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Denis v. Home Depot, U.S.A., Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

November 21, 2014

HOME DEPOT, U.S.A., Inc., Defendant.

The Law Offices of Regina L. Darby, Regina L. Darby, Esq., Jaclyn L Dar Conte, Esq., New York, NY, Attorneys for the Plaintiff, Of Counsel.

D'Amato & Lynch LLP, Arturo M. Boutin, Esq., Robert D. Lang, Esq., Stephen F. Willig, Esq., Thomas W. Comer, Esq., Of Counsel. Two World Financial Center, New York, NY, Attorneys for the Defendant.


ARTHUR D. SPATT, District Judge.

This case arises from injuries allegedly resulting from a false arrest of the Plaintiff Reginald Denis (the "Plaintiff") on February 13, 2009 at a Home Depot store in Nanuet, New York for attempted shop lifting.

On April 20, 2010, the Plaintiff commenced this action against the Defendant Home Depot by filing a complaint in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Kings County, alleging five causes of action: (1) defamation, (2) false imprisonment, (3) malicious prosecution, (4) assault and battery, and (5) negligence. (Dkt. No. 1, Ex. A.)

On June 15, 2010, the Defendant Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. (the "Defendant") filed a notice of removal to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Dkt. No. 1.) Thereafter, discovery commenced. On April 17, 2014, the Court approved a joint stipulation pursuant to which the Plaintiff Denis voluntarily dismissed its causes of action for assault and battery, and defamation. (Dkt. No. 73.)

Presently before the Court is the Plaintiff's motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Fed. R. Civ. P.") 15(a) for leave to amend his complaint to add a claim against the Defendant for punitive damages. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint.


A. Underlying Facts

Unless otherwise stated, the following facts are drawn from the original complaint. For purposes of this motion to amend, the Court accepts all well-pleaded, non-conclusory factual allegations as true and treats them in the best light for the Plaintiff. Bartels v. Inc. Vill. of Lloyd Harbor, No. 10-CV-5076 (ADS), 2012 WL 2576142, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. July 2, 2012) (Spatt, J.) (citation omitted).

On February 13, 2009, the Plaintiff was shopping at Home Depot and was allegedly observed by Home Depot Asset Manager Hau Tran ("Tran") speaking with other customers who were putting items into a white vanity cabinet box in order to avoid paying for those items, a process known as "box stuffing." (Compl. at ¶ 10; Hau Dep. Tr. 65:22-23.) The Plaintiff alleges that he went to the store to purchase tools for a construction project and did not purchase a white vanity box or speak with any other customers while at the Home Depot. (Dennis Dep. Tr. 23:24-35.)

After allegedly observing the Plaintiff engage in "box stuffing, " Tran contacted the police to report the Plaintiff. (Tran Dep. Tr. 61:5-10.) In the interim, the Plaintiff purchased tools for which he received a receipt and left the store. (Dennis Dep. Tr. at 22:11-25.) After exiting the store, the Plaintiff was met by police officers and Tran. ( Id. at 24:24-25.) After Tran identified the Plaintiff as a participant in the alleged larceny, the Plaintiffs was arrested. ( Id. at 24:24-29:18.) On the same day of his arrest, he was arraigned, bail was set, and he was charged with grand larceny in the third degree, criminal possession in the third degree, and conspiracy in the fifth degree. (Compl. at ¶ 17.) On or about February 21, 2009, the Plaintiff was released on his own recognizance. (Dennis Dep. Tr. 43:10.)

At the time of his arrest, the Plaintiff was on probation as a result of prior convictions for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. (Clarkstown Criminal Compl., Comer Decl., Ex. 2.) Following his February 13, 2009 arrest, the Plaintiff notified his probation officer of the arrest. (Dennis Dep. Tr. 66:6-10.) On March 24, 2009, the Plaintiff's probation officer filed a notice of alleged violation of his probation on several grounds, including his February 13, 2009 arrest and other incidents, independent of his arrest, such as failing to report to his probation officer pursuant to the terms of his probation. (Darby Decl., Ex. C.)

On December 2, 2009, the Plaintiff appeared in the Supreme Court, State of New York Kings County and pled guilty to violating the terms of his parole and was sentenced to one year of imprisonment at Riker's Island ...

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