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Cabral v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 17, 2014

DAGOBERTO CABRAL, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, District Judge.

Plaintiff Dagoberto Cabral brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants City of New York, New York City Police Department, Detective Tyrone Thompson and two John Does. The action arises from the arrest of and subsequent criminal proceedings against Plaintiff, who alleges violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and New York law. Defendants move for partial summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(c), and Plaintiff cross-moves for partial summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff's motion is likewise granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement, Plaintiff's Counter-Statement, Plaintiff's own Rule 56.1 Statement and exhibits accompanying the submissions. As is required on a motion for summary judgment, the facts are construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.

On June 24, 2011, at around 6:45 p.m., Plaintiff was sitting with another person in his Dodge minivan parked near 945 St. Nicholas Avenue in New York City when a third person, Billy Epps, approached and entered it. Around the same time, Defendant Thompson was part of a police team executing a search warrant at a nearby apartment. Defendant Thompson stated that he did not know what contraband the police were looking for at the apartment or what contraband, if any, was recovered (guns were a "possibility, " as were narcotics) because he did not stay for the search warrant to be fully executed. Instead, he went to the front of the apartment building, where he received a phone call from a confidential informant. The informant told him that a person "involved with" the apartment was entering a van parked on St. Nicholas Avenue. The informant described that person as a dark-skinned black male. Plaintiff disputes that the call between Defendant Thompson and the informant ever occurred.

Defendant Thompson and another police officer then approached Plaintiff's minivan; Thompson had his gun drawn. When Defendant Thompson approached, he saw a black male seated in the rear of the vehicle and two Hispanic males seated in the front. By his own account, Defendant Thompson knew as he moved toward the vehicle that the individual seated in the rear, and not Plaintiff who was seated in the front, was the person described by the informant. Also by his own account, Defendant Thompson did not believe that the individual seated in the rear was involved in illegal activity at that time. Defendant Thompson and the other officer ordered all occupants to exit the minivan, handcuffed them and placed them "[c]urbside." Defendant Thompson returned to the minivan, purportedly smelled marijuana, opened the compartments on the minivan floor, and discovered money in a book bag and what he believed from his training and experience was marijuana in a sealed glass jar inside a zip-lock bag. According to Defendant Thompson, after discovering the marijuana and the cash, he called his supervisor, who then sent additional officers to the scene. According to Plaintiff, the officers called for and received backup before Defendant Thompson began "[g]oing through everything." Plaintiff acknowledges that the marijuana belonged to him and claims that the book bag contained about $20, 000. Plaintiff was arrested for the unlawful possession of marijuana and strip searched. The marijuana, the minivan and $8, 800 in cash were vouchered.

The day after Plaintiff's arrest, Defendant Thompson swore to an affidavit to obtain a warrant to search Plaintiff's minivan, stating that "there is reasonable cause to believe that evidence of the sale and possession of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit those crimes, will be found, inside the target vehicle...." On July 21, 2011, Defendant Thompson swore to another affidavit stating that Plaintiff was in possession of marijuana on June 24, 2011, whereupon Plaintiff was criminally charged with the unlawful possession of marijuana. The assistant district attorney assigned to Plaintiff's case did not speak with Defendant Thompson about the offenses with which Plaintiff was charged.

On June 29, 2011, Plaintiff signed a receipt indicating that a number of items, including $8, 800 in cash, were returned to him. Plaintiff claims that he did not actually receive the $8, 800 until February 2012, and that an additional $12, 200 remains unreturned. Plaintiff, through his attorney, continued to seek the return of his property in August and September 2011.

The assistant district attorney assigned to prosecute Plaintiff did not prepare any witnesses before November 10, 2011, the scheduled date for Plaintiff's suppression hearing. The criminal case against Plaintiff was dismissed on November 10, 2011, on speedy trial grounds.

Plaintiff commenced the instant action on June 14, 2012. On consent of the parties, the Court stayed discovery on Plaintiff's Monell claims (i.e., failure to train and failure to supervise). On October 10, 2013, Defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings as to the Monell claims. On November 1, 2013, Plaintiff filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment.

STANDARD

A court reviews motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure under the same standard as motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Bank of N.Y. v. First Millennium, Inc., 607 F.3d 905, 922 (2d Cir. 2010). "To survive a Rule 12(c) motion, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 160 (2d Cir. 2010)). The Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See L-7 Designs, Inc. v. Old Navy, LLC, 647 F.3d 419, 429 (2d Cir. 2011). A complaint does not "suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (alteration in original) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "requires factual allegations that are sufficient to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Anderson News, L.L.C. v. Am. Media, Inc., 680 F.3d 162, 182 (2d Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 846 (2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

The standard for summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment is appropriate where the record before the court establishes that there is no "genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must construe the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); In re "Agent Orange" Prod. Liab. Litig., 517 F.3d 76, 87 (2d Cir. 2008). A motion for summary judgment should be denied "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict" in favor of the nonmoving party. NetJets Aviation, Inc. v. LHC Commc'ns, LLC, 537 F.3d 168, 178-79 (2d Cir. 2008). Summary judgment is warranted if a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

DISCUSSION

The Complaint's statement of claims asserts thirteen causes of action: (i) false arrest, (ii) unlawful detention and confinement, (iii) failure to train and (iv) failure to supervise in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; and (v) false arrest, (vi) assault, (vii) battery, (viii) malicious prosecution, (ix) abuse of process, (x) negligence, (xi) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (xii) negligent infliction of emotional distress and (xiii) prima facie tort in violation of New York law. Plaintiff states in his motion papers that the Complaint contains five additional § 1983 claims: (i) the unlawful search of Plaintiff's vehicle at the scene of his arrest, (ii) the unlawful strip search of Plaintiff, (iii) malicious prosecution, (iv) the unlawful seizure of the vehicle and (v) the unlawful seizure of Plaintiff's U.S. currency.[1] Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings on Plaintiff's two Monell claims and for summary judgment on all remaining claims except for the § 1983 unlawful vehicle search claim. Plaintiff likewise moves for summary judgment on all of his § 1983 claims except the § 1983 unlawful vehicle search claim.

As a preliminary matter, Defendants New York City Police Department, John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2 are dismissed. The New York City Police Department is not a suable entity, Jenkins v. City of New York, 478 F.3d 76, 93 n.19 (2d Cir. 2007), and Plaintiff has failed to identify the two unnamed Defendants even after having had the full opportunity to conduct discovery, Coward v. Town & Vill. of Harrison, 665 F.Supp.2d 281, 300 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (collecting cases).

I. False Arrest, Detention & Confinement (Counts I, II & V)

All parties move for summary judgment on Plaintiff's false arrest, detention and confinement claims. Summary judgment is granted for Plaintiff with respect to his detention prior to Defendant Thompson's discovery of marijuana, and for Defendants with respect to Plaintiff's detention thereafter.

A. Plaintiff's Detention Before the Discovery of Marijuana

Defendant Thompson's conduct in handcuffing and detaining Plaintiff before discovering marijuana violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and is not entitled to qualified immunity.

In the absence of probable cause to arrest, " Terry v. Ohio [, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), ] and Michigan v. Summers [, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), ] provide distinct standards for reasonable stops...." United States v. Bailey, 743 F.3d 322, 334 (2d Cir. 2014) (" Bailey V "). A Terry stop "require[s] reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct beyond proximity to a location of suspected crime, " and a Summers detention ...


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