United States District Court, N.D. New York
STEWART L. WEISMAN, ESQ., OFFICE OF STEWART L. WEISMAN, Syracuse, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.
AIMEE M. PAQUETTE, ESQ., CITY OF SYRACUSE CORPORATION COUNSEL, Syracuse, New York, Attorneys for the City Defendants.
KAREN ANN BLESKOSKI, ESQ., ONONDAGA COUNTY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Syracuse, New York, Attorneys for the County Defendants.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.
Plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights in connection with an arrest that occurred on or about June 3, 2011. See Dkt. No. 1 at 3. On January 7, 2015, the City of Syracuse, Frank L. Fowler and the Syracuse Police Department ("City Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. See Dkt. No. 9. On January 14, 2015, Onondaga County, the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department and Kevin Walsh ("County Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. See Dkt. No. 10. Plaintiff opposed Defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint, filed a cross-motion to amend his complaint, and submitted a proposed amended complaint in support of his motion. See Dkt. No. 11. On February 4, 2015, the City Defendants and County Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's verified complaint in its entirety and opposed Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint. See Dkt. Nos. 13, 14.
Presently before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint in its entirety pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as well as Plaintiff's cross motion to amend his complaint.
A. Plaintiff's Original Complaint
Plaintiff commenced this action on August 29, 2014, alleging that, on or about June 3, 2011, he was arrested in his home by officers of the Syracuse Police Department ("PD") for violating Penal Law 120.14, Menacing - 2nd, for allegedly uttering threatening words and brandishing a weapon at Jerry Muldrow. See Dkt. No. 1 at 3. On November 25, 2014, Magistrate Judge Dancks adjourned the Rule 16 Conference set for December 3, 2014. Thereafter, on November 26, 2014, Magistrate Judge Dancks granted an extension of time for Plaintiff to serve the complaint on Defendants to December 31, 2014. In accordance with this extension, Plaintiff served all Defendants with a Summons, Verified Complaint and General Order on December 30, 2014.
In his original complaint, Plaintiff alleges that, at the time of his arrest, there were no witnesses to the alleged incident, no evidence in support of Muldrow's allegations, and that the Syracuse PD and its officers knew or should have known that Muldrow himself was not a credible witness. Id. The Syracuse PD officers who arrested Plaintiff at his home gained entry by allegedly falsely representing that they had secured a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest. See id. However, according to Plaintiff's complaint, the Syracuse PD officers failed to produce a warrant and, "upon information and belief, no warrant was in existence at the time of Maddox's arrest." See id. at 3-4. The Syracuse PD officers handcuffed Plaintiff and transported him to the Justice Center, a place of confinement operated by the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department. Plaintiff was held at the Justice Center for six days. See id. at 4. During this period, Plaintiff was denied prescription medication for pain that he experienced due to a recent surgery. See id. at 4. On August 30, 2011, the charges against Plaintiff were dismissed pursuant to an order of the Honorable James Cecile, Syracuse City Court Judge. See id.
Collectively, Plaintiff contends that the City and County Defendants' actions as described above constituted false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, battery, and cruel and inhuman punishment, and were done with reckless disregard and/or deliberate indifference to his Constitutional rights as set forth in the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. See id. at 5. Further, Plaintiff alleges in Counts Two and Three that Chief Fowler, the City of Syracuse and the Syracuse PD, as well as Sheriff Walsh, Onondaga County and the Onondaga Sheriff's Department had policies and procedures in place which permitted the alleged constitutional violations and that the City and County Defendants failed to properly train and supervise their employees. See id. at 7-10.
B. Defendants' Motions to Dismiss
On January 7, 2014, the City Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim, arguing, among other things, that: (1) all claims against the Syracuse PD should be dismissed because a police department does not have its own legal identity; (2) Plaintiff's false arrest, false imprisonment, unlawful search and seizure, excessive force and deprivation of medical care claims were filed outside of the applicable statute of limitations and, as such, are time barred; and (3) Plaintiff's Monell claim must be dismissed due to a lack of an underlying constitutional violation by a state actor. See Dkt. No. 9.
On January 14, 2014 the County Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim, adopting the arguments set forth in the City Defendants' motion. See Dkt. No. 10-2 at 5. Further, the County Defendants argue that the Plaintiff's official capacity suit against former Sheriff Kevin Walsh should be dismissed because, for purposes of Section 1983 claims, suits against a municipal officer in his or her official capacity are tantamount to suits against the entity for which the officer serves as an agent. See id. at 4. As such, the County Defendants argue that it is unnecessary to name former Sheriff Walsh in his official capacity because the County of Onondaga is already a named defendant in the action. Additionally, the County Defendants set forth that the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department is not a legal entity subject to suit. See id. at 4-5. The County Defendants also claim that Plaintiff's complaint as it relates to violations of the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments must be dismissed. See id. at 6-7. Lastly, the County Defendants state that "Plaintiff appears to be alleging a claim of negligence as part of his claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. However, Plaintiff must assert an allegation of more than mere negligence to allege a valid claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983... Consequently, Plaintiff's claim of negligence pursuant to Section 1983 must be dismissed." See id. at 7.
C. Plaintiff's Proposed Amended Complaint
On February 1, 2015, Plaintiff filed a memorandum of law in opposition to Defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint and cross-moved for leave to amend his complaint pursuant to Rule 15(c)(1)(B) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to "correct any alleged deficiencies in the pleadings." See Dkt. No. 11 at 1, 4. In the amended complaint, Plaintiff names the City of Syracuse and the County of Onondaga as Defendants, removes the aforementioned time barred claims, including Plaintiff's original claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, battery, and cruel and inhuman punishment, and inserted a cause of action for malicious prosecution against the City of Syracuse and the County of Onondaga. According to the amended complaint, the malicious prosecution claim arises out of the "same conduct set out in the original Verified Complaint." Specifically, Plaintiff argues that
(i) since the original Verified Complaint sets forth clearly the facts that comprise a prima facie case of malicious prosecution, (ii) since the proposed amended complaint does not allege a new and distinct set of factual allegations, (iii) since no prejudice will accrue to either the City of Syracuse or the County of Onondaga, (iv) since these defendants were placed on notice of the nucleus of operative facts through the service of the original Verified Complaint, and (v) since the original Verified Complaint was filed before the expiration of the applicable three year statute of limitation, Maddox should be permitted to amend his complaint to assert the count for malicious prosecution as the proposed amended complaint relates back to the date of the original pleading, August 30, 2014. Maddox sought in the original ...