OPINION AND ORDER
EDGARDO RAMOS, District Judge.
Plaintiff seeks redress under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New York State law for damages incurred when he was falsely arrested. Defendants City of New York, Sanitation Enforcement Agent Ilva Harrigan,
The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted.
This case arises from a dispute between Dr. Jean Louis ("Plaintiff") and a New York City Department of Sanitation ("DSNY") worker who issued him a citation for improper garbage disposal, which resulted in Plaintiff's being arrested for obstructing governmental administration ("OGA"). Plaintiff is an optometrist who owns and operates a Cohen's Fashion Optical franchise at 2565 Broadway in Manhattan. See Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 ("Defs.' 56.1 Stmt.") (Doc. 56) ¶ 1. On July 9, 2014, Defendant Ilva Harrigan was on patrol in a marked DSNY vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 2, 9. At approximately noon, Harrigan observed a black garbage bag on the sidewalk adjacent to Plaintiff's store. Id. ¶ 10. Harrigan looked inside the bag, entered the Plaintiff's store, and spoke with Plaintiff and one of Plaintiff's employees. Id. ¶¶ 12, 13.
Following the conversations with Plaintiff and his employee, Harrigan wrote a Notice of Violation and Hearing to Cohen's Fashion Optical and posted it on the outside of the door to the store. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Plaintiff retrieved the Notice of Violation from the door and walked to Harrigan's car, where he disputed the accuracy of the ticket through the open passenger side window. Id. ¶¶ 16, 18-19.
At approximately 12:28 p.m., Plaintiff called 911 and told the operator that a Sanitation Department worker had written him a ticket for garbage that was not in front of his store and that he wanted the Police to create a police report. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. During the call, Plaintiff was "walking back and forth" in front of his store and at some point was "on the street by the car." Id. ¶¶ 23-25. The parties dispute whether Plaintiff was actually blocking the vehicle. See Defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Local Rule 56.1 Counter-Statement ("Defs.' Reply to Counter-56.1") (Doc. 80) ¶¶ 65-68.
DSNY Segeant Dameka Dowdy subsequently arrived at the location of Plaintiff's store. Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 28, 34.
Harrigan told the officers that Plaintiff blocked her car by standing in front of it, thereby preventing her from leaving. Id. ¶ 35. Harrigan later testified that at no point did she actually attempt to move her vehicle to leave. Plaintiff's Local Civil Rule 56.1 Counter-Statement ("Pl.'s Counter-56.1") (Doc. 68) ¶ 83. After speaking with Harrigan, the officers then requested their supervisor, Sergeant Carmine Semioli, to come to the scene. Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 38. When he arrived, Sergeant Semioli spoke with Harrigan, who again stated that Plaintiff stood directly in front of her car, preventing her from leaving to continue her official duties. Id. ¶ 41. Sergeant Semioli then spoke with Plaintiff, who conceded to Semioli that "at some point [he] was in the street." Pl.'s Counter-56.1 ¶¶ 42-43.
At the scene, Officer Rodriguez and Sergeant Dowdy watched a security video of the incident taken from a nearby condominium complex located at 275 W. 96
II. Procedural History
Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendants on July 6, 2015 asserting a claim of false arrest and unreasonable seizure in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Complaint ("Compl.") (Doc. 1); see also Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") (Doc. 19). Plaintiff also asserts claims under state law against for false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and asserts that the City of New York is liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 69-80. Following an unsuccessful attempt to mediate, Defendants moved for summary judgment. See Doc. 64.
III. 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). "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). "When the burden of proof at trial would fall on the nonmoving party, it ordinarily is sufficient for the movant to point to a lack of evidence to go to the trier of fact on an essential element of the nonmovant's claim." Cordiano v. Metacon Gun Club, Inc., 575 F.3d 199, 204 (2d Cir. 2009) (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with admissible evidence sufficient to support each essential element of the claim, and "designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Cordiano, 575 F.3d at 204.
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, in opposing a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party may not rely on unsupported assertions, conjecture or surmise. Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995). A motion for summary judgment cannot be defeated on the basis of conclusory assertions, mere denials, 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 nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment by `simply showing 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)), it "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).
"Summary judgment is properly granted when the non-moving party `fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" Abramson v. Pataki, 278 F.3d 93, 101 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322). In that situation, there can be no genuine dispute as to any material fact, "since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23.
