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Neal v. Wilson

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 9, 2017

WILSON, et al., Defendants.


          GABRIEL W. GORENSTEIN, United States Magistrate Judge

         On January 12, 2017, plaintiff Christopher Neal sent the Court a letter attaching an amended complaint and apparently seeking to have it filed. See Letter from Christopher Neal, dated Jan. 12, 2017 (Docket # 97) (“Neal Letter”). The only substantive change in the complaint is the addition of two new defendants - both undercover police officers. See “Amended Comp[l]aint, ” dated Jan. 12, 2017 (attached to Neal Letter) (“Prop. 3d Am. Compl.”), ¶ 1. We construe this letter as a motion to amend. Defendants filed a letter in response, see Letter from Ben Kuruvilla, dated Jan. 26, 2017 (Docket # 98) (“Kuruvilla Letter”), and Neal filed a reply, see Letter from Christopher Neal, dated Feb. 1, 2017 (Docket # 99) (“Neal Reply”). For the reasons stated below, the motion to amend is denied.


         Neal alleged in his original complaint that he was in his apartment on the night of November 23, 2012, “tending to [a] wound, ” when up to 10 police officers “unlawfully entered [his] apartment without . . . permission.” See Complaint, dated Mar. 30, 2015 (Docket # 2), ¶¶ 1.B, 2.A.1 (emphasis omitted). For unexplained reasons, one of the officers asked Neal to come with them and Neal refused. Id. ¶ 2.A.2. According to his complaint, the officers then proceeded to attack Neal with punches, a Taser, and a baton. Id. ¶¶ 2.A.2-.5. The officers handcuffed Neal and took him from his apartment to a hospital. Id. ¶ 2.A.6. Neal was arrested and arraigned later that night. Id. The original complaint identified four defendants by name, and another six were identified as “John Doe.” Id. ¶ 1.B.

         Several weeks after bringing suit, Neal filed his first amended complaint. See Amended Complaint, dated May 12, 2015 (Docket # 5). Neal's first amended complaint not only included allegations relating to the November 23, 2012, incident, but also described an incident on August 20, 2012. See id. ¶ 2.B. Neal alleged that on August 20, 2012, he was arrested without probable cause while walking in public with his daughter and nephew. See id. In his description of the August 20, 2012, incident, Neal alleged that “an unknown detective” arrested him. Id. The caption of the complaint lists as defendants two detectives: Detective Marrero and Detective Scollo. Id. ¶ 1.B. The complaint does not mention any other police personnel involved in the August 20, 2012, incident.

         Neal filed a second amended complaint in December 2015. See Amended Complaint, dated Dec. 5, 2015 (Docket # 30) (“2d Am. Compl.”). In his second amended complaint, Neal describes the August 20, 2012, incident and alleges that Detective Marrero arrested him. See Id. ¶ 2.B. Neal also alleges that Detective Scollo was involved in the August 20, 2012, incident. See id. ¶ 2.B.1. The second amended complaint makes no mention of any other police personnel involved in the August 20, 2012, incident.

         Neal's proposed third amended complaint - the subject of the current motion and first presented in his letter of January 12, 2017 - adds to the caption two undercover police officers as defendants, who are identified by undercover number: “UC number 280” and “UC number 10” of the Narcotics Borough Bronx. See Prop. 3d. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1.B.11-.12. This complaint describes the August 20, 2012, incident. It again names Detectives Marrero and Scollo as defendants and gives allegations regarding these detectives' conduct relating to the arrest. The proposed complaint for the first time adds the following factual allegation: “UC number 280 and/or UC nu[m]ber 10 made a statement that [Neal] had placed glassines containing heroin inside [a] candy machine slot.” See id. ¶ 2.B.6 (emphasis and capitalization omitted). In a claim entitled “Breach of Duty to Protect, ” the proposed amended complaint also alleges that the two undercover officers, along with Detectives Marrero and Scollo, made false statements. See Id. ¶¶ 2.C.3, 2.C.5.

          II. DISCUSSION

         Defendants oppose Neal's request to amend the complaint because they contend that the claims against the new defendants are barred by the applicable statute of limitations and thus the amendment would be futile. See Kuruvilla Letter at 1-3.

         A. Law Governing Motions to Amend

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2) instructs courts to “freely give leave [to amend a complaint] when justice so requires.” Accord Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Nonetheless, leave to amend may be denied where there is “undue delay, bad faith, . . . undue prejudice to the opposing party . . ., [or] futility of amendment.” See Foman, 371 U.S. at 182; accord Knife Rights, Inc. v. Vance, 802 F.3d 377, 389 (2d Cir. 2015) (citations omitted). “An amendment to a pleading is futile if the proposed claim could not withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” Lucente v. Int'l Bus. Machs. Corp., 310 F.3d 243, 258 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing Dougherty v. Town of N. Hempstead Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 282 F.3d 83, 88 (2d Cir. 2002)). Thus, an amendment is futile if the claim proposed to be added would be barred by the applicable statute of limitations. See, e.g., Trakansook v. Astoria Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 2008 WL 4962990, at *2 (2d Cir. Nov. 21, 2008) (summary order); Grace v. Rosenstock, 228 F.3d 40, 53 (2d Cir. 2000) (citation omitted); Forbes v. City of New York, 2016 WL 6269602, at *6-7 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2016) (collecting cases); Addison v. Reitman Blacktop, Inc., 283 F.R.D. 74, 81 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) (citation omitted).

         B. Statute of Limitations and Relation Back

          Section 1983 itself does not provide a statute of limitations. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 517 (2d Cir. 2013). “Thus, courts apply the statute of limitations for personal injury actions under state law.” Hogan, 738 F.3d at 517 (citing Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-51 (1989); and Pearl v. City of Long Beach, 296 F.3d 76, 79 (2d Cir. 2002)). For section 1983 actions filed in New York, the applicable statute of limitations is section 214 of New York's Civil Practice Law and Rules (“CPLR”), which allows three years to file suit. See id. (citing Pearl, 296 F.3d at 79; and N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 214); accord Lefebvre v. Morgan, 2017 WL 564090, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 10, 2017).

         We construe the proposed complaint as alleging claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution against the two undercover officers. See Prop. 3d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2.C.3, 2.C.5.[1]The statute of limitations for false arrest claims begins to run at the time of detention under legal process, such as at an arraignment. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 389-91, 397 (2007); accord Culpepper v. City of New York, 2016 WL 5334978, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 21, 2016). For malicious prosecution claims, the statute of limitations time begins when “the underlying criminal action is conclusively terminated.” Murphy v. Lynn, 53 F.3d 547, 548 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing Singleton v. City of ...

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