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Blackwood v. Ossining Police Dep't

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Sep 11, 2020
20-CV-5435 (LLS) (S.D.N.Y. Sep. 11, 2020)

Opinion

20-CV-5435 (LLS)

09-11-2020

PHILLIP BLACKWOOD, Plaintiff, v. OSSINING POLICE DEPARTMENT; LUIS RINALDI, POLICE OFFICER; PAVONE, POLICE OFFICER; SAMTUCHI, POLICE OFFICER, Defendants.


ORDER TO AMEND :

Plaintiff, currently detained in the Westchester County Jail, brings this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging excessive force, false arrest, and false imprisonment. By order dated September 2, 2020, the Court granted Plaintiff's request to proceed without prepayment of fees, that is, in forma pauperis (IFP). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint within sixty days of the date of this order.

Prisoners are not exempt from paying the full filing fee even when they have been granted permission to proceed IFP. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that federal courts screen complaints brought by prisoners who seek relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a prisoner's IFP complaint, or any portion of the complaint, that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b); see Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). The Court must also dismiss a complaint if the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).

While the law mandates dismissal on any of these grounds, the Court is obliged to construe pro se pleadings liberally, Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009), and interpret them to raise the "strongest [claims] that they suggest," Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (emphasis in original). But the "special solicitude" in pro se cases, id. at 475 (citation omitted), has its limits - to state a claim, pro se pleadings still must comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires a complaint to make a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.

The Supreme Court has held that under Rule 8, a complaint must include enough facts to state a claim for relief "that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff pleads enough factual detail to allow the Court to draw the inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. In reviewing the complaint, the Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). But it does not have to accept as true "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action," which are essentially just legal conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. After separating legal conclusions from well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court must determine whether those facts make it plausible - not merely possible - that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed a complaint on July 14, 2020, naming only the Ossining Police Department as Defendant, alleging that his rights were violated on May 19, 2020. In his statement of facts, Plaintiff asserts that he has been harassed daily, tasered three times, and on another occasion, he was arrested for violating an order of protection. (ECF No. 2 at 4.) In the relief section of his complaint, Plaintiff also asserts that he has been "tasored, harassed, and taken to jail more than 5 times for no reason and been charged with crimes that gets dismissed." (Id.)

On August 6, 2020, Plaintiff filed another complaint asserting claims against the Ossining Police Department and several individual Ossining Police Officers. The Clerk of Court opened this complaint as a new civil action and assigned it case number 20-CV-6231. By order dated August 24, 2020, Chief Judge McMahon concluded that the allegations contained in Plaintiff's complaint filed on August 6, 2020, arose from the same events as those raised in this complaint, construed that complaint as an amended pleading, and directed that it be filed as amended complaint in this action.

Plaintiff brings the amended complaint (ECF No. 4) using the form "Complaint for a Civil Case," and he checks the box indicating that the basis for the Court's jurisdiction is diversity of citizenship. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff does not provide a date of incident, but he alleges that he was "tasored in the chest for no reason," and that excessive force was used against him. (Id. at 4.)

DISCUSSION

A. Claims stemming from Plaintiff's arrest

Because Plaintiff alleges that his federal constitutional rights were violated, the Court interprets Plaintiff's allegations as raising claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege both that: (1) a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) the right was violated by a person acting under the color of state law, or a "state actor." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48-49 (1988).

1. Excessive force

"The Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of excessive force in making an arrest, and whether the force used is excessive is to be analyzed under that Amendment's 'reasonableness' standard." Brown v. City of New York, 798 F.3d 94, 100 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989)); see also Lloyd v. City of New York, 264 F.Supp.3d 704, 721 (S.D.N.Y. 2017).

To determine whether the amount of force used against a plaintiff was unreasonable, courts pay "careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case," and judge the "reasonableness" of the use of force "from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight." Id. (quoting Graham, 490 U.S. at 396). It is "well established that law enforcement officers violate the Fourth Amendment if the amount of force they use is 'objectively unreasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them." Rogoz v. City of Hartford, 796 F.3d 236, 246 (2d Cir. 2015). But "[n]ot every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers . . . violates the Fourth Amendment." Graham, 490 U.S. at 396.

