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Alvarez v. County of Orange

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 25, 2015

LUIS ALVAREZ, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF ORANGE, NEW YORK, et al., Defendants

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For Plaintiff: Brian Michael Rudner, Esq., Michael John Paleudis, Esq., Rudner & Paleudis, LLC, White Plains, NY.

For Defendants: Matthew Joseph Nothnagle, Esq., Orange County Attorney, Goshen, NY; Susan Z. Stockburger, Esq., Orange County Department of Law, Goshen, NY.

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Plaintiff Luis Alvarez (" Plaintiff" ) filed the instant Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § § 1983 and 1988 against the County of Orange, New York (" Orange County" ), the Sheriff of Orange County, Carl E. DuBois (" DuBois" ), Sergeant Laurence Cottone (" Cottone" ), and Deputy Sheriff Rodney Carpentier (" Carpentier" ), alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and claims of false arrest, negligent training and supervision, and respondeat superior liability under New York Law. (First Am. Compl. (" Am. Compl." ) ¶ ¶ 12--18 (Dkt. No. 13).) For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion To Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and certain documents submitted by Defendants that the Court considers, as explained below, and are taken as true for the purpose of resolving the instant Motion. Plaintiff is the owner and president of Newburgh Towing & Service, Inc. (" Newburgh Towing" ), located in the City of Newburgh, County of Orange, State of New York, which provides towing services for hire. (Am. Compl. ¶ 16.) On or about December 28, 2010, Plaintiff was hired by Panayiotis Andrianis (" Andrianis" ) to transport a large piece of equipment, known as a Bobcat,

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(the " Bobcat" ) from the Town of Fishkill, New York (" Fishkill" ) to the City of Beacon, New York (" Beacon" ). ( Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff performed the requested services, including towing and transportation services to Andrianis. ( Id. ¶ 18.) Andrianis refused to pay Plaintiff for the services rendered and " abandoned the Bobcat in Plaintiff's custody in the parking lot of M& T Bank in . . . Beacon." ( Id.)

On or about December 29, 2010 at approximately 2 a.m., Plaintiff transported the Bobcat to his business location, a motor vehicle repair shop located at 230 Ann Street, Newburgh, New York (" Plaintiff's repair shop" ). ( Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff called the City of Beacon Police Department (" Beacon Police Department" ) to notify them of the situation and " was instructed to hold the equipment pending payment pursuant to New York State Lien Law § 184(1)." ( Id. ¶ 20.)

On or about the same day, the City of Newburgh Police Department (" Newburgh Police Department" ) and the State of New York Police Department (" New York State Police Department" ) contacted Plaintiff to investigate allegations by the owner of the Bobcat, Summit Handling Services Inc. (" Summit" ), that Plaintiff had stolen its equipment. ( Id. ¶ 23, 25.) The Newburgh Police Department and the New York State Police Department separately " conducted . . . thorough investigation[s], including visiting and interviewing Plaintiff at his place of business, and declined to take any action against Plaintiff, indicating that no criminality had occurred and the issue was, at most, a civil matter between Plaintiff and Summit." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 24, 26.)

On or about January 2, 2011, the Beacon Police Department contacted Plaintiff to investigate allegations made by Summit that Plaintiff had stolen its equipment. ( Id. ¶ 27.) The matter was assigned to " Detective Rios, who conducted an extensive investigation extending over several days," during which the Beacon Police Department " interviewed witnesses and reviewed video surveillance from the alleged locations." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 28--29.) At the conclusion of its investigation, the Beacon Police Department found no criminality and that the issue was, at most, a civil matter between Plaintiff and Summit. ( Id. ¶ 30.)

On January 3, 2011, to " compl[y] with the requirements of New York State Lien Law § 184(2)," Plaintiff mailed, " via certified mail, return receipt requested," a notice to Summit, indicating that Plaintiff had towed and was storing the Bobcat, the amount claimed for such towing and storage, and the address and times at which the Bobcat could be recovered. ( Id. ¶ 21.) The notice also stated that Plaintiff claimed a lien on the Bobcat and that the Bobcat would be released to the owner or his or her lawfully designated representative " upon full payment of all charges accrued to the date that said Bobcat is released." ( Id. ¶ 22.)

