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Gaunichaux v. City of Middletown

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 23, 2016

REGINALD GAUNICHAUX, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MIDDLETOWN Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Dkt. 36] AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONS AMEND THE COMPLAINT [Dkt. 35, Dkt. 37]

Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge

The Plaintiff, Reginald Gaunichaux, appearing pro se, brought this Sec. 1983 action in the Connecticut Superior Court naming the City of Middletown as the sole defendant on December 31, 2013. Defendant filed a Notice of Removal before this Court on January 28, 2014. Read liberally, the complaint alleges that police officers employed by the City of Middletown used excessive force during this encounter and denied Plaintiff medical attention in violation of the Eighth Amendment, along with a state law claim for negligence.

Currently pending before the Court are the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and the Plaintiff’s two Motions to Amend. For the reasons that follow, the Defendant’s Motions for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and Plaintiff’s Motions to Amend are DENIED without prejudice to re-filing.

I. Factual Background

Plaintiff’s complaint contains few factual allegations and largely states legal conclusions. However, Plaintiff does allege that on or about January 2, 2013, employees of the Middletown Police Department entered an apartment in which he was a guest and executed a search warrant. [Compl. ¶ 3]. Plaintiff alleges that “upon entry” he was “immediately assaulted” and beaten “to the point where [he] was unable to walk.” [Id.]. Plaintiff alleges that he asked for medical attention and such attention was denied. [Id.].

Plaintiff did not serve discovery requests or attempt to depose any witnesses in support of his claims, although Plaintiff himself was deposed on December 23, 2014. After the close of discovery, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend his complaint on June 5, 2015, reciting additional claims he wished to assert - in particular an illegal search and seizure claim as well as a false arrest claim. [Dkt. 35]. Plaintiff identified police officers Dirga, Puorro, Srivo, Fieman and “several other officers of the Middletown Police Narcotics Division” as the persons who had allegedly violated his civil rights, but Plaintiff failed to allege any additional facts in support of his claims.

Defendant subsequently moved for summary judgment on July 1, 2015 on the grounds that the City cannot be held liable for the Sec. 1983 claims alleged and that further amendment would be futile. [Dkt. 36]. Defendant included with the summary judgment motion four affidavits from police officers involved in Mr. Gaunichaux’s arrest. [Dkt. 36, Ex. A-D], as well as a “Notice to Pro Se Litigant” required under the Local Rules which informed Mr. Gaunichaux of the need to oppose the motion within 21 days and stating that failure to oppose the motion may result in the motion being granted by the Court. [Dkt. 36-10]. Plaintiff failed to file any opposition to the motion; however, Plaintiff did file a second Motion to Amend his complaint on July 17, 2015 seeking to add Officer Del Mauro, one of the affiants to the City’s summary judgment motion, as a defendant in the case. [Dkt. 37]. That motion asserted no facts other than to say that the identity of the officer had recently been disclosed.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows 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). The moving party bears the burden of proving that no factual issues exist. Vivenzio v. City of Syracuse, 611 F.3d 98, 106 (2d Cir. 2010). “In determining whether that burden has been met, the court is required to resolve all ambiguities and credit all factual inferences that could be drawn in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)). “If there is any evidence in the record that could reasonably support a jury's verdict for the nonmoving party, summary judgment must be denied.” Am. Home Assurance Co. v. Hapag Lloyd Container Linie, GmbH, 446 F.3d 313, 315-16 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

“A party opposing summary judgment cannot defeat the motion by relying on the allegations in his pleading, or on conclusory statements, or on mere assertions that affidavits supporting the motion are not credible. At the summary judgment stage of the proceeding, Plaintiffs are required to present admissible evidence in support of their allegations; allegations alone, without evidence to back them up, are not sufficient.” Welch-Rubin v. Sandals Corp., No.3:03cv481, 2004 WL 2472280, at *1 (D. Conn. Oct. 20, 2004) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); Martinez v. State of Connecticut, No. 3:09cv1341 (VLB), 2011 WL 4396704 at *6 (D. Conn. Sept. 21, 2011). Where there is no evidence upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it and upon whom the onus of proof is imposed, such as where the evidence offered consists of conclusory assertions without further support in the record, summary judgment may lie. Fincher v. Depository Trust and Clearance Co., 604 F.3d 712 (2d Cir. 2010).

III. Discussion

a. Summary Judgment

In order for a municipality to be held liable under § 1983, a plaintiff must show that the “municipality violated a federal right through (1) municipal policy, (2) municipal custom or practice, or (3) the decision of a municipal policymaker with final policymaking authority.” Zherka v. DiFiore, 412 F.App'x 345, 348 (2d Cir. 2011) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978)). It is not sufficient to allege conduct attributable to the municipality, the plaintiff must demonstrate that, “through its deliberate conduct, the municipality was the ‘moving force’ behind the injury alleged.” Id. (citing Bd. of County Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 405, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed.2d 626 (1997)) (internal quotations omitted) (emphasis in original).

The Court affords “special solicitude” towards pro se litigants and interprets the complaint “to raise the strongest claims that it suggests.” Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). However, Plaintiff here does not allege facts from which the Court can infer that the existence of a policy, custom, practice or decision by a final policymaker caused the officers' conduct or that the deliberate conduct of the municipality itself was the moving force behind the injury alleged. See, e.g., Miro ...


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