United States District Court, W.D. New York
TYRELL M. LAWHORN, Plaintiff,
P.O. SAMUEL ALGARIN, et al., Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR., United States District Court Chief
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.
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.
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.
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.
Incident on Avenue A
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
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.
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
Incident on Remington Street
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.
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.
Charges, Arraignment, and Detention
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.
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.
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.
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'
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)).
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 ...