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Jackson v. City of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 16, 2013

THE CITY OF NEW YORK, P.O. SHAWN JOHNSTON, P.O. DANIELLE CAMPO, P.O. JOHN DAMMACCO, SGT. ALEX MONTESQUIEU, POLICE OFFICERS JOHN DOE and RICHARD ROE (names and number of whom are unknown at present) and other unidentified members of the New York City Police Department, Defendants

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For Nancy Jackson, Plaintiff: Robert Milton Rambadadt, The Rambadadt Law Firm, P.C., New York, NY; Wendy Armour, Mitchell, Armour & Lee, LLP, Jersey City, NJ.

For City of New York, P.O. Shawn Johnston, P.O. Danielle Campo, P.O. John Dammacco, Sgt. Alex Montesquieu, Defendants: Max Oliver McCann, LEAD ATTORNEY, New York City Law Department, New York, NY.


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

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Nancy Jackson (" Plaintiff" ) commenced this action against the City of New York, Police Officers Shawn Johnston, Danielle Campo, John Dammacco, John Doe and Richard Roe (names and number of whom are currently unknown), Sergeant Alex Montesquieu, and other unidentified members of the New York City Police Department (collectively " Defendants" ) in connection with an incident where Plaintiff was arrested for two counts of assault on a police officer, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and harassment. Plaintiff seeks recovery under 42 U.S.C. § § 1983, 1985, and 1986 for violation of her rights under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and for violation of her rights under the Constitution of the State of New York. Plaintiff asserts causes of action for unlawful seizure, false arrest, malicious prosecution, excessive force and unreasonable handcuffing, failure to intervene in a constitutional violation, deliberate indifference to medical needs, and related state law claims for assault, battery, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, retention, training, and supervision, and spoliation.[1] Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

The parties sharply contest the facts in this case, although all agree that the causes of action arise from a series of events that occurred on March 7, 2009 in and around Dee & L's Pizza Plus, a pizzeria located on Rockaway Boulevard in Queens, New York (" Pizza Plus" ). See Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 1.[2] All parties also agree that both Plaintiff and Defendant Police Officer Shawn Johnston (" Officer Johnston" ) were present for the entire series of events. In his sworn deposition testimony, Officer Johnston testified that he was present at the location to investigate possible narcotics transactions. Defs.' 56.1 St., at ¶ 2. However, Officer Johnston's Memo Book notes that he was present to " question patrons of pizza restaurant," which notes were characterized as part of " conduct[ing] a community visit" bye the Civilian Complaint Review Board (" CCRB" ). See Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 2; Ex. 6 to Pl.'s 56.1 St., at 2; Ex. 9 to Pl.'s 56.1 St., at 4. Because the parties' respective versions of the ensuing events differ dramatically, the Court will address their versions separately.

A. Plaintiff's Version of Events

Plaintiff alleges that the interaction giving rise to her unlawful arrest began before she arrived at Pizza Plus, when she was walking on a sidewalk past Officer Johnston and Defendant Police Officer Danielle Campo (" Officer Campo" ). Pl.'s Br. at 6.[3] She alleges that the officers made " lewd comments while staring at [Plaintiff's] chest." Id. About three minutes

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after Plaintiff entered Pizza Plus, Officer Johnston, Officer Campo and non-party Police Officer Remigio (" Officer Remigio" ) entered and asked Plaintiff to produce identification (" ID" ). Id. at 6, 7; Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 3. After Plaintiff refused, Officer Johnston told Plaintiff that she would have to leave the premises within five to ten minutes, pointing to a sign on the wall, which read: " eating time 5-10 minutes." Pl.'s Br. at 7 (internal editing omitted). The owner of Pizza Plus informed Officer Johnston and the other officers that Plaintiff was a regular customer and was welcome to stay. Id. At this point, Officer Johnston again demanded to see Plaintiff's ID. Id. Plaintiff responded that she was under no obligation to produce her ID, but was nonetheless willing to retrieve her ID, which was in her car. Id. Officer Johnston refused to let Plaintiff, or anyone in Pizza Plus, leave without showing him ID. Id. He called to request non-emergency back-up to enforce this command. Id.; Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 5. Plaintiff attempted to leave Pizza Plus, but was blocked when Officer Remigio put his hand across the doorway and Officer Johnston told her that he was " not finished with her." Pl.'s Br. at 7; Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 4. Plaintiff eventually exited Pizza Plus against the officers' direction. Pl.'s 56.1 St., at ¶ 5.

When multiple police officers arrived in response to Officer Johnston's request for back-up, Defendant Police Officer John Dammacco (" Officer Dammacco" ) witnessed Plaintiff walking away from Pizza Plus against Officer Johnston's orders. Id. at ¶ ¶ 6-7. Officer Dammacco attempted to restrain Plaintiff by jumping on her back and assaulting her, without first identifying himself or asking her to stop. Id. at T 8; Pl.'s Br. at 7. Plaintiff, unaware that the person on her back was a police officer, threw Officer Dammacco off her back. Pl's 56.1 St., at ¶ ¶ 8-9. Officer Dammacco instantly grabbed Plaintiff by her arms as several other officers began to restrain her. Pl.'s Br. at 8. Confused and frightened, Plaintiff pulled away in defense, at which point the officers began to punch and kick her back and stomach. Id. Defendant police officers handcuffed Plaintiff and attempted to place her in a police van. Pl's 56.1 St., at ¶ ¶ 10-11. Fearing for her safety following the physical struggle, Plaintiff refused to enter the van. Id. Defendant police officers instead placed Plaintiff in a police car. Id. at ¶ 12. Once inside the car, lying on her back, Plaintiff's body weight caused her handcuffs to tighten. Id. at ¶ 14. Trying to alleviate the pain and loosen the handcuffs, Plaintiff attempted to turn herself over by kicking her legs out and, in the process, dislodged the rear window of the police car. Pl's 56.1 St., at ¶ 14.

