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Moroughan v. County of Suffolk

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 10, 2015

THOMAS M. MOROUGHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE COUNTY OF SUFFOLK, ET AL., Defendants

For Plaintiff: Anthony Grandinette and Mirel Fisch of The Law Office of Anthony M. Grandinette, Mineola, NY.

For Nassau, Defendants: Christopher Clarke, Peter Johnson, and Joanne Filiberti of Leahey & Johnson, New York, NY; Liora Ben-Sorek and Michael Ferguson of the Nassau County Attorney's Office, Mineola, NY.

For Suffolk, Defendants: Brian C. Mitchell of the Suffolk County Department of Law - County Attorney, Hauppauge, NY.

For DiLeonardo: Amy Marion, Bruce Barket, and Kevin Kearon of Barket Marion Epstein & Kearon LLP, Garden City, NY.

For Hunter: Francis Schroeder and Laura Endrizzi of Congdon, Flaherty, O'Callaghan, Reid, Donlon, Travis, Uniondale, NY.

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MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOSEPH F. BIANCO, United States District Judge.

Thomas M. Moroughan (" plaintiff" ) brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (" Section 1983" ) and New

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York law against: the County of Suffolk; the Suffolk County Police Department (" SCPD" ); SCPD Detectives Ronald Tavares, Charles Leser, Eugene Geissinger, Nicholas Favatta, and Alfred Ciccotto; SCPD Detective/Sergeant William J. Lamb; SCPD Sergeant Jack Smithers; SCPD Officers William Meaney, Enid Nieves, Channon Rocchio, and Jesus Faya; and Suffolk John Does 1-10 (collectively, the " Suffolk defendants" ); the County of Nassau; Nassau County Police Department (" NCPD" ); NCPD Sergeant Timothy Marinaci; NCPD Inspector Edmund Horace; NCPD Commanding Officer Daniel Flanagan; NCPD Detective/Sergeant John DeMartinis' NCPD Officer Edward Bienz; and Nassau John Does 1-10 (collectively, the " Nassau defendants" ); NCPD Chief of Patrol John Hunter; and NCPD Officer Anthony D. DiLeonardo (collectively, with the Suffolk defendants, the Nassau defendants, and Hunter, " defendants" ). Plaintiff's action arises from an incident during which plaintiff alleges DiLeonardo, while off-duty and intoxicated, unlawfully shot and beat plaintiff, subsequent to which defendants allegedly conspired to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights by falsely arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning plaintiff while shielding DiLeonardo and Bienz (who was also present at the scene of the shooting) from investigation or prosecution for their alleged criminal acts.

Plaintiff presently moves to amend his complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), to: (a) assert a Monell claim against the County of Nassau for an unlawful policy and custom of falsifying reports regarding the use of deadly force by NCPD employees; (b) allege plaintiff's compliance with the notice of claim requirements of New York General Municipal Law § 50-e; (c) limit and specify which defendants are subject to each respective cause of action; and (d) allege a cause of action against the Nassau and Suffolk defendants for violating his right to counsel under New York law.

The Nassau defendants oppose the aspects of the motion concerning the addition of the Monell claim and right to counsel claims, and the amendment of the existing claims to limit and specify the defendants against whom they are asserted. The bulk of the Nassau defendants' argument focuses, however, on the addition of the Monell claim. They argue that the motion to amend should be denied because: (a) plaintiff has failed to demonstrate good cause for the delay in bringing his motion to amend; (b) plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that the Nassau defendants will not be unduly prejudiced by the addition of the Monell claim; and (c) plaintiff has failed to demonstrate the proposed Monell claim is not futile, because he failed to plead any causal connection between the " policy and custom" alleged in the Monell claim and plaintiff's constitutional injuries. The other defendants did not file oppositions to the motion.

For the following reasons, the Court grants plaintiff's motion to amend. As a threshold matter, plaintiff has demonstrated " good cause" in failing to assert a Monell claim earlier -- namely, plaintiff was not aware of the allegations relating to other Deadly Force Emergency Response Team (" DFRT" ) reports on officer-involved shootings until a Newsday article was published in November 2013. Moreover, it was not unreasonable for plaintiff to investigate those allegations for nine months before seeking to amend the pleading to add a Monell claim. For the same reasons, the Court finds that there was no undue delay in bringing the motion. In addition, given the stage of this litigation (with substantial discovery outstanding), the Nassau defendants have not demonstrated prejudice that would warrant denial

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of the motion. Finally, although the Nassau defendants argue that the amendment would be futile, the Court disagrees; rather, the Court concludes that the allegations in the proposed amended complaint set forth a plausible Monell claim arising from an alleged policy and custom of the DFRT to cover up misconduct by NCPD personnel by intentionally failing to investigate incidents properly, and falsifying reports to the NCPD commissioner by omitting damaging evidence to support conclusions in favor of NCPD personnel.

I. Background

A. Factual Allegations

1. The February 26, 2011 Incident

The Court summarizes the following relevant facts taken from the proposed second amended complaint (" SAC" ) for the purposes of this opinion. These are not findings of fact by the Court; instead, the Court assumes these facts to ...


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