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Lawhorn v. Algarin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

February 26, 2018

TYRELL M. LAWHORN, Plaintiff,
v.
P.O. SAMUEL ALGARIN, et al., Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. FRANK P. GERACI, JR., United States District Court Chief Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Tyrell M. Lawhorn brings this action against Rochester Police Department (“RPD”) Officers Samuel Algarin, Alexis Bermudez, Andrew Bostick, Rick Doran, Joel Hasper, Samuel Giancursio, Cody Goodfriend, Thomas Lisle, Daniel Marsh, Spenser McAvoy, Richard Rodriguez, Michael Sippel, and RPD Sergeant Matthew Webster in their individual capacities. ECF No. 3 at 2-3.

         Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on April 11, 2016, which sets forth the following causes of action: (1) stop without probable cause under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) unreasonable seizure (on Avenue A) under Section 1983; (3) unlawful arrest (on Avenue A) under New York law; (4) unreasonable seizure (on Remington Street) under Section 1983; (5) unlawful arrest (on Remington Street) under New York law; (6) excessive force under Section 1983; (7) excessive bail and unlawful detention under Section 1983 and New York law. Id. at 1, 8-14.

         On May 2, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss all causes of action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See ECF No. 11. On June 1, 2017, Plaintiff responded in opposition to Defendants' Motion and consented to the dismissal of his third, fourth, and fifth causes of action. ECF No. 14 at 5. Accordingly, those claims are hereby DISMISSED and the Court will analyze only Plaintiff's first, second, sixth, and seventh causes of action below. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion (ECF No. 11) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         On January 29, 2015, Plaintiff, a 21-year-old African American male, borrowed his mother's rental car and drove to his cousin's house on Avenue A in the City of Rochester, New York, to arrange for his cousin to bake a cake for his mother's birthday. ECF No. 3 at ¶ 19, 21. Upon arriving, Plaintiff parked the car down the street from his cousin's house on Avenue A. Id. at ¶ 24.

         I. Incident on Avenue A

         After Plaintiff parked, a marked police car pulled up behind the rental car. Id. at ¶ 26. A uniformed officer, “who, on information and belief was Defendant Sippel, ” approached the driver's side window and requested Plaintiff's license and registration. Id. at ¶ 32. Plaintiff was not subject to an outstanding arrest warrant when Sippel pulled up behind him on Avenue A. Id. at ¶ 28. Plaintiff gave Sippel his license and the vehicle registration and informed Sippel that the vehicle was his mother's rental car. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.

         Sippel instructed Plaintiff to get out of the car. Id. at ¶ 35. When Plaintiff asked why he was being told to exit the vehicle, Sippel did not respond and instead repeated his request that Plaintiff get out of the car. Id. at ¶¶ 36-37. Plaintiff, fearing injury, did not exit the car and asked Sippel to “call for a supervisor.” Id. at ¶ 38. Sippel did not call a supervisor and called for backup instead. Id. at ¶ 39. Another uniformed officer, “who, on information and belief was Defendant Bermudez, ” responded to the scene. Id. at ¶ 40. Once he arrived, Bermudez began hitting the front passenger window, roof, and body of the car with his baton, while Sippel continued to direct Plaintiff to exit the vehicle. Id. at ¶ 41-42.

         Plaintiff remained in the car and called his mother seeking guidance on what to do. Id. at ¶ 43. Plaintiff's mother asked to speak with the officers, so Plaintiff rolled down the driver's side window to permit her to do so. Id. at ¶¶ 44-45. As Plaintiff rolled the window down, Sippel “pointed a Taser or other stun gun at Plaintiff's face.” Id. at ¶ 46. In response, “Plaintiff panicked, rolled up the window, and drove away” to “get to a location where he would be near family members.” Id. at ¶¶ 47-48.

         II. Incident on Remington Street

         Plaintiff drove, within the speed limit, approximately five blocks until he arrived at his grandmother's house at 32 Remington Street. Id. at ¶ 49. Several marked police cars were in pursuit when Plaintiff pulled into the driveway and stopped the car. Id. at ¶¶ 51-52. RPD officers “including, on information and belief, ” Defendants Doran, Hasper, Algarin, Bostick, Giancursio, Goodfriend, Lisle, Marsh, McAvoy, and Rodriguez, and RPD sergeant Webster surrounded the car and yelled at Plaintiff to exit the vehicle. Id. at ¶ 53. Despite these instructions, Plaintiff remained in the car because he feared for his life. Id. at ¶ 54. The Defendant Officers attempted to open the car using the driver's side door handle but broke the door handle off because the door was locked. Id. at ¶¶ 55-57. Unable to use the car door, the Defendant Officers began pounding on the car's windows. Id. at ¶ 58. They broke the driver's side window and pulled Plaintiff from the car. Id. at ¶ 59.

