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Oliva v. Town of Greece

United States District Court, W.D. New York

December 1, 2014

NICHOLAS OLIVA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF STEPHANIE OLIVA, DECEASED, and CYNTHIA OLIVA, Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF GREECE, NEW YORK, MERRITT RAHN, JOHN AUBERGER, BRIAN BALL, and JOHN DOE, Defendants

For Nicholas Oliva, Cynthia Oliva, Plaintiffs: R. Brian Goewey, Rochester, NY.

For Town of Greece, NY, Merritt Rahn, John Auberger, JOHN DOE, Defendants: Joseph B. Rizzo, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gallo & Iacovangelo LLP, Rochester, NY.

For Officer Brian Ball, Defendants: Brian R. Henzel, Christian C. Casini, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Osborn, Reed & Burke, LLP, Rochester, NY.

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DECISION AND ORDER

HON. FRANK P. GERACI, JR., United States District Judge.

Nicholas and Cynthia Oliva (" the Olivas" ) are the parents of Stephanie Oliva,

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an eighteen-year-old who was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2005. The Olivas bring this action claiming that the Defendants mishandled the investigation into their daughter's death, thereby precluding the Olivas from obtaining full damages in a wrongful death action. The Olivas plead this allegation as a denial of their constitutional right to access to the courts, the second such suit that the Olivas have brought in this District.[1] Defendants move to dismiss the case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that the Olivas' Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. As the Plaintiffs have not -- and cannot -- plead the required elements of a right to access the courts claim, the Defendants' motion is granted, and this case is dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are drawn from the Plaintiffs' Complaint[2]. On November 4, 2005, Stephanie Oliva (" Stephanie" ) was a passenger in a car that seventeen-year-old Chad Kenyon (" Kenyon" ) was driving in the late evening. Comp. ¶ 27. While driving eastbound on Ridge Road West in the Town of Greece, NY, Kenyon attempted to make a left turn, and collided with a car that was traveling westbound and was driven by Anthony DeCarlis (" DeCarlis" ). Comp. ¶ 29. The collision partially ejected Stephanie from Kenyon's car, and she died as a result of the collision.

Officers from the Greece Police Department (" GPD" ) responded to the accident scene and began their investigation. Comp. ¶ ¶ 34, 50. Defendant Merritt Rahn[3] (" Rahn" ) was the Chief of Police of the GPD at the time of the accident and through the pendency of the investigation. Comp. ¶ 15. Defendant John Auberger (" Auberger" ) was the Supervisor of the Town of Greece and in that role, was responsible for municipal operations, including the GPD. Comp. ¶ 17. Brian Ball (" Ball" ), then a sergeant with the GPD, oversaw the investigation and accident reconstruction of the November 4, 2005 crash. Comp. ¶ 21. Defendant John Doe, whose identity is unknown, was Sergeant Ball's supervisor during the investigation of Stephanie's death. Comp. ¶ 24.

As detailed in their Complaint, the Plaintiffs allege that the investigation into Stephanie's death was severely mishandled, and that each of the Defendants contributed to, or was responsible for, various acts of misconduct. Specifically, the Plaintiffs allege that the Town of Greece and GPD failed to (1) investigate Kenyon's possible use of drugs and alcohol, despite Kenyon admitting at the scene to consuming over ten beers, having watery and bloodshot eyes, smelling strongly of alcohol, and testing positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana; (2) obtain statements from Kenyon and DeCarlis, as well as the other passenger in Kenyon's car, Joseph Marini; (3) investigate Kenyon, Marini and DeCarlis' pre-accident activities; (4) interview witnesses at the scene of the collision; (5) preserve and analyze a bag of marijuana found on DeCarlis

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at the hospital after the crash; and (6) examine and properly preserve Kenyon and DeCarlis' cars after the cars were taken into custody, which led to DeCarlis removing evidence from his impounded car and permitted the black box ...


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