United States District Court, S.D. New York
VIRGINIA D. BARRETT, Plaintiff,
CITY OF NEWBURGH, JOHN DOE, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
NELSON S. ROMN, District Judge.
Virginia Barrett ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Newburgh and John Doe, claiming that John Doe violated her right to be free from excessive force under the Fourth Amendment and that the City of Newburgh violated her due process right under the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to train, supervise, and discipline its police officers. Before the Court is the City of Newburgh's motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, that motion is granted.
At the time of the incident, Plaintiff resided at 788C Broadway, Newburgh, New York, where she resided with her then-boyfriend, Alexander Miles. Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 5. On October 12, 2012, Police arrived at the residence to conduct a search, ostensibly based on information received that Mr. Miles was selling marijuana. Id. at ¶ 6-7. During the search, police officers, including John Doe named in the Complaint, apprehended Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 8. Mr. Miles told police officers at the scene that Plaintiff recently had shoulder surgery and would not be able to move her arms so that she could be handcuffed behind her back. Id. at ¶ 9. Nonetheless, John Doe forced Plaintiffs arms behind her back and handcuffed her, causing injury and requiring Plaintiff to undergo additional surgery. Id. at ¶ 10.
In addition to the facts surrounding the incident on October 12, 2012, the Complaint also alleges nineteen instances in which misconduct by the City of Newburgh police officers led to a lawsuit against the offending officer, but no disciplinary action was taken by the City. Id. at ¶ 15(a)-(s). These incidents occurred over a time interval from March 11, 2005 to September 3, 2011. Id. Of the nineteen, fourteen of the cases settled for an undisclosed amount. One case is still pending. Id. at ¶ 15(o).
Plaintiff filed this action on June 14, 2013. On August 16, 2013, Plaintiff's counsel stated in a letter sent to opposing counsel and the Court that he "inadvertently" plead a Fourteenth Amendment violation against the City of Newburgh. Def. Mot. Ex. A. The letter states that the claim should have been plead under the Fourth Amendment. Id. At a pre-motion conference held before this Court on September 30, 2013, Plaintiff was granted leave to file an Amended Complaint. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, but did not change the Amendment under which she brought her claim against the City. Plaintiff's opposition to the City of Newburgh's motion to dismiss argues that the Fourteenth Amendment is the proper vehicle under which her claim against the municipality should be asserted. Plaintiff does include a footnote, however, stating, "Should this Court disagree and believe that only the Fourth Amendment is violated by the City's failure to train in such a setting, plaintiff would respectfully request leave to file a Second Amended Complaint so alleging." Opp'n Br. 16 n. 3.
II. Legal Standard
a. 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
On a motion to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), dismissal is proper unless the complaint "contain[s] 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)); accord Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 160 (2d Cir. 2010). "Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss [a court] must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, [it is] not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
When there are well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. A claim is facially plausible when the factual content pleaded allows a court "to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a facially plausible claim upon which relief may be granted is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.
The materials that may be considered on a motion to dismiss are those "asserted within the four corners of the complaint, the documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated in the complaint by reference." McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007).
b. Monell Claim
It is well-settled that a municipality may not be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employees. In order to state a claim against a municipality, a plaintiff must allege that the municipality maintained a policy, practice, or custom that caused the plaintiff's constitutional injury. See Monell v. N.Y. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). In order to establish a Monell claim, a plaintiff must allege a "direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation." Abreu v. City of N.Y., 657 F.Supp.2d 357, 360 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) (quoting City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989)).
Courts in this Circuit apply a two prong test for § 1983 claims brought against a municipality. Vippolis v. Vill. of Haverstraw, 768 F.2d 40, 44 (2d Cir. 1985) (citation omitted). First, the plaintiff must "prove the existence of a municipal policy or custom in order to show that the municipality took some action that caused his injuries beyond merely employing the misbehaving officer." Id. (citation omitted). Second, the plaintiff must establish a "direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional ...