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Nielsen v. City of Rochester

United States District Court, W.D. New York

November 6, 2014

DANIEL H. NIELSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ROCHESTER, CHIEF OF POLICE JAMES SHEPPARD, Individually and in His Official Capacity, OFFICER KENT, OFFICERS " JOHN DOE 1-20" and other Members of the City of Rochester Police Department, in Their Individual and Official Capacities, Defendants

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Daniel H. Nielsen, Plaintiff, Pro se, Rochester, NY.

For Officer Kent, Officers John Doe 1-20, and other members of the City of Rochester Police Department, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants: John M. Campolieto, LEAD ATTORNEY, City of Rochester, Law Department, Rochester, NY.

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AMENDED DECISION AND ORDER

ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Daniel Nielsen (" Plaintiff" ) brings this action against the City of Rochester, Chief of Police James Sheppard (" Sheppard" ), Officer Kent (" Kent" ), and Officers " John Doe 1-20" (" John Does 1-20" ) (collectively, " Defendants" ), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Dkt. 1). Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). (Dkt. 19). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted in part and denied in part. Defendants' motion is granted as to Plaintiff's claims against the City of Rochester and Defendant Sheppard, and as to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Kent and John Does 1-20 in their official capacities. Defendants' motion is denied as to Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims for excessive use of force, malicious prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment, against Defendants Kent and John Does 1-20, in their individual capacities. Defendants' motion is granted as to Plaintiff's punitive damages claim against Defendants Kent and John Does 1-20 in their official capacities, but is denied as to these Defendants in their individual capacities.

BACKGROUND

The statement of facts that follows is based on the allegations in Plaintiffs' complaint. Plaintiff alleges that he was approached by a group of people in the back parking lot of the " Pita Pit," located in Rochester, New York, in Summer 2009. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 12). This group of people included an individual named Mark Johnson, who, without provocation, allegedly punched Plaintiff in the face in front of a police officer. ( Id. at ¶ 13). Plaintiff alleges that Mark Johnson was the friend of Tiffany Dimascio (" Dimascio" ), whose father is a police officer for the City of Rochester. ( Id. at ¶ 15). Plaintiff gave a statement to police officers present at the scene. ( Id. at ¶ 14).

Thereafter, late in the evening of August 21, 2009, Plaintiff was acting as the designated driver for friends while visiting East Avenue and Alexander Streets. ( Id. at ¶ 16). At around 1:30 a.m. on August 22, 2009, Plaintiff and his friends were walking down East Avenue when they were approached by Dimascio. ( Id. at ¶ 17). Plaintiff alleges that Dimascio " ran up to [him] . . . and began yelling obscenities at him for pressing charges against her friend, Mark Johnson," and also threatened to have Plaintiff assaulted by her friends. ( Id. at ¶ 18). Plaintiff began walking away from Dimascio, but Dimascio and a growing group of people followed him. ( Id. at ¶ 19).

Plaintiff alleges that Dimascio told the police that Plaintiff broke her cellphone. ( Id. at ¶ 20). Plaintiff was subsequently surrounded by police officers, one of whom asked him if he broke Dimascio's cellphone, and another who said " arrest him." ( Id. at ¶ 21).

Plaintiff was handcuffed by Defendant Kent and walked across East Avenue to a patrol car. ( Id. at ¶ 22). Defendant Kent was allegedly " pulling at Plaintiff's arms," " deliberately tripping him," and " threw a punch to the right side of Plaintiff's face,

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hitting him between his eyes and nose." ( Id. at ¶ 23). Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Kent then " threw [him] . . . to the ground while hand cuffed," and that a number of police officers " piled on" him. ( Id. at ¶ 24). Plaintiff alleges that one officer placed his knee on the top of his head, and that he " felt his skull compressing to the concrete" and other officers " jumped on [his] . . . back and on his legs." ( Id. at ¶ 25). An officer allegedly punched Plaintiff on either side of the head, while another officer kicked him in the ribs. ( Id. ). During the alleged beating, Plaintiff laid still on the ground because " he could not breathe with all the weight bearing down on his body." ( Id. at ¶ 26).

