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DiPane-Saleem v. Gallagher

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 15, 2016




Jodi DiPane-Saleem has sued police officers Andrew Gallagher and Jeffrey Booth, the City of Stamford, and Dr. Darshan T. Shah for alleged violations of her civil rights and for common law torts arising from her arrest on forgery and related charges that were later dismissed.

The plaintiff brings seven counts. In Count I, she brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 against Gallagher and Booth for false arrest and malicious prosecution in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. In Count II, she claims that Gallagher and Booth violated Article I, Section 7, of the Connecticut Constitution, which protects rights similar to those protected by the Fourth Amendment. In Count III, she alleges that Gallagher and Booth committed the common law tort of malicious prosecution. In Count IV, she alleges that Gallagher and Booth committed abuse of process by continuing to prosecute the plaintiff to coerce her into providing a general release of her civil claims against the officers. In Count V, she alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress against Gallagher and Booth. In Count VI, she alleges that Gallagher, Booth, and the City of Stamford are liable for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Finally, in Count VII, she brings a claim against Dr. Shah for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Dr. Shah has moved to dismiss Count VII for failure to state a claim and for lack of jurisdiction. (ECF. No. 36.) Gallagher and Booth have moved to dismiss Counts IV, V, and VI for failing to state a claim. (ECF No. 40.) The City of Stamford has moved to dismiss Count VI for failing to state a claim. (Id.) For the reasons discussed below, I deny the motions.

I. Factual Allegations

The plaintiff makes the following non-conclusory allegations in her Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 34). Defendants Andrew Gallagher and Jeffrey Booth were police officers for the defendant City of Stamford. (Id. at ¶¶ 2-3.) Dr. Darshan T. Shah is a family friend and business associate of the plaintiff‘s father-in-law. (Id. at ¶¶ 6, 8.)

The plaintiff lived with her husband at 43 Westover Lane, Stamford, Connecticut, where they maintained a residence and stored personal property. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7.) The home initially was owned by the plaintiff‘s father-in-law who transferred the property at some time to a limited liability company owned by Dr. Shah. (Id. at ¶ 8.) In October 2009, the plaintiff, her husband, and Dr. Shah agreed that the plaintiff and her husband would make payments on the property‘s delinquent property taxes in exchange for the right to reside in the home. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Dr. Shah‘s plan was to allow the plaintiff and her husband to live in the home until he renovated it. (Id. at ¶ 10.) The couple lived in the home with Dr. Shah‘s knowledge and consent throughout the period covered in the complaint. (Id. at ¶ 11.) For several years prior to 2012, the couple maintained utility accounts at the home, registered an automobile to the address, and paid property taxes-as shown in public records-for the car to the City of Stamford. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.)

At the end of September 2012, the plaintiff learned that Dr. Shah was going to begin renovations in October. (Id. at ¶ 14.) She was told that the initial renovations were not to include the "bedrooms, studio, or garage and that the Plaintiff and her husband would have to remove all their possessions by the following Thanksgiving at the latest." (Id.) Accordingly, the plaintiff and her husband began moving during the last week of September. (Id. at ¶ 15.) "The Plaintiff and her husband were assured that the contractors hired by Dr. Shah were only going to dismantle the kitchen and that their possessions throughout the house and the garage would be secure until they removed them." (Id. at ¶ 16.) But on October 1, 2012, the plaintiff discovered that "a significant amount of their personal belongings were missing" from the home. (Id. at ¶ 17.)

Dr. Shah learned that his agents had removed the items and arranged to return them. (Id. at ¶ 18-19.) A lawn mower and other property were "found abandoned in front of the Stamford Home, but other valuable personal property was not returned." (Id. at ¶ 20.) The plaintiff and her husband believed that the property had been stolen because Dr. Shah and his agents would not return their belongings; so they filed a complaint with the Stamford Police Department, which was assigned to Gallagher and Booth. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-22.)