On or about January 13, 2011, Plaintiff was contacted by Cottone on behalf of the Orange County Sheriff's Office. ( Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff informed Cottone that he had a lien on the Bobcat for non-payment of towing services that Plaintiff provided. ( Id. ¶ 32.) Cottone advised Plaintiff that he planned to visit Plaintiff's repair shop later that day, at approximately 4 p.m., to continue his discussion with Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 33.) Cottone arrived at Plaintiff's repair shop at approximately 9 p.m., when Plaintiff was not present, and " demanded that Plaintiff's employees release the Bobcat to him, indicating that he had a court order to pick up the equipment." ( Id. ¶ 34.) Cottone " made numerous threats to Plaintiff's employees . . . that he would arrest everyone at the location." ( Id. ¶ 35.) After his employees contacted him, Plaintiff arrived at his repair shop and demanded

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to see a copy of the order, which Cottone did not produce. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 36--37.) Plaintiff refused to give the Bobcat to Cottone. ( Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff informed Cottone of the investigations conducted by the Newburgh Police Department, the New York State Police Department, and the Beacon Police Department, and of " evidence that Plaintiff had complied with all aspects of the New York State Lien Law." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 38--39.)

On or about January 18, 2011, at approximately 3 p.m., Plaintiff and Summit entered into an agreement by which Summit would pay $2,476.06 to Plaintiff for towing and storage fees and that Plaintiff, in turn, would return the Bobcat to Summit. ( Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff and Summit also agreed that Plaintiff would hold the equipment for an additional three days until Summit's payment check cleared, and during the three-day period, Plaintiff was authorized to use the Bobcat so long as his use did not exceed five hours over three days, that he sign a rental agreement, and that he provide a certificate of insurance. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 41--42.) Plaintiff went to Summit's place of business at approximately 4 p.m. later that day to provide the certificate of insurance and sign a rental agreement, but was advised that the manager had left for the day and Plaintiff was turned away. ( Id. ¶ 43.)

At approximately 5 p.m. on the same day, Carpentier, along with other members of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, arrived at Plaintiff's rental shop, " placed Plaintiff in handcuffs, and ushered him into the back of a patrol car in front of numerous eyewitnesses, customers, and employees." ( Id. ¶ 44.) Plaintiff's arrest was at the direction and order of Cottone. ( Id. ¶ 45.) In fact, Plaintiff alleges, upon information and belief, that between January 13, 2011 and January 18, 2011, Cottone participated in and oversaw the investigation that led to Plaintiff's arrest. ( Id. ¶ 46.) After Plaintiff's arrest, members of the Orange County Sheriff's Department entered Plaintiff's " secure" repair shop, and authorized a tow truck driver who was hired and paid by Summit to enter onto Plaintiff's property, remove the Bobcat, and return it to Summit. ( Id. ¶ 47.)

Plaintiff alleges that neither Cottone nor Carpentier took photographs of the Bobcat, conducted an inspection of the equipment, made an odometer reading on the Bobcat, or gathered evidence or secured the Bobcat before it was released to Summit. ( Id. ¶ 48.) Plaintiff also alleges that neither Cottone nor Carpentier obtained a search warrant or court order authorizing the release of the Bobcat to Summit and did not direct Summit to pay Plaintiff for the outstanding debt owed to Plaintiff for his towing and storage of the Bobcat. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 49--50.)

Carpentier transported Plaintiff to the Orange County Sheriff's Office, where Plaintiff was held for several hours without being told the nature of the charges against him, without being able to make a telephone call, without food or water, and without the ability to use the restroom. ( Id. ¶ 51.) Cottone denied Plaintiff's request for Tylenol. ( Id. ¶ 52.) Plaintiff was then transported by members of the Orange County Sheriff's Department to the Town of New Windsor Justice Court in Windsor, New York, where he was held for approximately one hour prior to being arraigned on Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree, and Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle in the Third Degree. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 53--54.) Plaintiff was released from custody after posting bail. ( Id. ¶ 55.)

Plaintiff alleges upon information and belief, Carpentier executed, " at the behest of, and/or in concert with Cottone," a felony

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complaint on January 14, 2011, alleging that:

On December 29, 2010 Newburgh Towing removed a Bobcat T300 Compact Truck Loader serial #532015494 from 200 Main Street in the City of Beacon and transported it to 230 Ann Street in the City of Newburgh without the authorization of the owner of [Summit] or its agent Mr. David A. Morgan. As of the above date [Plaintiff], as an agent of Newburgh Towing is still in possession of the Bobcat T300 serial #532015494.

( Id. ΒΆ 56, 58.) Moreover, Plaintiff alleges, upon information and belief, that Carpentier, " at the behest of, and/or in concert with Cottone" executed a second felony complaint ...

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