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Lin v. County of Monroe

United States District Court, W.D. New York

December 8, 2014

PO K. LIN, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF MONROE, PATRICK O'FLYNN, SHERIFF, MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, DEPUTIES JOEDY LUTHER, MICHAEL THOMPSON, and ROBERT MURPHY, in their Official and Individual Capacities, Defendants

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Po K. Lin, Plaintiff, Pro se, West Henrietta, NY.

For County of Monroe, Patrick O'Flynn, Sheriff, Monroe County Sheriff's Department, Deputy Joey Luther, Deputy Michael Thompson, Deputy Robert Murphy, in Their Official and Individual Capacities, Defendants: Adam M. Clark, LEAD ATTORNEY, Monroe County Department of Law, Rochester, NY.

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DECISION AND ORDER

ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Po K. Lin (" Plaintiff" ) brings this action against the County of Monroe, Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn, the Monroe County Sheriff's Department, and Deputies Joedy Luther,[1] Michael Thompson, and Robert

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Murphy (" Defendants" ), in their official and individual capacities, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for Defendants' alleged use of excessive force against him. (Dkt. 1).

On December 22, 2009, Plaintiff set out on an errand for his girlfriend to purchase a Burger King chicken sandwich, but his trip did not end well. Plaintiff was ultimately arrested, and the derailed Burger King trip has led the parties into federal court. Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 23). Because there are some disputed issues of material fact requiring a trial of Plaintiff's claims, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, Defendants' motion is granted as to all causes of action except for his excessive use of force, assault, and battery claims against Deputy Luther in his individual capacity.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On December 22, 2009, Plaintiff went to a Burger King restaurant located at 3679 W. Henrietta Road, located in Henrietta, New York, to purchase a chicken sandwich for his girlfriend, Jessica Appleton. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ ¶ 1, 3; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ ¶ 1, 3). Plaintiff was operating a 1995 Acura Integra, which was registered to Ms. Appleton. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 2; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 2).

Plaintiff drove the Integra to the drive-through window and placed his order with a Burger King employee, Keith Dunniehigh. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 4; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 4). Mr. Dunniehigh observed that the steering wheel column cover of the Integra had been removed, and the wires on the column were exposed. ( Id.). Dunniehigh became suspicious that the Integra was stolen and called 911 to report a possible stolen vehicle. ( Id.). The 911 operator asked Dunniehigh to attempt to hold the vehicle until deputies arrived. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 7; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 7). Dunniehigh asked Plaintiff to pull forward and park his vehicle while he waited for his food. ( Id.). Plaintiff complied and parked his vehicle. ( Id.).

Monroe County Sheriff's deputies Joedy Luther and Vincent Re responded to the Burger King to investigate. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 8; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 8). Re was the field training officer for Luther, who had completed his Police Academy training in September 2009. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 9; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 9). Plaintiff saw the sheriff vehicle pull up and observed a uniformed deputy exit the vehicle. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 10; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 10). The deputy approached Plaintiff's car and spoke to him through the driver's side window. ( Id.). When the deputy approached, Plaintiff asked, " how can I help you officer?" ( Id.). The deputy asked Plaintiff on four occasions to exit the vehicle. Each time the deputy asked Plaintiff to exit the vehicle, Plaintiff responded, " why," and refused to exit the vehicle. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 11; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 11).

At this point, the accounts of Plaintiff and Defendants begin to differ. Defendants contend that the deputy who approached the vehicle and spoke to Plaintiff through the drivers' side window was Joedy Luther, while Plaintiff contends he was first approached by Deputy Re. (Dkt. 23-3 at ¶ 6; Dkt. 29 at ¶ 5). In his amended declaration, Plaintiff contends that Deputy Re told Plaintiff to place his hands on the steering wheel, and that Plaintiff at all times complied with this request. (Dkt. 29 at ¶ ¶ 6-7). However, in his deposition and at his hearing conducted pursuant to New York General Municipal Law § 50-h, Plaintiff testified that he did remove his

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hands from the steering wheel on one occasion. (Dkt. 23-10 at 73:9-21; Dkt. 23-16 at 16:17-24). Deputy Luther contends that Plaintiff refused to comply with his request, and removed his right hand from the wheel and placed it between the seat and the console. (Dkt. 23-3 at ¶ 7). Luther also contends that Plaintiff refused to place his hands back on the steering wheel, and that he did not know if Plaintiff was reaching for a weapon. ( Id.).

After Plaintiff refused to exit the vehicle, a second deputy approached Plaintiff and punched him in the left cheek. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 13; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 13).[2] While Defendants contend that Deputy Luther was not the deputy who struck Plaintiff in the face (Dkt. 23-3 at ¶ 13), Plaintiff contends that he was struck by Deputy Luther (Dkt. 29 at ¶ 10). The parties agree that the deputy who struck Plaintiff in the face was taller than the deputy who spoke to Plaintiff through the window, and was what Plaintiff described as a " training deputy." (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 16; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 16).

After Plaintiff was struck, the training deputy reached into the vehicle, unlocked the door, and used the exterior door handle to open the driver's side door. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 18; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 18). Both deputies forcibly removed Plaintiff from the vehicle, put his hands behind his back, threw him to the ground, and handcuffed him. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 19; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 19). Defendants contend that Plaintiff resisted their efforts to remove him from the vehicle (Dkt. 23-3 at ¶ 8), while Plaintiff contends that he voluntarily exited the car (Dkt. 29 at ¶ 11). Plaintiff contends that both deputies " slammed" him to the ground after dragging him out of the car. ( Id. at ¶ 12). Plaintiff further contends that the standing deputy asked Plaintiff, " do you know what you just did . . . you just swung at two officer deputies!" ( Id. at ¶ 13). Plaintiff denied swinging at the deputies. ( Id.). Mr. Dunnehigh described Plaintiff as " resisting" arrest. (Dkt. 23-11 at 32:12-16, 33:8-10).