Here, Plaintiff's allegations suggest that he intends to assert claims that police officers used excessive force against him while arresting him. He fails, however, to provide sufficient factual details about what happened during each arrest and who was involved in each arrest. Should Plaintiff choose to amend his complaint, he must provide the date of incident for each arrest, describe what happened during the arrests, and detail the actions of each person involved in the arrests.

2. False Arrest

Plaintiff's allegations that he was arrested, and that the charges were subsequently dismissed suggest that he also seeks to raise false arrest and false imprisonment claims. These claims are addressed together as they are, for purposes of Plaintiff's allegations, the same. See Posr v. Doherty, 944 F.2d 91, 96 (2d Cir. 1991). A claim for false arrest under § 1983 looks to state law as a starting point to determine the elements of a claim for false arrest. See Manuel v. City of Joliet, Ill., 137 S. Ct. 911, 925 (2017) ("[T]o flesh out the elements of this constitutional tort, we must look for 'tort analogies.'"); Lanning v. City of Glens Falls, 908 F.3d 19, 25 (2d Cir. 2018) (holding that common law principles are meant simply to guide rather than to control the definition of § 1983 claims and courts should not "mechanically apply" the law of New York State); Boyd v. City of New York, 336 F.3d 72, 75 (2d Cir. 2003).

"False arrest is simply an unlawful detention or confinement brought about by means of an arrest rather than in some other way and is in all other respects synonymous with false imprisonment." Evans v. City of New York, 308 F. Supp. 2d 316, 329 n.8 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (quoting Covington v. City of New York, 171 F.3d 117, 125 (2d Cir. 1999) (Glasser, J., dissenting)).

To establish a false arrest claim under New York law, a plaintiff must show that: "(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." Liranzo v. United States, 690 F.3d 78, 95 (2d Cir. 2012). An arrest is privileged if it is based on probable cause. Jenkins v. City of New York, 478 F.3d 76, 84 (2d Cir. 2007) ("The existence of probable cause to arrest constitutes justification and is a complete defense to an action for false arrest.") (quoting Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d Cir. 1996)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

If "the facts known by the arresting officer at the time of the arrest objectively provided probable cause to arrest," the arrest is privileged, and the plaintiff cannot state a claim for false arrest. Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 152 (2004). Officers have probable cause to arrest when they have "knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information of facts and circumstances that are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the belief that the person to be arrested has committed . . . a crime." Jaegly v. Couch, 439 F.3d 149, 152 (2d Cir. 2006). "Probable cause can exist even where it is based on mistaken information, so long as the arresting officer acted reasonably and in good faith in relying on that information." Bernard v. United States, 25 F.3d 98, 102 (1994); Curley v. Vill. of Suffern, 268 F.3d 65, 70 (2d Cir. 2001) (holding that a police officer is "not required to explore and eliminate every theoretically plausible claim of innocence before making an arrest."). Put another way, police officers may have had probable cause to arrest if they have acted reasonably, even if they were mistaken.

Here, Plaintiff also fails to provide sufficient details to support his claims that he was falsely arrested and falsely imprisoned. Plaintiff does not describe the circumstances leading to each arrest. He does not state what charges were brought against him as a result of the arrests, and he does not indicate the status of any criminal proceedings initiated against him. Plaintiff also does not provide the dates of the arrests or the dates that any charges were dismissed.

B. Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for § 1983 claims is found in the "general or residual [state] statute [of limitations] for personal injury actions." Pearl v. City of Long Beach, 296 F.3d 76, 79 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-50 (1989)). In New York, that period is three years. See N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 214(5). Section 1983 claims generally accrue when a plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury that is the basis of the claim. Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 518 (2d Cir. 2013).

Because Plaintiff does not provide the dates of incidents for the claims he seeks to raise, it is unclear whether these claims are timely. In his second amended complaint, Plaintiff must specify the dates when the events giving rise to his claims occurred.