Gallagher told the plaintiff that Dr. Shah claimed that the plaintiff had "never resided at the Stamford Home and if they now claimed the use of the Stamford Home they were doing so as illegal ‗squatters.‘" (Id. at ¶ 23.) Dr. Shah made that false claim maliciously because he had visited the plaintiff while she was living there. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.) Dr. Shah allegedly lied to the police to conceal the theft of the plaintiff‘s property and to harm the plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 26.)

The plaintiff told Gallagher that she could prove that Dr. Shah was lying. (Id. at ¶ 28.) From October 2012 to February 2013, the plaintiff repeatedly asked Gallagher about the investigation. (Id. at ¶ 29.) On March 4, 2013, Booth wrote to the plaintiff:

[A]n issue has come up with residency. I am asking for you or your husband to provide proof of the residency at 43 Westover Lane during the time frame when you said you lived there. This would preferably be in the form of utility bill.

(Id. at ¶ 30.)

On March 7, 2013, the plaintiff sent Booth electronic copies of an electricity bill, a telephone bill, an October 2012 email from Dr. Shah about transferring the utilities to Dr. Shah‘s name, a September 2012 email about the plaintiff‘s use of the house‘s garage during renovations, a letter from the City of Stamford‘s attorney confirming that the plaintiff had paid the property taxes on the home, checks made to Dr. Shah‘s company for tax payments on the home, a car registration listing the home‘s address, a tax bill for a car registered to the home, a color copy of a City of Stamford paid receipt for a car registered to her husband‘s name at the Stamford home, and a Geico Insurance identification card for her husband‘s car, which listed the address of the Stamford home. (Id. at ¶ 31.) The plaintiff highlighted some of the information on these documents before sending it to Booth. (Id.) The plaintiff asked Gallagher and Booth to contact her or the City‘s attorney for more information to confirm her residency. (Id. at ¶ 32.) Gallagher and Booth did not contact the plaintiff or the City‘s attorney. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.)

On March 26, 2013, the plaintiff emailed Gallagher and Booth to ask whether the investigation was complete. (Id. at ¶ 35.) That same day, Gallagher wrote to the plaintiff to say that several of the documents sent on March 7, 2013, had been altered or photoshopped, and that he intended to ask the State‘s Attorney‘s Office to bring criminal charges against her. (Id. at ¶ 36.)

On April 18, 2013, Gallagher and Booth applied for an arrest warrant. (Id. at ¶ 37.) The application falsely alleged that the plaintiff had given them "obviously forged documents, including an official State of CT Motor Vehicle Registration Certificate, as well as forged utility bills." (Id. at ¶¶ 38-39.) The application did not refer to other records the plaintiff provided that would have refuted the forgery claim. (Id. at ¶ 40.) Gallagher and Booth accused the plaintiff of forgery because she had "highlighted her husband‘s name and address on the Motor Vehicle Registration Certificate, the CL&P bill and AT&T bill." (Id. at ¶ 41.) They did this without even asking to inspect the original documents or checking the City of Stamford‘s records. (Id. at ¶¶ 45-46.)

The court signed the warrant because Booth and Gallagher provided false information and omitted facts showing that the documents were not forged. (Id. at ¶ 43.) The police arrested the plaintiff around April 26, 2013. (Id. at ¶ 44.) During pretrial proceedings in the plaintiff‘s criminal case, she gave the State‘s Attorney‘s Office the original documents that "conclusively established" that she had not committed forgery. (Id. at ¶ 48.) "Gallagher and Booth refused to drop the charges unless the Plaintiff provided them with a general release to protect them from being held responsible for illegally arresting the Plaintiff." (Id. at ¶ 49.) The plaintiff was prosecuted for more than a year even though the police knew that probable cause did not exist to arrest the plaintiff, which caused "extreme distress." (Id. at ¶ 50.) Finally, the charges against the plaintiff were dismissed around June 30, 2014. (Id. at ¶ 51.) The plaintiff brought this suit on April 23, 2016.

II. Discussion

In considering a motion to dismiss, I take DiPane-Saleem‘s "factual allegations to be true and [draw] all reasonable inferences in" her favor. Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 71 (2d Cir. 2009). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "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." Id. The plausibility standard "does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" supporting the claim for relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. ...

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