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Codrington v. City of New York

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 2, 2015

JERRAINE CODRINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

SANDRA L. TOWNES, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jerraine Codrington ("Jerraine" or "Plaintiff') filed his amended complaint on July 18, 2012, alleging causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and various state-law claims. (ECF No. 9.) These claims arise from an encounter between Plaintiff and police on October 26, 2011, and his subsequent arrest and detention. On December 31, 2013, the City of New York, New York City Police Department ("NYPD"), NYPD officers Christina Meehan ("Meehan"), Christopher Sigmon ("Sigmon"), and Michael Rogers ("Rogers") (collectively, "Defendants") moved this court for summary judgment. (ECF No. 36.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Courts may grant summary judgment only where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A court's role is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Cioffi v. Averill Park Cent. Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 444 F.3d 158, 162 (2d Cir. 2006) ( quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)). "Because the Court's role is limited in this respect, it may not make factual findings, determine credibility of witnesses, or weigh evidence." Douglas v. City of New York, 595 F.Supp.2d 333, 339 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (citations omitted). Rather, in determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, a court resolves all ambiguities and draws all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A genuine issue of fact exists when there is sufficient "evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Id. at 252.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts[1]

Events leading up to the encounter

The parties do not dispute the general facts leading up to Jerraine's arrest. Sometime before October 26, 2011, Jerraine took his twin brother Jerome's car, a Nissan Altima, without first asking Jerome's permission. (Pl.'s Local Rule 56.1 Statements of Material Facts ("Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt.") ¶ 1, ECF No. 34-1; Defs.' Local Rule 56.1 Statements of Material Facts ("Defs.' 56.1 Stmt.") ¶¶ 1-4, ECF No. 38.) Jerraine took the keys from an article of Jerome's clothing that Jerome had left on the floor of the apartment where the brothers stayed. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.) Jerraine had a learner's permit but no driver's license. (Id.; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 24.)

On the morning of October 26, 2011, Jerome's girlfriend, Stephanie Cofield ("Cofield"), called 911 to report Jerome's Nissan Altima as stolen. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 2; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 1-2, 5.) NYPD officers Christina Meehan and Christopher Sigmon responded to the call. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.) Meehan and Sigmon traveled to Cofield's location. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 33.) After Cofield described the car, Meehan and Sigmon canvassed the area. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 34-35.) Unable to locate the car immediately, Meehan and Sigmon returned to Cofield's location and spoke with Cofield and Jerome. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 35-37.) Jerome described his car to the officers and stated that he had not given Jerraine permission to use the car; Cofield also told the officers Jerraine had taken Jerome's car keys and car and that her purse and other property was in the car. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 36-40.) Jerome also gave the officers Jerraine's name. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 42.)

The encounter

Shortly after leaving Cofield and Jerome's location, Meehan and Sigmon saw Jerraine alone in Jerome's Altima. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 45, 48.) Meehan recognized Jerraine. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 46.) Jerraine had already parked the car next to the curb when the officers approached him. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 3.) Meehan and Sigmon approached Jerraine and asked whether he owned the Altima. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4.) Jerraine told Meehan and Sigmon the car was not stolen but borrowed from his brother. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4.) Meehan then reached into the vehicle to remove the keys. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 5.) As Meehan reached for the keys, Jerraine reached across the car to retrieve paperwork showing his brother, Jerome, owned the car. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 4-5.) Sigmon then grabbed Jerraine-who is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs approximately 105 pounds-and pulled him out of the car, causing Jerraine to hit his head on the ground and lose consciousness. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 4-5.) The parties dispute whether Jerraine attacked Sigmon. ( Compare Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 4-5, with Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 67.) While Jerraine remained unconscious, either Meehan or Sigmon handcuffed Jerraine, and Sigmon then dragged Jerraine onto the sidewalk. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 4; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 62, 65.) Jerraine suffered a laceration to his forehead, facial abrasions, and injuries to his left knee. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 12-13.) Medical records dated December 29, 2011, show that Jerraine's left knee exhibited a decreased range of motion, swelling, and effusion over two months after the encounter. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 13.)

Arrest, charges, & detention

After the encounter, officers took Jerraine to the police station. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7.) The arrest report charged Jerraine with unauthorized use of a vehicle without owner's consent; criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree; petit larceny; obstruction of governmental administration in the second degree; and resisting arrest. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 81.) The District Attorney's Office ultimately charged Jerraine with assault in the second degree; petit larceny; obstructing governmental administration in the second degree; and resisting arrest. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 9; Ms.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 83.) At arraignment, Jerraine's bail was set at $30, 000, and he was remanded to Rikers Island. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 9; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 86-87.) On December 13, 2011, the Grand Jury returned a "No True Bill" and all criminal charges stemming from the October 26, 2011 encounter were dismissed. (Pl.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 89-90.)

However, Jerraine had other unrelated criminal cases pending against him that predated the October 26, 2011 encounter. On October 3, 2011, Jerraine was arrested and arraigned on charges of petit larceny, criminal possession of marijuana, and unlawful possession of marijuana. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 92-93.) On September 11, 2011, Jerraine was arrested and arraigned on charges of robbery and criminal possession of stolen property. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 94.) On August 13, 2011, Jerraine was arrested and arraigned on a charge of criminal marijuana possession. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 95.) Bail was set at $5, 000 for the robbery and criminal possession of stolen property charges on December 6, 2011, and on December 12, 2011, bail was set at $1 for each of the charges of petit larceny, unlawful marijuana possession, and criminal marijuana possession. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 92-95.) On December 20, 2011, Jerraine posted bail on the petit larceny and marijuana charges and was released on his own recognizance on the robbery charge. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 92-95.) On May 4, 2012, Jerraine pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges under New York Penal Law ("NYPL") § 240.20 related to the August 13 and October 3 arrests and received a sentence of time served. (Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 93, 95.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his original complaint on April 4, 2012, against the City of New York, the NYPD, and Police Officers "John Doe" 1-2. (ECF No. 1.) On July 18, 2012, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint identifying officers Christina Meehan, Christopher Sigmon, and Michael Rogers. (ECF No. 9.) Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges causes of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest, excessive force, and malicious prosecution; and state-law claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, negligence, assault, and battery.