Plaintiff further alleges that the officers tasered him in the back of his legs ( id. at ¶ 27), and another officer asked if he " ' should use the mace '" ( id. at ¶ 28) (emphasis in original). Other police officers present at the scene allegedly failed to intervene, despite bystanders begging the police officers to stop the assault of Plaintiff. ( Id. at ¶ 29). Plaintiff's friend, " Watson", allegedly tried to obtain a phone camera image of the assault, but he was threatened by an officer not to take the picture. ( Id. at ¶ 30).

Plaintiff alleges that the police " 'hog tied" his legs and " threw him into the back of the patrol car," ( id. at ¶ 31), and took him to the emergency room at Highland Hospital ( id. at ¶ 32). While he was in the patrol car, Plaintiff alleges that he felt " dizzy" and had a " debilitating headache." ( Id. at ¶ 33). Plaintiff told the officers that he had a concussion, and the officers allegedly told him to " 'shut up,'" that he was " Tying,'" a " 'good actor'" and that he was " 'full of shit.'" ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 34-35). When Plaintiff and the officers arrived at the hospital, Plaintiff had to " waddle" in, since his feet were tied together very tightly. ( Id. at ¶ 36). Plaintiff further alleges that when he asked Defendant Kent to loosen his handcuffs because he could not feel his hands, Defendant Kent grabbed the handcuffs and " squeezed them as hard as he could." ( Id. at ¶ 37-38). Plaintiff alleges that he was " dragged" into the hospital. ( Id. at ¶ 39).

Plaintiff was given a bed in the emergency room. ( Id. at ¶ 40). Plaintiff again asked Defendant Kent to loosen the handcuffs; Defendant Kent uncuffed Plaintiff's left hand and chained him to the bed, but did not loosen the right cuff. ( Id. at ¶ 41). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Kent also pulled on his leg constraints, while laughing and calling him a " 'liar'" and a " 'good actor,'" ( id. at ¶ 42), and also told Plaintiff to " 'piss in . . . [his] pants'" when he had to go to the bathroom ( id. at ¶ 43). Plaintiff thereafter yelled for a nurse, who told the officers they had to allow Plaintiff to use the bathroom. ( Id. at ¶ 44). Plaintiff alleges that he had to urinate in a bucket in front of the officers. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 45-46). After Plaintiff was done urinating, the officers strapped his legs back together and pulled the leg constraints " unreasonably tight." ( Id. at ¶ 47).

Plaintiff was released into the officers' custody following a negative CT scan ( id. at ¶ 48), and was handcuffed " as tight as before" and " dragged out of the hospital on his knees" ( id. at ¶ 49). At the police station, Plaintiff allegedly was not given a nurse for at least 15 hours while he was incarcerated, and vomited twice from head trauma. ( Id. at ¶ 50).

On December 16, 2009, a Grand Jury convened and indicted Plaintiff for the events occurring during his August 22, 2009 arrest. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 51-52). Plaintiff alleges that the indictment was " the product of fraud and perjury" and a failure to investigate the claims against him. ( Id. at ¶ 52). Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Kent did not have probable cause to arrest

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him based on Dimascio's testimony because she was " a witness whose veracity was in grave doubt." ( Id. ). Plaintiff was arraigned on January 14, 2010, on the charges of criminal mischief in the fourth degree; obstructing governmental administration in the second degree; and harassment in the second degree. ( Id. at ¶ 53). On September 28, 2010, the court dismissed the charges against Plaintiff with prejudice pursuant to CPL Section 160.50.[1] ( Id. at ¶ 54).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed his complaint on April 15, 2011, alleging five causes of action: (1) 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for excessive use of force; (2) supervisory violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) Monell liability against the City of Rochester; (4) 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for malicious prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment; and (5) punitive damages against Defendants Kent and John Does 1-20. ( Id. ). At the time of the filing of the complaint, Plaintiff was represented by Christina A. Agola, PLLC. ( Id. ).

On April 11, 2013, Defendants filed the instant motion for a judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). (Dkt. 19). Plaintiff filed response papers through his counsel on July 8, 2013. (Dkt. 24). On November 21, 2013, the Honorable William M. Skretny, Chief Judge, United States District Court, granted attorney Christina A. Agola's motion to withdraw in light of her suspension. (Dkt. 25). The case was transferred to the undersigned on February 21, 2014, without any decision having been rendered on the pending motion. (Dkt. 26).

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard


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