If any of the claims that Plaintiff seeks to raise occurred more than three years before July 14, 2020, the date Plaintiff's complaint was filed with the Court, Plaintiff should also state facts showing that equitable tolling should be applied in this case. See In re U.S. Lines, Inc., 318 F.3d 432, 436 (2d Cir. 2003) (noting that the doctrine of equitable tolling permits a court, "under compelling circumstances, [to] make narrow exceptions to the statute of limitations in order 'to prevent inequity'"). The statute of limitations may be equitably tolled, for example, when a defendant fraudulently conceals from a plaintiff the fact that the plaintiff has a cause of action, or when the plaintiff is induced by the defendant to forego a lawsuit until the statute of limitations has expired. See Pearl, 296 F.3d at 82-83.

LEAVE TO AMEND

Plaintiff is granted leave to amend his complaint to detail his excessive force, false arrest, and false imprisonment claims. First, Plaintiff must name as the defendant(s) in the caption and in the statement of claim those individuals who were allegedly involved in the deprivation of his federal rights. If Plaintiff does not know the name of a defendant, he may refer to that individual as "John Doe" or "Jane Doe" in both the caption and the body of the second amended complaint. The naming of John Doe defendants, however, does not toll the three-year statute of limitations period governing this action and Plaintiff shall be responsible for ascertaining the true identity of any "John Doe" defendants and amending his complaint to include the identity of any "John Doe" defendants before the statute of limitations period expires. Should Plaintiff seek to add a new claim or party after the statute of limitations period has expired, he must meet the requirements of Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The caption is located on the front page of the complaint. Each individual defendant must be named in the caption. Plaintiff may attach additional pages if there is not enough space to list all of the defendants in the caption. If Plaintiff needs to attach an additional page to list all defendants, he should write "see attached list" on the first page of the Second Amended Complaint. Any defendants named in the caption must also be discussed in Plaintiff's statement of claim.

For example, a defendant may be identified as: "Police Officer John Doe #1 on duty August 31, 2010, during the 7-3 p.m. shift." --------

In the statement of claim, Plaintiff must provide a short and plain statement of the relevant facts supporting each claim against each defendant named in the second amended complaint. Plaintiff is also directed to provide the addresses for any named defendants. To the greatest extent possible, Plaintiff's second amended complaint must:

a) give the names and titles of all relevant persons;

b) describe all relevant events, stating the facts that support Plaintiff's case including what each defendant did or failed to do;

c) give the dates and times of each relevant event or, if not known, the approximate date and time of each relevant event;

d) give the location where each relevant event occurred;

e) describe how each defendant's acts or omissions violated Plaintiff's rights and describe the injuries Plaintiff suffered; and

f) state what relief Plaintiff seeks from the Court, such as money damages, injunctive relief, or declaratory relief.

Essentially, the body of Plaintiff's second amended complaint must tell the Court: who violated his federally protected rights; what facts show that his federally protected rights were violated; when such violation occurred; where such violation occurred; and why Plaintiff is entitled to relief. Because Plaintiff's second amended complaint will completely replace, not supplement, the original and amended complaints, any facts or claims that Plaintiff wishes to maintain must be included in the second amended complaint.

CONCLUSION

The Clerk of Court is directed to mail a copy of this order to Plaintiff and note service on the docket.

Plaintiff is granted leave to file a second amended complaint that complies with the standards set forth above. Plaintiff must submit the second amended complaint to this Court's Pro Se Intake Unit within sixty days of the date of this order, caption the document as a "Second Amended Complaint," and label the document with docket number 20-CV-5435 (LLS). A Second Amended Civil Rights Complaint form is attached to this order. No summons will issue at this time. If Plaintiff fails to comply within the time allowed, and he cannot show good cause to excuse such failure, the amended complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. SO ORDERED. Dated: September 11, 2020

New York, New York

/s/_________

Louis L. Stanton

U.S.D.J. __________ Write the full name of each plaintiff. -against- __________ Write the full name of each defendant. If you cannot fit the names of all of the defendants in the space provided, please write "see attached" in the space above and attach an additional sheet of paper with the full list of names. The names listed above must be identical to those contained in Section IV. ___CV__________
(Include case number if one has been assigned) SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT
(Prisoner) Do you want a jury trial?
[ ] Yes [ ] No

NOTICE

The public can access electronic court files. For privacy and security reasons, papers filed with the court should therefore not contain: an individual's full social security number or full birth date; the full name of a person known to be a minor; or a complete financial account number. A filing may include only: the last four digits of a social security number; the year of an individual's birth; a minor's initials; and the last four digits of a financial account number. See Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2.