IV. Section 1983
Section 1983 grants a right of action to any "citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof" who has been deprived of "any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" by a person acting under color of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) a right secured by the Constitution or federal law was violated by defendants, and (2) the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999). Plaintiff alleges that he was subject to unreasonable seizure and was falsely arrested in violation of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
A. False Arrest Claims Against the Officer Defendants
Defendants move for summary judgment on Plaintiff's false arrest allegations against Liampachara, Rodriguez, and Semioli (the "Officer Defendants" or "Officers"). Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defs.' Mem.") (Doc. 58) at 7-13. In analyzing false arrest claims under Section 198, courts in the Second Circuit have generally looked to the law of the state in which the arrest occurred. Jaegly v. Couch, 439 F.3d 149, 151 (2d Cir. 2006) (citing Davis v. Rodriguez, 364 F.3d 424, 433 (2d Cir. 2004)). Here, Plaintiff asserts parallel false arrest claims under both § 1983 and state law. To establish a claim for false arrest under both § 1983 and New York law, a plaintiff must prove: (1) that the defendants intentionally confined plaintiff; (2) that plaintiff was conscious of the confinement and did not consent to it, and (3) that the confinement was not otherwise privileged. See Jocks v. Tavernier, 316 F.3d 128, 134-35 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Broughton v. State, 37 N.Y.2d 451, 373 N.Y.S.2d 87, 335 N.E.2d 310, 314 (N.Y. 1975)).
Here, there is no dispute that the Officer Defendants intentionally arrested Plaintiff, that Plaintiff was aware of his arrest, and that he did not consent to it. Thus, the only disputed element is whether the arrest was otherwise privileged. If the Officer Defendants had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff or are protected under the doctrine of qualified immunity, then the confinement is privileged and constitutes a complete defense to a false arrest claim. Covington v. City of N.Y., 171 F.3d 117, 122 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d. Cir. 1996)); see also Simpson v. City of New York, 793 F.3d 259 (2d Cir. 2015) (to avoid liability for a claim of false arrest, an arresting officer may demonstrate that either he had probable cause for the arrest or he is protected by qualified immunity). The Officer Defendants argue the false arrest claim must fail because they had probable cause for the arrest, and, even if they did not have probable cause, because they are protected by the doctrine qualified immunity.
1. Probable Cause
The existence of probable cause may be determined as a matter of law on summary judgment where there is no material dispute as to the relevant events and knowledge of the officers. See Weyant, 101 F.3d at 852. "[P]robable cause to arrest exists when the officers 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 or is committing a crime." Id.
Plaintiff was arrested for and charged with obstructing governmental administration. Under New York law, OGA has four elements: "(1) prevention or attempt to prevent (2) a public servant
The Officer Defendants argue they were justified in arresting Plaintiff because they developed reasonably trustworthy information that Plaintiff had committed the offense of OGA. Defs.' Mem. at 8. Specifically, Defendants assert that Harrigan's statement to them that Plaintiff had stood in front of her vehicle, thereby preventing her from leaving, "is "in and of itself . . . enough to establish probable cause." Id. at 10. Plaintiff argues that there exists a genuine dispute as to a material fact in that the surveillance video reviewed at the scene provided exculpatory evidence which gave the Officers reason to doubt the veracity of Harrigan's account. Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Mem.") (Doc. 69) at 10-12. That is, Plaintiff argues he did not prevent Agent Harrigan from moving her car or performing her official duties, and therefore the Officer Defendants lacked probable cause. Id. at 7.
Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds that probable cause existed to arrest Plaintiff. As Plaintiff admits: "[i]t is undisputed that Agent Harrigan told Officers Liampachara and Rodriguez that Dr. Louis . . . prevented her from leaving by standing in front of her car." Pl.'s Counter-56.1 ¶ 35. Plaintiff also concedes that "[p]robable cause will generally be found to exist when an officer is advised of a crime by a victim or an eyewitness." Pl.'s Mem. at 10 (citation omitted). Plaintiff's only argument regarding the lack of probable cause therefore rests with the interpretation of the surveillance video that was viewed by Officer Rodriguez and Sanitation Sergeant Dowdy prior to Plaintiff's arrest. While this video is no longer available,
Plaintiff's mere denial that he blocked the car, without more, does not create a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether probable cause existed at the time of the arrest. See Celotex., 477 U.S. at 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (plaintiff's "version of the facts" must be supported by specific facts sufficient to establish that there is a genuine factual issue for trial); Williams v. City of New York, 916 F.Supp.2d 235, 243 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) ("All that plaintiff does is assume the officers lied because he states that he did not [commit the offense]. This bare assumption is insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment."). The video footage, as described in the sworn testimony of the Officers, comports with the statements Harrigan made to the Officers— namely that Plaintiff blocked her car by standing in front of it.