While Plaintiff was being handcuffed, one of the deputies had his knee on Plaintiff's back. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 19; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 19). Specifically, Plaintiff contends that the standing deputy placed his knee strongly and firmly on Plaintiff's face, " with such force it felt as though [Plaintiff's] skull was being crushed." (Dkt. 29 at ¶ 14). Defendants contend that Deputy Luther handcuffed Plaintiff (Dkt. 23-3 at ¶ 8), while Plaintiff contends that Deputy Re handcuffed him (Dkt. 29 at ¶ 15). In his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he did not know which deputy put handcuffs on him, or which deputy had his knee on Plaintiff's head. (Dkt. 23-10 at 85:8-13).

Defendants contend that after Plaintiff was handcuffed, the training deputy stood him up and walked him to the patrol vehicle. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 21; Dkt. 23-16 at 27:2-4). During his examination pursuant to New York General Municipal Law § 50-h, Plaintiff testified that it was the " more senior officer" or the " training officer" who took him to the back of the police car. (Dkt. 23-16 at 26:17-25, 27:2-4). However, in his amended declaration, Plaintiff contends that it was Deputy Luther who " sprawled [him] out over the side of the trunk of the squad car" and demanded that he " stop resisting arrest." (Dkt. 29 at ¶ 17).

The parties agree that the training deputy was the deputy who twisted Plaintiff's

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wrists. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 16; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 16). Despite this agreement, in his amended declaration, Plaintiff contends that Deputy Luther twisted his wrists " as hard as [his] wrists could physically allow him to turn," while Plaintiff pleaded with Deputy Luther to stop. (Dkt. 29 at ¶ 17). Plaintiff further contends that Deputy Luther told Plaintiff to " shut up," and that he struck the back of Plaintiff's left thigh with his knee several times. ( Id.).

After Plaintiff was in the patrol car, Sergeant Robert Murphy arrived at the scene of the arrest and inquired about what had occurred. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 22; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 22). Murphy was not present at the scene when Plaintiff was struck or removed from his vehicle and handcuffed. ( Id.). Plaintiff told the other deputies who had arrived on the scene that Deputy Luther had punched him in the face. (Dkt. 29 at ¶ 18). Plaintiff contends that Deputy Luther denied the accusation and called Plaintiff a " liar." ( Id.).

The parties agree that, despite being named as a defendant, there was no individual named Michael Thompson who was employed by the Monroe County Sheriff's Department at the scene of the incident. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 23; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 23).

While Plaintiff was in the patrol car, he answered Deputy Re's questions, including identifying the owner of the vehicle. (Dkt. 29 at ¶ 20). Plaintiff reported that the car belonged to his girlfriend, Jessica Appleton. ( Id.). Deputy Re called Ms. Appleton and asked if Plaintiff was permitted to operate the vehicle. ( Id.).

Following his arrest, Plaintiff was transported to the Monroe County Sheriff's substation at the Marketplace Mall in Henrietta, New York. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 24; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 24). Plaintiff was photographed, charged with obstructing government administration and resisting arrest, and returned to his vehicle upon his release. ( Id.). The Sheriff's Department offered to call an ambulance for Plaintiff, but he refused medical treatment. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 25; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 25).

That night, Plaintiff's neighbor drove him to Strong Memorial Hospital for medical evaluation of the injuries he allegedly sustained during his arrest. (Dkt. 29 at ¶ 23). Ms. Appleton also contacted the local 911 dispatcher and requested that a police officer meet Plaintiff at the hospital so that Plaintiff could make a formal police report against deputies Re and Luther. ( Id. at ¶ 24). While waiting for a police officer to arrive, Plaintiff received a call from Sergeant Murphy, who instructed Plaintiff to stop communicating with him. ( Id. at ¶ 25). Lieutenant Wagner subsequently arrived at the hospital and told Plaintiff that the sheriff's department had acted properly, and that the deputies' actions would be internally investigated. ( Id. at ¶ 26). Lieutenant Wagner refused to take a formal police report from Plaintiff in light of the already-pending internal investigation. ( Id.).

Plaintiff alleges he sustained a fractured right wrist, a sprained left wrist, and a bruised left thigh, as a result of the incident. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 26; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 26). On April 7, 2010, Henrietta Town Court Judge Steven M. Donsky adjourned the charges against Plaintiff in contemplation of dismissal upon Plaintiff's agreement to complete four hours of community service and to avoid arrest for six months. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 28; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 28).[3] The Monroe County Sheriff's Office conducted an internal investigation into the

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incident and found that deputies Luther and Re did not violate any policies or procedures. (Dkt. 23-1 at ¶ 29; Dkt. 27-1 at ¶ 29).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed his complaint on August 20, 2010, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, pursuant to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for excessive use of force by the deputies, supervisory liability against Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn, Monell liability against the County of Monroe, and assault and battery against the deputies. (Dkt. 1). Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages against the deputies. ( Id.). Plaintiff was represented by Christina A. Agola, PLLC, at the time he filed his complaint. ( Id.).

Defendants filed their answer on January 27, 2011. (Dkt. 8). On April 12, 2013, Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. 23). Plaintiff filed a response on July 11, 2013, and Defendants replied on August 12, 2013. (Dkt. 27 and 30). On November 21, 2013, the Honorable William M. Skretny, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Western District of New York, granted Christina A. Agola's motion to withdraw as Plaintiff's attorney in light of her ...


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