         After being pulled from the car, Plaintiff “curled into a fetal position, and attempted to protect his face and organs.” Id. at ¶ 60. Plaintiff did not resist Defendants, but they nonetheless punched him on the face, head, ears, and back. Id. at ¶ 62. Plaintiff did not fight back in response to these punches-he merely “protect[ed] his face and organs from the Defendants' blows.” Id. at ¶ 63. The Defendant Officers “administered several taser bursts to the Plaintiff's lower body and legs” causing Plaintiff great pain. Id. at ¶¶ 64-65. Defendants removed Plaintiff from the scene and took him in a police car to Rochester General Hospital. Id. at ¶ 66. The examining doctor determined Plaintiff was “fine” and Plaintiff was taken into custody. Id. at ¶¶ 68-70.

         III. Charges, Arraignment, and Detention

         Defendant Sippel prepared a Felony Complaint and an Investigative Action Report, accusing Plaintiff of reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. Id. at ¶ 71. Sippel attested that “Plaintiff had intentionally attempted to strike and kill Defendant Bermudez with the Plaintiff's motor vehicle on Avenue A . . . .” Id. at ¶ 71. However, Plaintiff alleges that the “attestations in those documents were false and known by [Sippel] to be false.” Id. at ¶ 72. Plaintiff was charged with reckless endangerment in the first degree, obstruction of governmental administration in the second degree, resisting arrest, reckless driving, unsafe turn/failure to give appropriate signal, illegal signal less than 100 feet from turn, and failure to stop at a stop sign. Id. at ¶ 78.

         Plaintiff was later arraigned on those charges and, despite having no history of failure to appear for court appearances and “not present[ing] a flight risk, ” was held pending the posting of a $25, 000 bond. Id. at ¶¶ 79-82. Plaintiff was incarcerated for five days before he was released on bond. Id. at ¶ 83. Plaintiff was charged via Grand Jury indictment with reckless endangerment in the first degree, reckless driving, and resisting arrest. Id. at ¶ 85. Plaintiff later pled guilty to reckless endangerment in the second degree and resisting arrest (both Class A misdemeanors). Id. at ¶ 86. He was sentenced to three years' probation. Id.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 12(b)(6) provides that a party may move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 572 (2007), and “draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor.” Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The application of this standard is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

         When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court ordinarily may not rely on matters outside the complaint unless it treats the motion as one for summary judgment under Rule 56 and gives the parties a reasonable opportunity to present relevant evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Here, Defendants attached the following extrinsic documents to their Motion: Plaintiff's Certificate of Conviction (ECF No. 10-1 at 17) the Felony Complaint brought against Plaintiff in state court (ECF No. 10-1 at 19), and an RPD Investigative Action Report dated January 29, 2015 (ECF No. 10-1 at 21). Defendants assert that (1) Plaintiff relied on these documents in drafting the Amended Complaint; and (2) that Plaintiff explicitly referenced the Felony Complaint and Investigative Action Report in paragraph 71 of the Amended Complaint. ECF No. 11 at 2. The Court must address whether it may consider these documents in reviewing Defendants' Motion.

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “extrinsic documents may be considered as part of the pleadings if they are (1) attached to the complaint; (2) incorporated into the complaint by reference; or (3) integral to the complaint.” DeLuca v. AccessIT Group, Inc., 695 F.Supp.2d 54, 60 (S.D.N.Y. 2010). Here, Defendants submitted the extrinsic documents with their Motion; they were not attached to the Amended Complaint. See Deluca, 695 F.Supp.2d at 60 (“Whether a document is attached to a complaint is self evident.”) (citing Cortec Indus., Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 47 (2d Cir. 1991)).

         The Court may deem documents incorporated by reference where the complaint makes “a clear, definite and substantial reference to the documents.” Id. (citations omitted). Thus, “[m]ere discussion or short quotation of a document does not amount to incorporation by reference.” Lightner v. Wenderlich, 271 F.Supp.3d 445, 453 (W.D.N.Y. 2017) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). Here, the Amended Complaint explicitly references the Felony Complaint and RPD Investigative Action Report, but it does not quote from these documents and includes only a limited discussion of their content. See ECF No. 3 at ¶¶ 71, 78, 118. With respect to the Certificate of Conviction, the Amended Complaint includes a limited discussion of some of the facts in the document, but does not explicitly reference or quote from the document. See Id. at ¶¶ 85-86. These limited references to the extrinsic documents fail to establish that the Amended Complaint incorporated the documents by reference. See Goel v. Bunge, Ltd., 820 F.3d 554, 559 (2d Cir. 2016) (“Merely mentioning a document in the complaint will not satisfy this standard[.]”) (citations omitted); Cos ...


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