2. Qualified Immunity
Moreover, even if probable cause were not established, the Court finds the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. The doctrine of qualified immunity shields public officials performing discretionary functions from civil liability insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights . . . or insofar as it was objectively reasonable for them to believe that their acts did not violate those rights." Bradway v. Gonzales, 26 F.3d 313, 317-18 (2d Cir. 1994) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "[A]n arresting officer is entitled to qualified immunity on a claim of false arrest if either: (a) it was objectively reasonable for the officer to believe that probable cause existed, or (b) officers of reasonable competence could disagree on whether the probable cause test was met." Carthew v. Cnty. of Suffolk, 709 F.Supp.2d 188, 203 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (Bianco, J.) (citing Walczyk v. Rio, 496 F.3d 139, 163 (2d Cir. 2007); see also Posr v. Court Officer Shield No. 207, 180 F.3d 409, 416 (2d Cir. 1999)). The Second Circuit has defined the latter standard, commonly referred to as "arguable probable cause," as follows:
Cerrone v. Brown, 246 F.3d 194, 202-03 (2d Cir. 2001) (quotation marks and internal citations omitted) (emphasis in original). Only where an officer's "judgment was so flawed that no reasonable officer would have made a similar choice," is the denial of qualified immunity appropriate. Provost v. City of Newburgh, 262 F.3d 146, 160 (2d Cir. 2001) (citing Lennon v. Miller, 66 F.3d 416, 425 (2d Cir. 1995).
The inquiry of whether the shield of qualified immunity applies is a mixed question of law and fact. Kerman v. City of New York, 374 F.3d 93, 109 (2d Cir. 2004). Where there is no material factual dispute, it is appropriate for the district court to assess the reasonableness of the defendants' conduct under the circumstances presented and to rule on qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage. Lennon, 66 F.3d at 421.
In light of the evidence described above, the doctrine of qualified immunity applies here. The officers had information they reasonably believed to be reliable, including video evidence that Plaintiff was blocking Harrigan's car. Based on the foregoing, a reasonable officer could have concluded that probable cause existed to arrest Plaintiff for OGA. Finally, the Court notes that, even if there were a doubt as to the existence of probable cause, there was at a minimum arguable probable cause giving rise to qualified immunity.
Accordingly, Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the Section 1983 false arrest claim against the Officer Defendants and Agent Harrigan is GRANTED.
B. First Amendment Claim
Defendants argue Plaintiff cannot maintain his First Amendment claim under Section 1983 because in sworn testimony he disclaims that the incident had any effect on the exercise of his right to free speech, Defs.' Mem. at 19-20, and indeed, Plaintiff has abandoned the claim. See Pl.'s Mem. at 2, n.1 ("Without conceding that his First Amendment claim lacks merit, Plaintiff has decided not to press forward with that claim."). Therefore, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion with respect to the First Amendment claim.
V. Plaintiff's State Law Claims
A. False Arrest Claims Against the NYPD Officers
"A § 1983 claim for false arrest, resting on the Fourth Amendment right of an individual to be free from unreasonable seizures, including arrest without probable cause, is substantially the same as a claim for false arrest under New York law." Weyant, 101 F.3d at 852; see also Ackerson, 702 F.3d 15, 19 (stating that § 1983 and New York law on false arrest claims are "substantially the same"). Additionally, a similar doctrine to the federal qualified immunity doctrine exists under New York common-law. Jenkins v. City of N.Y., 478 F.3d 76, 86-87 (2d Cir. 2007) ("If the detective defendants were entitled to qualified immunity under federal law, summary judgment would be similarly appropriate on [the] state law false arrest claim.").
Therefore, based on the probable cause and qualified immunity analyses outlined above, Defendants' Motion is also GRANTED with respect to the state law false arrest claims
B. Remainder of Plaintiff's State Law Claims
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), the Court may decline to exercise jurisdiction over any non-federal claims over which it could have supplemental jurisdiction if the Court has dismissed all of the claims over which it has original jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction in the instant action is based on federal question, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and the jurisdictional counterpart to § 1983, 28 U.S.C. § 1343. Having disposed of all of Plaintiff's federal claims, it would be inappropriate to adjudicate the remaining state law claims. Therefore, the Court declines to retain jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims and dismisses them without prejudice. See United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966) (stating that, if the federal claims are disposed of before trial, "the state claims should be dismissed as well.").
For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on all of the federal claims against them and the state law claim for false arrest against the Defendant Officers. This Court declines to retain supplemental jurisdiction over the remainder of the state law claims against Defendants and therefore DISMISSES those claims without prejudice. The Clerk of the Court is respectfully directed to terminate this motion, Doc. 55, and enter judgment in favor of Defendants.
The Clerk of the Court is respectfully directed to close this case.
It is SO ORDERED.