On January 18, 2013, Plaintiff agreed to voluntarily dismiss the following claims: (1) municipal liability under § 1983, as against the City of New York; (2) excessive force under § 1983, as against Rogers; and (3) state-law assault and battery, as against Rogers. (ECF No. 20.) The Court entered an order of partial dismissal on February 28, 2013. (ECF No. 22.)

On December 31, 2013, Defendants filed this motion for summary judgment on all claims. (ECF No. 36.) Defendants' motion also identifies several vague references in Plaintiff's amended complaint to potential claims for conspiracy, violation of equal protection rights, violation of due process rights, harassment, and violation of the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. To the extent Plaintiff's amended complaint can be read to assert these causes of action, Defendants seek dismissal on the grounds that Plaintiff fails to plead these claims adequately or has abandoned these claims. Defendants also argue that officers Meehan, Sigmon, and Rogers are entitled to qualified immunity and that the City of New York is entitled to governmental immunity.

III. DISCUSSION

A. § 1983 and related state-law claims

To maintain a cause of action pursuant to § 1983, a plaintiff must show that the defendant, acting under color of state law, denied the plaintiff a constitutional or federal statutory right. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982-83 (2d Cir. 1991). "Section 1983 itself creates no substantive rights; it provides only a procedure for redress for the deprivation of rights established elsewhere." Sykes v. James, 13 F.3d 515, 519 (2d Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). Defendants do not dispute that they acted under color of state law.

1. False arrest

Plaintiff asserts state and federal claims for false arrest. "A claim of false arrest covers the time period from arrest through arraignment, after which time the claim becomes one for malicious prosecution." Marcano v. City of Schenectady, No. 1:12-CV-00036, 2014 WL 3953198, at *12 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 13, 2014) (citing Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 389-90 (2007)). "A § 1983 claim for false arrest, resting on the Fourth Amendment right of an individual to be free from unreasonable seizures, including arrest without probable cause, is substantially the same as a claim for false arrest under New York law." Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal citations omitted). The Court therefore considers Plaintiffs § 1983 and state-law false arrest claims together.

A false arrest claim requires the plaintiff to show that: "(1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the plaintiff was conscious of the confinement, (3) the plaintiff did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged." Jocks v. Tavernier, 316 F.3d 128, 134-35 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Broughton v. State, 37 N.Y.2d 451, 456, 335 N.E.2d 310 (1975)). Probable cause constitutes a complete defense to false arrest under both federal and New York law. Weyant, 101 F.3d at 852 (citations omitted). Probable cause "exists when the officers have knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information of facts and circumstances that are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the belief that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a crime." Id. (citations omitted). "[T]he probable cause inquiry is based upon whether the facts known by the arresting officer at the time of the arrest objectively provided probable cause to arrest." Jaegly v. Couch, 439 F.3d 149, 153 (2d Cir. 2006) (citing Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 153 (2004)).

Defendants argue that Jerome and Cofield' s statements to officers Meehan and Sigmon created probable cause.[2] (Mem. Supp. 4-7, ECF No. 37.) Under New York Penal Law § 165.05(1), a person is guilty of unauthorized use of a vehicle in the third degree when that person: "[k]nowing that he does not have the consent of the owner, ... takes, operates, exercises control over, rides in or otherwise uses a vehicle. A person who engages in any such conduct without the consent of the owner is presumed to know that he does not have such consent." New York Penal Law § 155.25 provides that "[a] person is guilty of petit larceny when he steals property." Before Jerraine's arrest, Jerome and Cofield told the officers that Jerraine took Jerome's car keys and car without permission[3]; described the car; and gave Plaintiff's name. Shortly after leaving Jerome and Cofield, the officers spotted Jerome's Nissan Altima, and officer Meehan recognized Plaintiff. The witness statements provided the officers probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for unauthorized use of a vehicle in the third degree and petit larceny. See Curley v. Viii. of Suffern, 268 F.3d 65, 70 (2d Cir. 2001) ("When information is received from a putative victim or an eyewitness, probable cause exists, unless the circumstances raise doubt as to the person's veracity." (citation omitted)). Because probable cause existed for the arrest, Plaintiff's false arrest claims (federal and state) fail as a matter of law. See Weyant, 101 F.3d at 852 (citations omitted) (noting probable cause constitutes a complete defense to both federal and state false arrest claims).

2. Malicious prosecution

Plaintiff asserts claims of malicious prosecution pursuant to both § 1983 and state law. A malicious prosecution claim under New York law requires the plaintiff to show: "(1) that the defendant commenced or continued a criminal proceeding against him; (2) that the proceeding was terminated in the plaintiff's favor; (3) that there was no probable cause for the proceeding; and (4) that the proceeding was instituted with malice." Kinzer v. Jackson, 316 F.3d 139, 143 (2d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). "Because there are no federal rules of decision for adjudicating § 1983 actions that are based upon claims of malicious prosecution, [courts] are required by 42 U.S.C. § 1988 to turn to state law." Conway v. Vill. of Mount Kisco, N. Y, 750 F.2d 205, 214 (2d Cir. 1984). In addition to the state-law elements, a § 1983 malicious prosecution claim requires an additional showing of "a sufficient post-arraignment ...


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