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LaPoint v. Vasiloff

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 13, 2017

SGT. PETER VASILOFF, individually and in his official capacity, and OFFICER DALE BARHITE, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants.

          OFFICE OF JOHN W. SHARONJOHN W. SHARON, ESQ. Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          OFFICE OF FRANK W. MILLERFRANK W. MILLER, ESQ. CHARLES C. SPAGNOLI, ESQ. Attorneys for the Village Defendants.


          Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge.


         On February 19, 2015, Plaintiff Lance LaPoint ("Plaintiff) commenced this action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Sergeant Peter Vasiloff ("Vasiloff'), the East Syracuse Police Department, the Village of East Syracuse ("Village"), Onondaga County ("County"), unidentified "John Doe" Defendants, and Officer Dale Barhite, asserting that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by using excessive force and assaulting, beating and battering him, and that Onondaga County and its officers failed to provide adequate medical care for his resulting injuries. See Dkt. No. 1 at 3-4; Dkt. No. 53.

         On March 9, 2016, the Court granted the Village and County's motion for judgment on the pleadings. See Dkt. No. 56. Defendants Vasiloff and Barhite, who are the only remaining Defendants, have moved to dismiss the complaint. See Dkt. No. 74. Plaintiff, who is now represented by counsel, has responded in opposition.


         The incident giving rise to Plaintiffs claims occurred on or about February 25, 2012, when Plaintiff "hopped a train" at a train yard in Syracuse. See Dkt. No. 1 at 3. After the conductor told Plaintiff to exit the train, Plaintiff passed through the engine area, blew the train whistle, and noticed flashing lights coming toward him. See Id. According to Plaintiff, he then opened the door to the engine area to allow police officers to come through, and "immediately put [his] hands up to show [he] was cooperating." Id. At this point, Plaintiff claims that "[w]hile one officer was still shining his flashlight directly in [his] face . . ., [he] was suddenly struck in the face with something very hard." Id. Plaintiff fell to the floor and alleges that the officers repeatedly struck him "in and about the head and face." Id. Thereafter, Plaintiff was handcuffed, picked up, pushed down the train ladder, and dragged to the police car. See Id. Plaintiff alleges that he was "in a lot of pain" and bleeding from his mouth and face. See Id. At this point, Plaintiff was taken to the Onondaga County Justice Center, where he was placed in a cell. See id.

         In their motion to dismiss, Defendants contend that Plaintiffs state-law claims fail because Plaintiff did not serve a timely notice of claim and they are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. See Dkt. No. 74-3 at 4-6. As to the section 1983 excessive force claim, Defendants argue that the complaint fails to provide any specific allegations that they engaged in this conduct. See Id. at 7-9. Rather, Defendants contend that the complaint merely indicates that they were "present" and, therefore, "responsible" for the alleged use of excessive force. See Id. at 7-8.


         A. Standard of Review for Motion to Dismiss

         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the party's claim for relief. See Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106, 111-12 (2d Cir. 2007). In considering the legal sufficiency, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts in the pleading and draw all reasonable inferences in the pleader's favor. See ATSICommc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). This presumption of truth, however, does not extend to legal conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). Although a court's review of a motion to dismiss is generally limited to the facts presented in the pleading, the court may consider documents that are "integral" to that pleading, even if they are neither physically attached to, nor incorporated by reference into, the pleading. See Mangiafico v. Blumenthal, 471 F.3d 391, 398 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152-53 (2d Cir. 2002)).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a party need only plead "a short and plain statement of the claim, " see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), with sufficient factual "heft to 'sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombty, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007) (quotation omitted). Under this standard, the pleading's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right of relief above the speculative level, " see Id. at 555 (citation omitted), and present claims that are "plausible on [their] face, " id. at 570. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of "entitlement to relief...... Id. (quoting [Twombty, 550 U.S.] at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955). Ultimately, "when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, " Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558, or where a plaintiff has "not nudged [its] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, the[] complaint must be dismissed[, ]" id. at 570.

         Despite this recent tightening of the standard for pleading a claim, complaints by pro se parties continue to be accorded more deference than those filed by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus,551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation omitted). As such, Twombly and Iqbal notwithstanding, this Court must continue to '"construe [a complaint] broadly, and interpret [it] to raise the strongest arguments that [it] suggests.'" Weixel v. Bd. of Educ, 287 F.3d 138, ...

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