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Sherman v. Platosh

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 12, 2016

MARK S. SHERMAN, Plaintiff
v.
JAMES A. PLATOSH and BRYAN F. SEMBERSKY, Defendants.

RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS

Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

Plaintiff Mark Sherman alleges that Vernon Police Department officers James Platosh and Bryan Sembersky (the “Defendants”) arrested him and forced him to enter into the passenger area of a small police cruiser, causing him pain and injuries. In Count One, Sherman sues the Defendants in their individual capacities and alleges that their actions constituted the use of unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988. (Amended Complaint, ECF No. 24 at 1-4.) Sherman seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. (Id. at 4.) In Count Two, Sherman sues the Defendants in their official capacities. (Id. at 5.) Defendants move to dismiss Count Two under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. (ECF Nos. 19, 28.) The Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion and dismisses Count Two of the Amended Complaint.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the Amended Complaint and are accepted as true for the purpose of deciding Defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Sherman is a resident of Vernon, Connecticut. (ECF No. 24 at 1 ¶ 3.) He is six feet, two inches tall and, at the time of the arrest, he weighed 260 pounds. (Id.) James Platosh and Bryan Sembersky are officers in the Vernon Police Department (“VPD”). (Id. at 1 ¶ 4.)

At approximately 7:30pm on September 29, 2012, the Defendants arrested Sherman in Vernon, Connecticut, on a motor vehicle charge and handcuffed his hands behind his back. (Id. at 2 ¶ 7.) Sherman alleges that, although other police vehicles “of the traditional Ford Crown Victoria type and model” were available at the time of his arrest, the Defendants used “a police patrol vehicle far smaller than a traditional police cruiser and obviously too small to accommodate a prisoner of [Sherman’s] size.” (Id. at 2 ¶ 8-9.) Defendant “Platosh opened the back door of the vehicle and instructed [Sherman] to ‘get in.’” (Id. at 3 ¶ 10.) Sherman twice attempted “to place his left foot into the area between the front of the rear seat and the back of the front seat, ” and finally told Defendant Sembersky, “I will not fit.” (Id.) Nevertheless, “Sembersky twice insisted that [Sherman] would fit while ignoring [Sherman’s] concern that even the footing area appeared to be inadequate to accommodate [his] left foot.” (Id.) “Realizing that . . . the [D]efendants were verbally forcing him to comply, [Sherman] entered the back seat area.” (Id.)

As he attempted to seat himself into the seat, the pain in both his wrists with the extremely tightened handcuffs was unendurable. Involuntarily, the plaintiff lay flat on his back, attempting to relieve the pain in his wrists. Because there was not enough room for the plaintiff’s feet to align perpendicularly to the seat, the plaintiff was caused to suffer severe and unnecessary pain. He was high-centered over the seat divider, handcuffs compressing on his wrists, and in severe pain.

(Id.) Sherman alleges that the Defendants knew that he would suffer pain if he was forced to enter the small police vehicle, and “such pain was entirely unnecessary and unreasonable because of the availability of a Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser” to transport him. (Id. at 3 ¶ 11.) As a result of the Defendants’ actions, Sherman alleges that he suffered pain and injuries that “may be permanent in nature” and that “have curtained [sic] his ability to work and enjoy the pleasures of life.” (Id. at 4 ¶ 12.)

The Amended Complaint states that the Town of Vernon (the “Town”), “acting through its highest policy-setting officials for such matters, elected to replace its fleet of Ford Crown Victoria police cruisers with police patrol vehicles far smaller than a traditional police cruiser and obviously too small to accommodate prisoners of larger-than-average size, ” like Sherman. (Id. at 5 ¶ 7.) Sherman further alleges that the Town “knew that the result of that policy would be to make it impossible for the Town’s police officers to transport larger-than-average prisoners without subjecting said prisoners to excruciating pain and the possibility of permanent physical injury, none of which was reasonable or necessary.” (Id. at 5-6 ¶ 8.)

Sherman filed his complaint on March 9, 2015. (ECF No. 1.) Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Sherman’s official capacity claims (Count Two) on May 4, 2015. (ECF No. 19.) The Court gave Sherman an opportunity to file an amended complaint to address the alleged defects discussed in the Defendants’ memorandum of law. (ECF No. 21.) Sherman filed his Amended Complaint on May 23, 2015. (ECF No. 24.) Defendants renewed their motion to dismiss on June 26, 2015 (ECF No. 28), and the Court denied Defendants’ first motion to dismiss as moot. (ECF No. 29.)

III. STANDARD

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the Plaintiff has alleged “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570. Under Twombly, the Court accepts as true all of the complaint’s factual allegations when evaluating a motion to dismiss. Id. at 572. The Court must “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” Vietnam Ass’n for Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chem. Co., 517 F.3d 104, 115 (2d Cir. 2008). “When a complaint is based solely on wholly conclusory allegations and provides no factual support for such claims, it is appropriate to grant defendants[’] motion to dismiss.” Scott v. Town of Monroe, 306 F.Supp.2d 191, 198 (D. Conn. 2004). For a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, “[a]fter the court strips away conclusory allegations, there must remain sufficient well-pleaded factual allegations to nudge plaintiff’s claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” In re Fosamax Products Liab. Litig., 2010 WL 1654156, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 9, 2010).

IV. DISCUSSION

Defendants argue that Sherman’s allegations against the Defendants in their official capacities are insufficient to state a plausible claim for ...


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