrested for obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, resisting arrest, reckless driving, harassment in the second degree, and running a red traffic signal light. Plaintiff seeks recovery under 42 U.S.C. § § 1983,

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1985, and 1986 for violation of her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff also asserts pendent state law claims for assault, false arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent hiring, retention, training, and supervision. This is Plaintiff's second § 1983 action against these Defendants. As they did in Plaintiff's first action, Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Factual Background

The parties agree that the causes of action arise from an incident that took place on March 26, 2010 at approximately 4:00 P.M. in Queens, New York. See Defs.' 56.1 St., at ¶ 1; Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 1.[1] At or near the intersection of North Conduit Avenue and 225th Street, Defendant Sergeant Alex Montesquieu (" Sergeant Montequieu" ) stopped Plaintiff's vehicle. Id. at ¶ 6. Sergeant Montesquieu, later joined by Defendant Police Officer John Dammacco (" Officer Dammacco" ), ordered Plaintiff to exit her vehicle, but she refused to comply with his order. Id. at ¶ 8; Dammacco Dep. Tr. at 84:13-19. Shortly thereafter, additional police officers arrived at the location and arrested Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ ¶ 9-10. Following the incident, Officer Dammacco requested that the New York City Police Department Threat Assessment Unit conduct an investigation to determine whether Plaintiff posed a risk to him or his family. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff asserts the investigation established that Plaintiff was not a threat and that Officer Dammacco's suspicions were unfounded, although no evidence in the record reflects the outcome of this investigation one way or another. See Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 11.

While the parties do not dispute the aforementioned facts, they sharply disagree on the circumstances giving rise to Plaintiff's traffic stop:

Defendants assert Officer Dammacco first identified Plaintiff from his vehicle, as he was driving near his home. Id. at ¶ ¶ 2-3. According to Defendants, Plaintiff was driving a grey Infinity vehicle, following closely behind Officer Dammacco and switching lanes when he did ( i.e., tailgating). Id.; McCann Decl., Ex. C (" Criminal Charge" ). Recalling an earlier incident in which he engaged in a physical struggle with Plaintiff,[2] and conscious of Plaintiff's proximity to his home, Officer Dammacco grew concerned for his safety and reported Plaintiff's tailgating to Sergeant Montesquieu, who left the precinct in pursuit of Plaintiff's vehicle. Id. at ¶ ¶ 3-6. Sergeant Montesquieu stated at his deposition that he observed Plaintiff drive straight through a steady red light, at which point he directed her to stop and she complied. See Montesquieu Dep. Tr. at 41:22-25, 45:7-46:10.

Plaintiff disputes that she was following Officer Dammacco in a dangerous manner. In support of her position, Plaintiff notes that Officer Dammacco admits Plaintiff did not threaten him while driving and that

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Officer Dammacco eventually managed to get behind and follow Plaintiff's vehicle. See Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 5 (citing Dammacco Dep. Tr. at 76:25-78:4). Plaintiff also notes that Sergeant Montesquieu was guided to Plaintiff's location by Officer Dammacco, who had been following her. See id . at ¶ 6; Dammacco Dep. Tr. at 78:3-4, 81:13-82:25; Montesquieu Dep. Tr. at 41:14-22. Plaintiff asserts that she drove through a red light at Sergeant Montesquieu's direction. See Compl. at ¶ 16.

The parties also dispute the circumstances giving rise to Plaintiff's ensuing arrest:

Defendants assert, without detail, that Plaintiff refused to comply with the officers' requests to exit her vehicle. See Defs.' 56.1 St., at ¶ ¶ 7-8. By contrast, Plaintiff asserts that she refused to exit her vehicle out of fear for her safety, after having recognized Officer Dammacco, with whom she had engaged in a prior physical struggle. See supra n.2; Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ ¶ 7, 8. She alleges she called first her lawyer and then 911, from inside her vehicle, to request that different officers come to the scene. Id.; Jackson Dep. Tr. at 174:11--16; see also Montesquieu Dep. Tr. at 48:3-25 (testifying that he observed Plaintiff crying and on the phone with the 911 operator when he approached her vehicle). Plaintiff further alleges Sergeant Montesquieu told her she was pulled over, " [b]ecause you're Nancy Jackson," Jackson Dep. Tr. at 171:1-3, 173:14-174:2, before he began cursing and threatening to " [m]ace this bitch," through the open sunroof of Plaintiff's vehicle. Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 8; Jackson Dep. Tr. at 171:8-21, 172:15-21, 174:11-14. A non-party eyewitness, Pastor Doris Johnson, corroborated Plaintiff's account by sworn affidavit in which she states, " I heard a woman screaming for help," and " I saw a woman in a silver car that was surrounded by three men, two of which were reaching into the vehicle through the sunroof." Aff. of Pastor Doris Johnson (" Johnson Aff." ), at ¶ 4. Johnson stated further that she called 911 and yelled for the men to stop. Id. at ¶ 5.

The parties agree that Plaintiff eventually exited her vehicle approximately ten minutes after additional officers arrived on the scene, at which point Plaintiff was handcuffed and transported to the hospital. Defs.' 56.1 St., at ¶ ¶ 9-10; Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 9; Montesquieu Dep. Tr. at 52:8-14. Plaintiff's criminal charge, prepared by Police Officer James Vogel, includes a statement by Sergeant Montesquieu that Plaintiff " flailed her arms and refused to place her arms behind her back, in order to avoid being handcuffed." McCann Decl., Ex. C. By contrast, Pastor Doris Johnson witnessed Plaintiff " cooperate with the uniformed officers," Johnson Aff. at ¶ 8, and took a photograph consistent with this account.

II. Discussion

A. Summary Judgment Standard


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