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Humbach v. Canon

United States District Court, S.D. New York

November 12, 2014

DANIEL CANON et al., Defendants.


NELSON S. ROMN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Miriam Humbach ("Plaintiff") commenced this action by complaint filed April 12, 2013 (dkt. no. 1), alleging violations of Plaintiffs constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff asserts claims against three classes of defendant: (1) James Infantino ("Infantino"); (2) Michael Kirsch, Barbara Zanato, Debbie Alspach, Kathleen Campanaro, Deborah Lenaghan, Eileen Kelly, Lisa Tighe, Marisa Boniella, and Joseph Kearns (the "District Defendants"); and (3) Daniel Canon, James M. Dumser, Robert Chiappone, D.P. Corrado, and Ernesto Giraldez (the "Police Defendants").

Infantino is Plaintiffs ex-husband. The District Defendants are employees of the Chappaqua School District. The Police Defendants are employees of the Town of New Castle Police Department. Each of the three classes of defendant now moves to dismiss the complaint, and those three motions are consolidated for purposes of this opinion and order. The Court considers the three motions to be opposed, but notes that Plaintiff has not filed any opposition brief directly addressing the motions.

For the reasons explained below, the Court dismisses the action in its entirety as against Infantino and the District Defendants, and partially dismisses the action as against the Police Defendants.


Plaintiff contends that on April 21, 2010, she was lawfully present at the Douglas Grafflin Elementary School in Chappaqua, New York, a school which her son, Matthew J. Infantino, attends. Complaint ("Compl.") (dkt. no. 1) at 5. Plaintiff allegedly was invited to a bagel breakfast and book fair on campus. Id. Plaintiff contends she arrived at approximately 8:00 a.m., received a pass to the school, and was directed to the place where the breakfast and book fair were being held. Id.

After finishing a visit to the ladies' room, Plaintiff contends, one or more police officers confronted her, beat her, and injured her, to a point where she later needed ice packs for bruising. Id. The complaint also contains an allegation - apparently directed at the District Defendants - that certain false statements concerning Plaintiff were made to the Police Defendants. See id.

Plaintiff was arrested that day and ultimately prosecuted for misdemeanor criminal trespass, false personation, and resisting arrest, in violation of the New York Penal Law. The public record suggests the backdrop for the trespass charge was a supervised visitation order (N.Y. Sup.Ct. N.Y. Cnty. dkt. no. 309090/2007), which prohibited Plaintiff from visiting her son without supervision.

With the instant action, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for her alleged mistreatment on April 21, 2010 and for the ensuing criminal prosecution. That prosecution ended with an August 5, 2010 adjournment in contemplation of dismissal ("ACD"). During the colloquy preceding the ACD, Plaintiff was prompted to recant categorically "any and all" allegations she had made on the record at a May 13, 2010 arraignment, concerning the purported mistreatment on April 21, 2010. See Svensson Affidavit ("Svensson Aff.") (dkt no. 57), Ex. D, H.

Construed leniently, Plaintiff's complaint asserts four interrelated Section 1983 claims: (1) excessive force; (2) malicious prosecution; (3) false arrest; and (4) entrapment. In support of these claims, Plaintiff enclosed various materials with her initial filing. The materials include an email invitation to the breakfast and book fair, a visitor's pass to the school, and a number of police reports memorializing witness statements made to the police on April 21, 2010. No party has moved to strike the surplus materials or to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) (requiring a "short and plain statement of the claim"). Instead, all parties, including the Police Defendants, treat the materials as incorporated by reference into the complaint. The Court likewise will consider the totality of Plaintiff's submission, in evaluating the asserted bases for dismissal. See Cleveland v. Caplaw Enters., 448 F.3d 518, 521 (2d Cir. 2006) (on a motion to dismiss, the court may consider the pleadings, documents incorporated by reference in or attached to the pleadings, and matters of public record of which judicial notice may be taken); see also Pabon v. Wright, 459 F.3d 241, 248 (2d Cir. 2006) (pleadings from a pro se plaintiff are to be accorded leniency and construed to raise the strongest claims and arguments they suggest).


On a motion to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, " Rule 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). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 679.

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. Ultimately, determining whether a complaint states a facially plausible claim upon which relief may be granted must be "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.


A. Infantino

Defendant Infantino moves to dismiss the complaint in its entirety on two bases. First, he argues that Plaintiff made a misrepresentation in her request to proceed in forma pauperis (the "IFP application"), which he says compels dismissal. Second, Infantino argues that the complaint fails pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) because it contains no allegations specific to him. Infantino's Rule 12(b)(6) argument has merit. Infantino, Plaintiff's ex-husband, is mentioned in the complaint's caption, but nowhere else. The pleadings are entirely silent as to his role or relevance to this case. There is no allegation that he was present on campus when the arrest took place, nor that he made any false statements to the police that day. At most, the pleadings suggest that Plaintiff called Infantino on her cell phone from school premises, which has no obvious relevance to the case.

Individualized pleading regarding a defendant's involvement generally is required for there to be a well-pleaded claim against that defendant. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; see also Shomo v. City of New York, 579 F.3d 176, 184 (2d Cir. 2009) ("personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under § 1983"); Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 873 (2d Cir. 1995) (enumerating ways an individual defendant allegedly may have violated the Constitution).

Where, as here, the complaint's caption is the sole reference to a defendant, claims against that defendant do not withstand even the most generous facial review under Rule 12(b)(6). Infantino's motion to dismiss is granted, and all ...

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