I. LEGAL BASIS FOR CLAIM

State below the federal legal basis for your claim, if known. This form is designed primarily for prisoners challenging the constitutionality of their conditions of confinement; those claims are often brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (against state, county, or municipal defendants) or in a "Bivens" action (against federal defendants). [ ] Violation of my federal constitutional rights [ ] Other: __________

II. PLAINTIFF INFORMATION

Each plaintiff must provide the following information. Attach additional pages if necessary. __________
First Name __________
Middle Initial __________
Last Name __________ State any other names (or different forms of your name) you have ever used, including any name you have used in previously filing a lawsuit. __________ Prisoner ID # (if you have previously been in another agency's custody, please specify each agency and the ID number (such as your DIN or NYSID) under which you were held) __________
Current Place of Detention __________
Institutional Address __________
County, City __________
State __________
Zip Code

III. PRISONER STATUS

Indicate below whether you are a prisoner or other confined person: [ ] Pretrial detainee [ ] Civilly committed detainee [ ] Immigration detainee [ ] Convicted and sentenced prisoner [ ] Other: __________

IV. DEFENDANT INFORMATION

To the best of your ability, provide the following information for each defendant. If the correct information is not provided, it could delay or prevent service of the complaint on the defendant. Make sure that the defendants listed below are identical to those listed in the caption. Attach additional pages as necessary. Defendant 1:

__________

First Name

__________

Last Name

__________

Shield #

__________

Current Job Title (or other identifying information)

__________

Current Work Address

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code Defendant 2:

__________

First Name

__________

Last Name

__________

Shield #

__________

Current Job Title (or other identifying information)

__________

Current Work Address

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code Defendant 3:

__________

First Name

__________

Last Name

__________

Shield #

__________

Current Job Title (or other identifying information)

__________

Current Work Address

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code Defendant 4:

__________

First Name

__________

Last Name

__________

Shield #

__________

Current Job Title (or other identifying information)

__________

Current Work Address

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code

V. STATEMENT OF CLAIM

Place(s) of occurrence: __________ Date(s) of occurrence: __________

FACTS:

State here briefly the FACTS that support your case. Describe what happened, how you were harmed, and how each defendant was personally involved in the alleged wrongful actions. Attach additional pages as necessary. __________

INJURIES:

If you were injured as a result of these actions, describe your injuries and what medical treatment, if any, you required and received. __________

VI. RELIEF

State briefly what money damages or other relief you want the court to order. __________

VII. PLAINTIFF'S CERTIFICATION AND WARNINGS

By signing below, I certify to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief that: (1) the complaint is not being presented for an improper purpose (such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation); (2) the claims are supported by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument to change existing law; (3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and (4) the complaint otherwise complies with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. I understand that if I file three or more cases while I am a prisoner that are dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim, I may be denied in forma pauperis status in future cases. I also understand that prisoners must exhaust administrative procedures before filing an action in federal court about prison conditions, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), and that my case may be dismissed if I have not exhausted administrative remedies as required. I agree to provide the Clerk's Office with any changes to my address. I understand that my failure to keep a current address on file with the Clerk's Office may result in the dismissal of my case. Each Plaintiff must sign and date the complaint. Attach additional pages if necessary. If seeking to proceed without prepayment of fees, each plaintiff must also submit an IFP application. __________
Dated

__________

Plaintiff's Signature __________
First Name __________
Middle Initial __________
Last Name __________
Prison Address __________
County, City __________
State __________
Zip Code Date on which I am delivering this complaint to prison authorities for mailing: __________


Summaries of

Blackwood v. Ossining Police Dep't

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Sep 11, 2020
20-CV-5435 (LLS) (S.D.N.Y. Sep. 11, 2020)
Case details for

Blackwood v. Ossining Police Dep't

Case Details

Full title:PHILLIP BLACKWOOD, Plaintiff, v. OSSINING POLICE DEPARTMENT; LUIS RINALDI…

Court:UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Date published: Sep 11, 2020

Citations

20-CV-5435 (LLS) (S.D.N.Y. Sep. 11, 2020)