Over the course of the incident, Defendant police officers repeatedly struck Plaintiff, including kneeing her in the stomach after Plaintiff falsely informed them that she was pregnant. Id. at ¶ ¶ 16-20. In addition, Defendant police officers refused to loosen Plaintiff's handcuffs after she complained that they were unreasonably tight and causing excessive strain and bruising to her wrists. Id. at ¶ 22-23. Moreover, Defendant Sergeant Alex Montesquieu (" Sergeant Montesquieu" ) authorized the officers to classify plaintiff as an Emotionally Disturbed Person (" EDP" ) and ordered that Plaintiff be taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation. See Montesquieu Dep. Tr. at 29:7-13. Once the parties arrived at the 113th Police Precinct (the " precinct" ), Plaintiff was forced to stand outside for ten to twenty minutes with her pants pulled down below her knees and her buttocks exposed. Pl's 56.1 St., at ¶ 24. Plaintiff was then transported by ambulance to Queens Hospital Center (the " hospital" ), to be treated for injuries sustained during her arrest. Id. Hospital records indicate physical injuries and

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bruises to Plaintiff's wrists and upper back. Pl.'s Br. at 9. She was given Tylenol and Motrin to treat the pain and a splint to stabilize her wrist, before being transported back to the precinct. Id.

Plaintiff was arraigned and charged with two counts of assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct, harassment in the second degree, resisting arrest, and criminal mischief. All charges were dismissed and sealed on April 21, 2011. See Ex. 11 to Pl.'s 56.1 St; Ex. F to Defs.' 56.1 St.

B. Defendants' Version of Events

Defendants tell a very different version of the events at issue in this case. Officer Johnston alleges that he did not initiate any interaction with Plaintiff, but that Plaintiff interfered with his narcotics investigation at Pizza Plus by " coming within inches of his face" and calling him a " fucking pig." Defs.' 56.1 St., at ¶ 3. Plaintiff continued to act disorderly, drawing a crowd inside Pizza Plus, which prompted Officer Johnston to ask Plaintiff to produce her ID. Id. at ¶ 4. Plaintiff refused, making threatening gestures, and eventually left Pizza Plus along with many members of the crowd. Id. at ¶ ¶ 4-5. This disobedience prompted Officer Johnston to request non-emergency back-up. Id. at ¶ 5; Ex. 6 to Pl.'s 56.1 St., at 3. Once outside, Officer Johnston again asked Plaintiff to stop and produce her ID, but Plaintiff refused and attempted to flee. Id. at ¶ 6. Officer Dammacco, arriving in response to Officer Johnston's request for back-up, observed this interaction and attempted to restrain Plaintiff from behind. Id. at ¶ 7-8. Plaintiff threw Officer Dammacco off her back and proceeded to kick and struggle with him and other Defendant police officers. Id. at ¶ ¶ 9-10. Once the officers were able to secure Plaintiff in handcuffs, they attempted to place her in a police van but were unable to do so because of Plaintiff's continued struggle. Id. at ¶ 11-12. Despite her ongoing struggle, during which she kicked and dented the door of a police car, Defendant police officers were eventually able to place Plaintiff in the car. Id. at ¶ 12-13. However, once inside, Plaintiff continued to struggle violently, eventually kicking out the rear window of the car. Id. at ¶ 14.

Plaintiff's behavior caused approximately $1,140 worth of damage to the police car and both Officer Dammacco and Officer Campo to seek medical treatment. Id. at ¶ ¶ 10, 15. Although Plaintiff alleges she was assaulted by police officers during her arrest, Plaintiff does not allege that any of the named individual Defendants participated in the purported assault. Id. at ¶ ¶ 16-20. Moreover, although Plaintiff alleges her handcuffs were unreasonably tight, she does not specifically allege which of the named individual Defendants handcuffed her and does not allege she informed anyone that the handcuffs were unreasonably tight. Id. at ¶ ¶ 21-23. Immediately upon Plaintiff's arrival at the precinct, an ambulance arrived to transport her to the hospital, where she was treated for injuries sustained during the arrest. Id. at ¶ 24.

II. Discussion

A. Summary Judgment Standard

A court " shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). " The role of the court is not to resolve disputed issues of fact but to assess whether there are any factual issues to be tried. In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, this Court will construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant." Brod v. Omya, Inc., 653 F.3d 156, 164 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal citations

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and quotation marks omitted). No genuine issue of material fact exists " where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Lovejoy-Wilson v. NOCO Motor Fuel, Inc., 263 F.3d 208, 212 (2d Cir. 2001) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)).

If the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party must " make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [each] element to that party's case . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Chandok v. Klessig, 632 F.3d 803, 812 (2d Cir. 2011) (" Where the undisputed facts reveal that there is an absence of sufficient proof as to one essential element of a claim, any factual disputes with respect to other elements become immaterial and cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment." ). Importantly, if the evidence produced by the non-moving party " is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (internal citations omitted).

B. Accepting Plaintiff's Version of the Facts as True, Defendants Lacked Reasonable Suspicion to ...

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