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Casaccia v. City of Rochester

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 8, 2018

MICHAEL CASACCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ROCHESTER, et al., Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Represented by counsel, Michael Casaccia (“Plaintiff”) commenced the instant action on May 23, 2017, alleging violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as state law claims for battery, assault, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Currently pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by defendants the City of Rochester (the “City”), the Rochester Police Department (the “RPD”), Rochester Police Sergeant Kevin Leckinger (“Sergeant Leckinger”), and Rochester Police Officers Audrey DiPoala, Gary Wegman, Matthew Cushman, Joshua Hall, and Amy Bauer (collectively, the “City Defendants”). The City Defendants seek dismissal of all the claims asserted against them, arguing that: (1) Plaintiff has failed to state a claim based on municipal or supervisory liability; (2) Sergeant Leckinger had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff; (3) Plaintiff's assault and battery claims are duplicative and lack support in the record; (4) Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress; (5) the RPD lacks the capacity to be sued; (6) the City Defendants are immune to Plaintiff's state law claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution; and (7) the City Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. For the reasons discussed below, the City Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that around 5:00 p.m. on May 23, 2016, he and his wife arrived at the City Grill restaurant, located at 384 East Avenue in the City of Rochester, having been alerted that their daughter Megan was there and might be in need of medical assistance. (Docket No. 1 at ¶¶ 27-29). Upon arrival, Plaintiff and his wife allegedly found their daughter vomiting in the bathroom, seemingly in and out of consciousness. (Id. at ¶ 30). Plaintiff claims that he called 911 to request an ambulance and that Defendants Robert Young and John Doe (collectively, the “EMT Defendants”), employees of Defendant Rural/Metro Corporation (“RMC”), responded to the call. (Id. at ¶32). After examining Plaintiff's daughter, the EMT Defendants allegedly told Plaintiff that she was intoxicated and that he could take her home. (Id. at ¶ 33). According to Plaintiff, he asked the EMT Defendants to check Megan's vitals to determine if she needed to be taken to the hospital, at which time they placed Megan on a gurney and moved her from City Grill into an RMC ambulance. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-36). Plaintiff alleges that Megan continued to drift in and out of consciousness while in the ambulance, and that the EMT Defendants performed a series of sternum rubs to awaken her. (Id. at ¶¶ 40-41). Once Megan regained consciousness, the EMT Defendants allegedly began interrogating her about why she was at City Grill and whether she used a fake ID, and denied her request for water. (Id. at ¶¶ 42-43). The EMT Defendants then allegedly forced Megan to lay down on the gurney and tried to strap her down, prompting her to scream. (Id. at ¶¶ 43-45). Plaintiff claims that he asked the EMT Defendants to stop and offered to take Megan home, but that the EMT Defendants told him he could not take Megan home and that he needed to wait for the police to arrive. (Id. at ¶¶ 46-47). The EMT Defendants allegedly radioed for police assistance, and Sergeant Leckinger was the first officer to arrive at City Grill. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49).

         According to Plaintiff, Sergeant Leckinger has testified as follows regarding the incident underlying this litigation: (1) upon arriving at City Grill, the only information known to him was that the RMC ambulance crew had requested police assistance because they were fighting with a patient; (2) when he arrived at City Grill, he observed Plaintiff and his wife standing outside the ambulance by its back door, and the ambulance crew inside with a female patient on a gurney; (3) as Sergeant Leckinger approached the ambulance, an ambulance crew member told him that Plaintiff needed to be arrested; and (4) in response to the ambulance crew member's request, Sergeant Leckinger asked Plaintiff to put his hands behind his back. (Id. at ¶¶ 51-55).

         Plaintiff alleges that he did not immediately comply with Sergeant Leckinger's request that he place his hands behind his back, but instead asked why he was being arrested. (Id. at ¶ 56). According to Plaintiff, Sergeant Leckinger, aided by the EMT Defendants, then grabbed Plaintiff, slammed him against the ambulance, punched him in the head or face twice, and slammed him onto the pavement, causing him to sustain various injuries. (Id.). Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant RPD Officers DiPoala, Cushman, Hall, and Bauer had also responded to City Grill by this time, and that they, along with Sergeant Leckinger and the EMT Defendants, held Plaintiff down on the pavement, forced his hands behind his back (overextending his arms in the process), and choked him until he lost consciousness, thereby causing various additional injuries. (Id. at ¶¶ 57, 59). Plaintiff claims that one or all of Sergeant Leckinger and Officers DiPoala, Cushman, Hall, and Bauer (collectively, the “RPD Officer Defendants”) handcuffed him and, after he regained consciousness, placed him in the back of a patrol car. (Id. at ¶¶ 60-61). Plaintiff was taken to the police station for booking, and was subsequently released on bail. (Id. at ¶¶ 62-63).

