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Tirelli v. O'Connell

United States District Court, Second Circuit

July 1, 2013

ROSE TIRELLI, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH O'CONNELL, Individually and in his Official Capacity as a Police Officer of the Town of Greenport, Defendant.

ROSE TIRELLI Hudson, New York, Plaintiff pro se.

TOWNE, RYAN & PARTNERS, P.C. ELENA DEFIO KEAN, ESQ., Albany, New York, Attorneys for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff commenced an action in this Court on July 2, 2012 alleging (1) that Defendant "negligently imprisoned" her, (2) that she was "negligently endangered, " which violated her constitutional rights, and (3) that she was maliciously prosecuted. See Dkt. No. 25 at 4. On February 13, 2013, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims as barred by both the statute of limitations and by res judicata. See Dkt. No. 25 at 6-12.

Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to reopen the case, as well as her motion for a default judgment. See Dkt No. 28 at 4-5; Dkt. No. 31 at 1-2. In addition, Plaintiff submitted an amended caption, and requests costs and attorney fees. See Dkt. No. 28 at 3; Dkt. No. 31-2 at 2. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's motion to reopen the case must be denied because "there is no set of facts that would overcome the statute of limitations or res judicata doctrines that were the basis for the original dismissal." See Dkt. No. 33-8 at 5. Defendant claims that none of the reasons to permit reopening listed in Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) apply to the instant case. See Dkt. No. 29 at 2. Defendant also states that Plaintiff provided no explanation as to why she wishes to amend the caption, that there is no likelihood of success to warrant the amendment, and that the Court should deny the request. See id. at 3. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's motion for default judgment must be denied because Defendant responded to Plaintiff's motion to reopen in a timely manner. See Dkt. No. 33-6 at 6. Additionally, Defendant asserts that, even if he had not responded in a timely manner, Plaintiff would not be entitled to damages as Plaintiff "has also failed to establish her entitlement to damages." See Dkt. No. 33-8 at 6.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Background Facts

Plaintiff alleges that on January 6, 2006, Defendant, then a Town of Greenport police officer, entered her home "without service of process upon Plaintiff of an arrest warrant."[1] See Dkt. 33 at 11. Plaintiff was never read her Miranda rights; Defendant "badgered" her, and failed to explain to her why she was being arrested. See id. Defendant then ordered Plaintiff to leave her home, causing "a negligent imprisonment against Plaintiff, and... a negligent endangerment against Plaintiff, upon escorting Plaintiff, without offering Plaintiff illumination, to a marked police car." See id. at 12. Defendant handcuffed Plaintiff and brought her to the police station, without explaining why she had been arrested, until he finally "stated that [he] heard' that Plaintiff was serving liquor to minors... admitt[ing] that Plaintiff's arrest was based on hearsay." See id. at 13. Defendant handcuffed Plaintiff to a bench in the police station, where she "and defendant remained alone for several hours... until the judge arrived so as to arraign Plaintiff." See id. at 14. After the judge arrived, Plaintiff was arraigned, bail was set and paid, and she was released. See id.

B. Plaintiff's State Adjudication

Plaintiff first brought an action in December 2006 in New York State Supreme Court, Columbia County, alleging that "defendant conspired with a Columbia county resident to have plaintiff arrested and prosecuted in retaliation for plaintiff firing the resident's son from employment at a restaurant called The Tuscan Oven. " See Dkt. No. 25 at 2. Plaintiff was charged with several misdemeanor complaints, and Plaintiff claims that Defendant "also contacted the local newspaper regarding the charges." See id. at 2. The charges against Plaintiff were dismissed on August 14, 2006. See id.

In Plaintiff's state action, she alleged "common law claims for libel and slander, false arrest and malicious prosecution... [and] a claim for malicious prosecution and false arrest pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983" against Defendant and the Town of Greenport. See id. at 3. The Court awarded Defendant summary judgment on Plaintiff's slander and libel claims as well as the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim. See id. at 3-4. After additional filings concerning the false arrest and malicious prosecution claims, on January 9, 2013 the court awarded Defendant summary judgment, dismissing the remainder of Plaintiff's complaint. See id.

C. Plaintiff's Federal Adjudication

Plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court in October of 2011. See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff alleged that she "was negligently imprisoned' by defendant without service of an arrest warrant and without reading plaintiff her Miranda rights... [and] that her constitutional rights were violated' due to plaintiff being negligently endangered' and malicious prosecution." See Dkt. No. 25 at 4. The Court determined that Plaintiff's state claims for false imprisonment, false arrest, and malicious prosecution were time barred. See id. at 7. The Court held that, "[u]nder New York law, false arrest and false imprisonment claims are subject to a one year statute of limitations." See id. Accordingly, those claims lapsed on or by January 7, 2007, one year after Plaintiff was released from custody.[2] See id. Similarly, the Court held that Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim lapsed on August 14, 2007, one year after the criminal charges against Plaintiff were dismissed. See id. Moreover, the Court held that the conduct alleged was appropriately characterized as intentional tortious conduct, rejecting Plaintiff's claim that Defendant's conduct was negligent, and holding that the one-year statute of limitations for intentional conduct must apply. See id. at 7-8.

In considering Plaintiff's § 1983 claims, Plaintiff was released on or by January 7, 2006, and because false arrest claims expire three years after the occurrence, Plaintiff's false arrest claim expired on or by January 7, 2009. See id. at 9. Similarly, claims for malicious prosecution have a three-year statute of limitations; because the criminal charges against Plaintiff were dismissed on August 14, 2006, the Court held that Plaintiff's cause of action for malicious prosecution lapsed on August 14, 2009. See id. at 9-10.

Alternatively, the Court held that Plaintiff's claims were barred by res judicata. See id. at 12. The Court held that the three factors that bar a claim on res judicata grounds were met. See id. The Court noted that the previous action involved the same plaintiff, the previous action resulted in an "adjudication on the merits, " and that the claims "asserted in the subsequent action were, or could have been, raised in the prior action, " as the claim in Plaintiff's federal complaint and her prior state complaint "involve[d] the same series of transactions - plaintiff's arrest.'" See id. at 10-12 (quoting Monahan v. N.Y.C. ...


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