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Beck v. City of New York

United States District Court, Second Circuit

January 3, 2014

JEANINE L. BECK, Plaintiff,


RONNIE ABRAMS, District Judge.

Jeanine Beck asserts claims of false arrest, malicious abuse of process, and negligence against the City of New York, Police Officer Stephen Collier, Police Officer Christopher Diaz, Lieutenant Jeffrey Tuechler and unidentified police officers (collectively, "Defendants"). Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is granted.

I. Background[1]

On March 31, 2012, Beck was driving north on Amsterdam Avenue in the vicinity of 94th Street in Manhattan. (Compl. ¶ 29.) At approximately 10:15 p.m., she was involved in an automobile collision with a police vehicle driven by an individual she identifies in the complaint as Police Officer Stephen Collier.[2] ( Id. ¶ 32.) According to Beck, although the vehicle was a marked police car, "the lights and sirens of said motor vehicle were not in operation" at the time of the accident. ( Id. ¶ 31.)

"Hours after the aforementioned motor vehicle accident, " Beck was issued two traffic summonses for violations of N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law. §§ 401 and 1144(a). ( Id. ¶ 42; Defs.' Ex. B.[3]) Beck alleges that the summonses were "drafted by defendant Diaz pursuant to the orders of defendant Tuechler, " although neither officer had witnessed the accident. (Compl. ¶¶ 43-44.) The summonses required Beck to appear for a hearing on June 11, 2012 at 2:30 p.m. ( Id. ¶ 46.) Both summonses were dismissed after trial. ( Id. ¶ 47.)

Beck served a notice of claim on the Comptroller of the City of New York on May 31, 2012, (id. ¶ 13) and commenced the instant action on December 19, 2012.

II. Discussion

When adjudicating a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must "accept as true all statements alleged in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party." Vietnam Ass'n for Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chem. Co. , 517 F.3d 104, 115 (2d Cir. 2008). To survive a motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.

A. False Arrest

A. "§ 1983 claim for false arrest derives from [a plaintiff's] Fourth Amendment right to remain free from unreasonable seizures." Jaegly v. Couch , 439 F.3d 149, 151 (2d Cir. 2006). To determine the elements of a false arrest claim, the Circuit has looked to the tort law of the state in which the false arrest allegedly occurred. See Davis v. Rodriguez , 364 F.3d 424, 433 (2d Cir. 2004). "Under New York law, a plaintiff claiming false arrest must show, inter alia, that the defendant intentionally confined him without his consent and without justification." Amore v. Navarro , 624 F.3d 522, 532 n. 13 (2d Cir. 2010).

Defendants assert that Plaintiff's claim for false arrest must be dismissed because she has not plausibly alleged that she was confined. The Court agrees.

The complaint does not allege where Plaintiff was confined, the manner in which she was confined, or for how long. Instead, it makes the following allegations with respect to the false arrest claim. After describing the collision between Plaintiff's car and the NYPD vehicle, the complaint states that "[h]ours after the aforementioned motor vehicle accident, either late in the night on March 31, 2012 or early in the morning on April 1, 2012, plaintiff was issued" the two summonses described above (Compl. ¶ 42); that the officers who drafted the summonses did not observe the accident (id. ¶¶ 43-45); that the summonses required Plaintiff to appear for a hearing (id. ¶ 46); and that the summonses were dismissed after trial (id. ¶ 47). The complaint then alleges that "Plaintiff's rights have been violated pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution made applicable to the states by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, by reason of the fact that plaintiff was falsely arrested by the defendants" and that "Plaintiff was confined by defendants; defendants intended to confine plaintiff; plaintiff was conscious of her confinement; and plaintiff did not consent to the confinement which was not otherwise privileged." ( Id. ¶¶ 48-49.) The complaint does not allege any other facts bearing on Plaintiff's confinement.

It may be that the complaint is attempting to allege that the summonses requiring Plaintiff to appear for a later court hearing constitute "confinement." The Second Circuit, however, has concluded that such an allegation cannot form the basis for a false arrest claim, holding that a "pre-arraignment, non-felony summons requiring no more than a later court appearance does not constitute a Fourth Amendment seizure." Burg v. Gosselin , 591 F.3d 95, 101 (2d Cir. 2010). The Circuit has since reaffirmed Burg, and concluded that a summons requiring even multiple court appearances did not rise to the level of a seizure. See Faruki v. City of N.Y., 517 Fed.App'x 1, 1 (2d Cir. 2013); see also Dellutri v. Village of Elmsford , 895 F.Supp.2d 555, 571 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (concluding, on a motion to dismiss, that "the weight of district court authority in circumstances similar to those here - involving a plaintiff charged with non-felony offenses who was neither arraigned nor physically detained but who might have made a number of court appearances - counsels against finding a constitutional injury").

Plaintiff attempts to evade the rule set forth in Burg by asserting that "she was detained and not free to leave the scene of the collision until after the false summonses were issued." (Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Opposition at 4.) In other words, Plaintiff argues that the seizure occurred when she was allegedly detained at ...

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