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Ortiz v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 20, 2018

BENJAMIN ORTIZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, JULIO GONZALEZ, individually and in his official capacity, and JANE DOE, individually and in her official capacity, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDGARDO RAMOS, U.S.D.J.

         Ramos, D.J.: Plaintiff Benjamin Ortiz (“Plaintiff” or “Ortiz”) brought this action against the City of New York (the “City”) and police officers Julio Gonzalez and Jane Doe (the “Officer Defendants”) on May 4, 2015. See Compl. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff raised five claims: false arrest, false imprisonment, reckless investigation, and two claims for inadequate training and supervision.[1] On September 29, 2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment on all five claims. See Doc. 40. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

         On May 3, 2012 at approximately 8:01 p.m., an unknown individual made a 911 call to report an argument coming from an apartment to the left of the elevators on the 11th floor of 735 Magenta Street in the Bronx. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 4.[3] At that time, Ortiz lived in Apartment 11B of 735 Magenta Street with his cousin, Dominique Coe (“Coe”) and his mother. Id. ¶ 2, Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 2. Apartment 11B was one of four apartments to the left of the elevators. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 3, Pl's Stmt. ¶ 3.

         At 8:10 p.m., New York City Police Officer Gonzalez arrived at 735 Magenta Street. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 5. A friend of Ortiz's happened to be leaving Apartment 11B at that time, and when he did, Officer Gonzalez entered the apartment without receiving permission to do so. Id. ¶ 6. While Officer Gonzalez was in the apartment, Ortiz had a verbal argument with Coe and her sister Ashley (“Ashley”). Id. ¶ 7. Officer Gonzalez then exited the apartment with both women while Ortiz remained inside to watch television. Id. ¶¶ 8-9. According to police reports and complaints filed later, Coe informed Officer Gonzalez that Ortiz had pulled her hair and punched her several times. Id. ¶¶ 12-13.[4] Officer Gonzalez also observed a scratch on Coe's face. Id. ¶ 14. A few minutes after leaving with Coe and Ashley, Officer Gonzalez returned and asked Ortiz to step into the hallway, at which point he was arrested. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. Ortiz was arrested for assault in the third degree; however, the Bronx District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute Ortiz because Coe did not wish to press charges. Id. ¶¶ 15-17.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is only appropriate where the “materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, [and] other materials” show “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)-(c). “An issue of fact is ‘genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Senno v. Elmsford Union Free Sch. Dist., 812 F.Supp.2d 454, 467 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (citing SCR Joint Venture L.P. v. Warshawsky, 559 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 2009)). A fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the litigation under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The party moving for summary judgment is first responsible for demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); see also Atl. Mut. Ins. Co. v. CSX Lines, L.L.C., 432 F.3d 428, 433 (2d Cir. 2005). If the moving party meets its burden, “the nonmoving party must come forward with admissible evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of fact for trial in order to avoid summary judgment.” Saenger v. Montefiore Medical Center, 706 F.Supp.2d 494, 504 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (quoting Jaramillo v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 536 F.3d 140, 145 (2d Cir. 2008)).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must “‘construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant.'” Brod v. Omya, Inc., 653 F.3d 156, 164 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Williams v. R.H. Donnelley, Corp., 368 F.3d 123, 126 (2d Cir. 2004)). However, a motion for summary judgment cannot be defeated on the basis of conclusory assertions, speculation, or unsupported alternative explanations of facts. Major League Baseball Props., Inc. v. Salvino, Inc., 542 F.3d 290, 310 (2d Cir. 2008); see also Senno, 812 F.Supp.2d at 467 (citing Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 114 (2d Cir. 1998)). The non-moving party must do more than show that there is “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” McClellan v. Smith, 439 F.3d 137, 144 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). To defeat a motion for summary judgment, “the non-moving party must set forth significant, probative evidence on which a reasonable fact-finder could decide in its favor.” Senno, 812 F.Supp.2d at 467-68 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57).

         Nonetheless, “summary judgment may not be granted simply because the court believes that the plaintiff will be unable to meet his or her burden of persuasion at trial. There must either be a lack of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position or the evidence must be so overwhelmingly tilted in one direction that any contrary finding would constitute clear error.” Danzer v. Norden Systems, Inc., 151 F.3d 50, 54 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal citations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. False Arrest, Imprisonment, and Reckless Investigation Claims

         Plaintiff brings a false arrest claim pursuant to § 1983 for his arrest on May 3, 2012. “[A] § 1983 claim for false arrest derives from [the] Fourth Amendment right to remain free from unreasonable seizures, which includes the right to remain free from arrest absent probable cause.” Jaegly v. Couch, 439 F.3d 149, 151 (2d Cir. 2006). In order to establish a § 1983 claim for false arrest, a plaintiff must show: “(1) the defendant intended to confine the plaintiff; (2) the plaintiff was conscious of the confinement; (3) the plaintiff did not consent to the confinement; and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged.” Bernard v. United States, 25 F.3d 98, 102 (2d Cir. 1994). Generally, confinement is privileged when there is probable cause to effectuate an arrest. See Jenkins v. City of New York, 478 F.3d 76, 84 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d Cir. 1996) (“The existence of probable cause to arrest constitutes justification and ‘is a complete defense to an action for false arrest, ' whether that action is brought under state law or § 1983.”). The same is true for claims of false imprisonment. See Jones v. J.C. Penny's Dept. Stores Inc., No. 03 Civ. 920A (RJA), 2007 WL 1577758, at *10 (W.D.N.Y. May 31, 2007) aff'd 317 Fed.Appx. 71, 73-74 (2d Cir. 2009)).

         Plaintiff argues, however, that Officer Gonzalez needed both probable cause and exigent circumstances to arrest Ortiz because he was in his home when Officer Gonzalez entered without a warrant and ordered him to go into the hallway. Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (“Pl.'s Mem.”) (Doc. 46), at 7-8. Under Payton v. New York, police officers entering a residence without a warrant may only lawfully do so if there is “probable cause plus exigent circumstances.” Loria v. Gorman, 306 F.3d 1271, 1283 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Kirk v. Louisiana, 536 U.S. 635, 637 (2002)). Plaintiff argues that because Ortiz was ordered to leave his residence by Officer Gonzalez, and was subsequently arrested in the hallway, he was arrested in violation of Payton. Pl.'s Mem. at 8. Plaintiff is incorrect. Ortiz does not assert that he was placed under arrest while still in his residence; he admits that he was standing in the hallway of the apartment when the arrest occurred. Although Plaintiff cites United States v. Allen for the proposition that “threshold arrests” require probable cause plus exigent circumstances, Allen is expressly limited to a scenario in which “officers approach the door of a residence, announce their presence, and place the occupant under arrest when he or she, remaining inside the premises, opens the door in response to the police request.” 813 F.3d 76, 85 (2d Cir. 2016) (emphasis added). In that ...


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