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Vlach v. Staiano

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 27, 2014

PHILIP STAIANO, in his individual capacity, Defendant.

Charny & Associates NATHANIEL K. CHARNY, ESQ. THOMAS E. FEENEY, ESQ. Rhinebeck, NY, for the Plaintiff.

Office of Russell G. Wheeler RUSSELL G. WHEELER, ESQ., Rhinebeck, NY, HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, New York Attorney General, KEVIN M. HAYDEN, Assistant Attorney General, Albany, NY, for the Defendant.


GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff William Vlach commenced this action against defendant Philip Staiano, in his individual capacity, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and New York state law, for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Pending before the court is Staiano's motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 22.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

II. Background[1]

During the time relevant to this action, both Vlach and Staiano were employed by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, specifically with the Developmental Disabilities Services Office (DDSO) at the Granite Individual Residential Alternative. (Def.'s Statement of Material Facts (SMF) ¶¶ 1-3, Dkt. No. 22, Attach. 13.) As part of his job duties, Staiano was responsible for supervising several residences and investigating complaints of abuse made by the consumer residents. ( Id. ¶¶ 3, 5.)

On September 5, 2010, J.S., a Granite resident, complained of pain in his left arm. ( Id. ¶ 9.) Upon being advised of this complaint, Staiano began an investigation by speaking to J.S., as well as the staff member who first received the complaint. ( Id. ¶¶ 10, 14.) J.S. informed Staiano that Vlach, a Developmental Aid at Granite, had "thrown him against the cabinets in the kitchen." ( Id. ¶ 1; Dkt. No. 22, Attach. 5 at 22-23.) After reporting these findings to his supervisor, Staiano was directed to place Vlach on administrative leave and report the incident to the New York State Police. (Def.'s SMF ¶¶ 17-18; Dkt. No. 22, Attach. 5 at 22-23.)

The State Police began their own investigation on September 7, 2010 by interviewing J.S. (Def.'s SMF ¶ 25.) J.S. indicated that he had become angry with an aide who denied him a snack, and he then threw his mouthwash at her, picked up a chair, and told the aide to stay away from him. ( Id. ¶ 28.) At this point, Vlach entered the area, and, upon observing this confrontation, "grabbed [J.S.] and slammed him into the kitchen cabinets, " and then later "grabbed him and pushed all of his weight on to him[, ] forcing him against the wall and the handrail going up the stairs." ( Id. ¶¶ 29-30; Dkt. No. 22, Attach. 8 at 7, 14.) The State Police investigator also interviewed Michael Carle, another DDSO employee who was working at Granite on the night in question, who reported that he observed J.S. attempt to strike an aide, at which point Vlach "grabbed [J.S.] and threw him in the kitchen cabinet and wall... using much more force than was needed for the circumstances." (Dkt. No. 22, Attach. 8 at 8.) The investigation file indicates that Staiano spoke with the investigator several times during the course of the investigation in order to respond to subpoenas and other requests for relevant documents and records. ( Id. at 7-9.)

Following the investigation, Vlach was arrested and ultimately charged with two counts of assault and one count of falsifying business records. (Def.'s SMF ¶¶ 57, 66.) In connection with the charges, J.S. provided a supporting deposition which indicates that Vlach "shoved [J.S.] real hard against the kitchen cabinets and then pushed all of his weight against [him]." (Dkt. No. 22, Attach. 8 at 14.) Vlach was arraigned, and at a preliminary hearing, Justice Marsha Weiss of the Town of Ulster Justice Court determined that there was probable cause to arrest and charge Vlach with reckless assault and filing a false report. (Def.'s SMF ¶¶ 62, 79; Dkt. No. 22, Attach. 5 at 1, 40.) A bench trial was held on the two charges in April 2012; at the conclusion of the trial, Justice Weiss found that the accusatory instrument for the filing a false report charge was insufficient as a matter of law, and that the prosecution had failed to meet its burden of proof on the assault charge, and she therefore granted Vlach's motion to dismiss the charges. (Dkt. No. 22, Attach. 6 at 102-04.) Vlach subsequently commenced this suit, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process. ( See generally Compl.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its decision in Wagner v. Swarts, 827 F.Supp.2d 85, 92 (N.D.N.Y. 2011), aff'd sub nom. Wagner v. Sprague, 489 F.App'x 500 (2d Cir. 2012).

IV. Discussion

As a threshold matter, the court notes that, in his response to the summary judgment motion, Vlach argues that a declaration from New York State Police Investigator Joseph Auriemma, (Dkt. No. 22, Attach. 7), which Staiano has relied on in his summary judgment motion, should not be considered by the court, as Staiano did not disclose Auriemma as a potential source of discoverable information in his Rule 26 disclosures. (Dkt. No. 26 at 2-4.) Staiano argues that his inadvertent failure to disclose Auriemma was harmless, and that Vlach was ...

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