         Plaintiff alleges that Sergeant Leckinger filed two misdemeanor informations against him, charging him with the crimes of Obstructing Governmental Administration in the Second Degree and Resisting Arrest. (Id. ¶ 64). Plaintiff was arraigned in Rochester City Court on May 26, 2016, and, following a suppression hearing held on July 26, 2016, Rochester City Court Judge Ellen M. Yacknin dismissed the charge of resisting arrest, finding that Sergeant Leckinger lacked probable cause to arrest Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶¶ 67-68 (citing People v Casaccia, 52 Misc.3d 1223(A), at *4 (City Ct. of Rochester, Aug. 31, 2016)). Plaintiff alleges that the obstruction of governmental administration charge was dismissed on January 3, 2017, upon being formally abandoned by the prosecuting attorney. (Id. at ¶ 69). Plaintiff further alleges that the RPD Officer Defendants were never reprimanded, suspended, or terminated as a result of the incident at City Grill. (Id. ¶ 70).

         Plaintiff commenced the instant action on May 23, 2017. (Docket No. 1). RMC and Robert Young filed an answer on July 19, 2017, in which they denied the claims against them and asserted a cross-claim for indemnification and/or contribution against the City Defendants. (Docket No. 5).

         The City Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss on August 28, 2017, and Plaintiff filed a responsive brief on October 5, 2017. (Docket Nos. 11, 15). RMC and Mr. Young did not file a response to the instant motion, but did file an attorney affirmation noting that the claims against them are asserted only under state law and requesting that, in the event the Court decides to dismiss the federal claims against the City Defendants, it in turn decline to exercise jurisdiction over any remaining state law claims. (Docket No. 12).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         “To survive a motion to dismiss [made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)], a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Although a complaint need not provide “detailed factual allegations, ” it nevertheless must assert “more than labels and conclusions, ” and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not suffice. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). The plaintiff must plead facts that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true.” Id. (citations omitted). For its part, the Court must accept, as true, all factual allegations in the complaint, and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmovant. Atwood v. Cohen & Slamowitz LLP, No. 17-702-CV, 2017 WL 6403506, at *1 (2d Cir. Dec. 15, 2017).

         B. Elements of a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claim

          Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983"), “‘anyone acting under color of any [state] statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, ' who causes a United States citizen to be deprived ‘of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.'” Sybalski v. Indep. Grp. Home Living Program, Inc., 546 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). A plaintiff seeking relief under Section 1983 “must allege that (1) the challenged conduct was attributable to a person acting under color of state law, and (2) the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right guaranteed under the Constitution.” Snider v. Dylag, 188 F.3d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1999) (citation omitted).

         C. Consideration of the City Defendants' Exhibits

         In connection with their motion to dismiss, the City Defendants have filed a “Statement of Undisputed Facts” (which is actually a declaration by their counsel) along with several exhibits, including a copy of the RPD Incident Report from the night at issue, supporting depositions completed by Mr. Young and by City Grill employee Jasmine S. Disch, and a copy of Plaintiff's booking photograph. (See Docket Nos. 11 to 11-7). The City Defendants contend that these documents are not extraneous, are incorporated into the Complaint by reference, are documents that are in Plaintiff's possession, or are documents of which Plaintiff had knowledge and relied on in bringing suit.

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court “may consider the facts as asserted within the four corners of the complaint together with the documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated in the complaint by reference.” Peter F. Gaito Architecture, LLC v. Simone Dev. Corp., 602 F.3d 57, 64 (2d Cir. 2010) (quotations omitted). “A complaint ‘is deemed to include any written instrument attached to it as an exhibit or any statements or documents incorporated in it by reference.'” Nicosia v. Amazon.com, Inc., 834 F.3d 220, 230 (2d Cir. 2016) (quoting Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir. 2002)). Plaintiff's “mere notice or possession [of a document] is not enough” to permit the Court to consider it on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Id. (quotation omitted). Moreover, “[e]ven where a document is considered integral to the complaint, it must be clear on the record that no dispute exists regarding the authenticity or accuracy of the document, ” and that there are “no material disputed issues of fact regarding the relevance of the document.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting DiFolco, 622 F.3d at 111; Faulkner v. Beer, 463 F.3d 130, 134 (2d Cir. 2006)).

         Here, Plaintiff's Complaint does not append any of the City Defendants' exhibits to it, nor does it incorporate any of them by reference. The Complaint also does not heavily rely upon these documents in its drafting or for their terms and effect. To the contrary, Plaintiff's Complaint clearly disputes the accuracy of the exhibits, which purport to describe the events surrounding Plaintiff's arrest and serve as the basis for the declaration by the City Defendants' counsel. Accordingly, the City Defendants' exhibits, and counsel's declaration made in reliance thereon, do not fall within the narrow universe of materials that are ...


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