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Hall v. Town of Brighton

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 30, 2014

ROBIN HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
THE TOWN OF BRIGHTON; AND FIRE MARSHAL CHRISTOPHER A. ROTH, INDIVIDUALLY, et al., Defendants.

DECISION and ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Robin Hall, ("Hall" or "Plaintiff"), brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against defendants Town of Brighton ("Brighton" or the "Town") and Fire Marshal Christopher A. Roth ("Fire Marshal Roth"), individually, alleging that she was deprived her civil rights in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff's claims arise out of action taken by Brighton and Fire Marshal Roth in which Plaintiff was found to be in violation of an "unpermitted home use" with regards to her occupation as a cab driver. Plaintiff claims that she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender in that the Town zoning laws were selectively enforced against her but not against similarly situated men in town. Complaint ¶ 22.

Plaintiff commenced this action on March 25, 2013 asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming violation of her First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by Fire Marshal Roth's "selective enforcement of Town codes, laws, and rules, not similarly applied to men." Complaint ¶ 42. She also alleges a violation of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights as a result of Brighton's alleged failure to properly train and supervise its employees and supervisors as well as its policies which allegedly condone, acquiesce and ratify "discrimination" and a "hostile deliberately indifferent" treatment based on gender. Complaint ¶¶ 49, 50, 52.

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint claiming that the Complaint is time barred by the statute of limitations and fails to state a claim for selective treatment and for municipal liability pursuant to Monell v. Dept. of Social Services , 436 U.S. 658 (1978). For the reasons set forth below, I find that Plaintiff's complaint is timely, but that she has failed to state a cause of action for selective enforcement of zoning laws in violation of her Constitutional rights.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Robin Hall, a female, is the owner and operator of a taxi vehicle which she uses to drive for the Checker Cab Company. Complaint ¶¶ 16, 17, 18. On or about November, 2009, Hall purchased her home on 1815 Clover Street in the Town of Brighton, New York. Complaint ¶ 19. Soon after she purchased her home, she often witnessed one or more persons photographing her home on several different occasions. Complaint ¶ 23. On March 8, 2010, approximately four months after she purchased the home, Plaintiff received a notice from Brighton and Fire Marshal Roth accusing her of operating a "taxi cab business" out of her home, and indicating that an inspection would take place on March 19, 2010 to see if she was in complaince with Town codes. Complaint ¶¶ 24, 25. Thereafter, on March 24, 2010, Plaintiff received a notice that an inspection was completed on March 22, 2010, and that Plaintiff was found to be in violation of an "un-permitted home use." Complaint ¶ 26. Plaintiff was directed to appear in Brighton Town Court on April 19, 2010 to answer the charge of violating section 203-2.1D of the Brighton Town Code. Complaint ¶ 27.

Hall alleges that she spoke with Fire Marshal Roth informing him that she did not operate a business out of her home, that she worked for Checker Cab located at 1000 West Avenue in Rochester, and that dispatchers radioed calls out to drivers from that location. Complaint ¶ 29. Fire Marshal Roth contacted the owner of Checker Cab who confirmed that business operations were conducted out of the Rochester location. Complaint ¶ 32. Plaintiff appeared at the Brighton court hearing at which time she accepted a six month Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal ("ACD") with the condition that "Ms. Hall, her husband and father (all three of whom drive a cab for a living) adhere to certain restrictions that no other male property owner who had a business vehicle on their property had to comply with." Complaint ¶ 34. The restrictions limited Plaintiff to using her driveway no more than two to three times per day and banned Plaintiff from smoking on her front porch. Complaint ¶ 35, 38. Ultimately, Plaintiff alleges that she was forced to sell her house because of the actions taken by Brighton. Complaint ¶ 40.

Plaintiff alleges that she is the "sole female homeowner in the Town of Brighton who owns a clearly marked vehicle located in her driveway in plain sight." Complaint ¶ 21. She identifies three individuals that she alleges are male homeowners in Brighton which have clearly marked business vehicles parked in their driveways in plain sight. The Complaint alleges these individuals are similarly situated but were not subject to the same treatment by Brighton or Fire Marshal Roth. Complaint ¶ 39.

The complaint alleges that Plaintiff was deprived of her civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and asserts two causes of action: 1) the deprivation of Plaintiff's First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights to Equal Protection by Fire Marshal Roth's disparate treatment of Plaintiff by his selective enforcement of the law amounting to a municipal policy; and 2) Monell liability against the Town of Brighton because Fire Marshal Roth had final policy making authority to selectively enforce the law; that selective enforcement was actually part of municipal policy; that Brighton had a policy to fail to train and supervise its employees; that under the policy, Brighton "condones, acquiesces, and ratifies discrimination" based on gender; and that Brighton had a policy that "condones, acquiesces and ratifes a hostile, deliberately indifferent response against Town residents based on sex." Complaint ¶ 49. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages in an unspecified amount.

DISCUSSION

In reviewing a motion to dismiss on the pleadings, "the factual allegations in the complaint must be accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff." Frazier v. Coughlin , 850 F.2d 129 (2d Cir. 1988). The court should grant such a motion only if, after viewing plaintiff's allegations in this favorable light, "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Ricciuti v. New York City Transit Authority , 941 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1991).

A. Statute of Limitations

Plaintiff does not dispute that the three year statute of limitations which governs general personal injury actions in New York state also applies to this § 1983 claim. Owens v. Okure , 488 U.S. 235, 251 (1989), Meyer v. Frank , 550 F.2d 726, 728 (2d Cir. 1977), Cloverleaf Realty of New York, Inc. v. Town of Wawayanda , 572 F.3d 93, 94 (2d Cir. 2009). The parties also agree that the statute of limitations begins to run as of the date the plaintiff receives notice of the allegedly discriminatory action. Vertical Broadcasting, Inc. V. Town of Southampton, 84 F.Supp.2d 379, 396 ...


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