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Marzullo v. Onofrio

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 10, 2016

ROBERT MARZULLO, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM ONOFRIO, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          Dominic J. Squatrito United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Robert Marzullo (“Marzullo”), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Connecticut common law against William Onofrio (“Onofrio”) and Michael Doherty (“Doherty”), who, at all times pertinent to this action, were members of the Hamden Police Department. The Complaint raises claims of battery, false imprisonment, unlawful seizure, and excessive force against these two defendants. The Complaint also includes claims of supervisory liability[1] against the Town of Hamden (“the Town”) and the Hamden Chief of Police, Thomas Wydra (“Wydra”). The defendants have moved for summary judgment as to all claims against them. For the reasons stated below, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment (doc. # 24) is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. FACTS

         The Rules of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut contain specific requirements pertaining to papers filed in support of, and in opposition to, a motion for summary judgment. The moving party must file a “‘Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement, ’ which sets forth in separately numbered paragraphs . . . a concise statement of each material fact as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue to be tried.” L. Civ. R. 56(a)1. In turn, a party opposing a motion for summary judgment must file a “‘Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement, ’ which states in separately numbered paragraphs . . . corresponding to the paragraphs contained in the moving party’s Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement whether each of the facts asserted by the moving party is admitted or denied.” L. Civ. R. 56(a)2. Each material fact included in a moving party’s Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement and each denial of a fact included in an opponent’s Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement “must be followed by a specific citation to (1) the affidavit of a witness competent to testify as to the facts at trial and/or (2) evidence that would be admissible at trial. . . . The ‘specific citation’ obligation of this Local Rule requires counsel and pro se parties to cite to specific paragraphs when citing affidavits . . . and to cite to specific pages when citing to deposition or other transcripts or to documents longer than a single page in length.” L. Civ. R. 56(a)3.

         Neither party filed a Local Rule 56 Statement in compliance with the provisions quoted above. The defendants’ Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement contains three paragraphs that in essence state legal conclusions, e.g., “[t]he involved officers had adequate grounds and just cause to control and restrain Mr. Robert Marzullo. As such, the control and restraint was not a false imprisonment or unlawful seizure.” (Doc. # 24-2, at 2, ¶ 2). Additionally, that Statement cites to the deposition testimony of a number of witnesses without citing to specific pages. The plaintiff’s Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement denies each of the three paragraphs contained in the defendants’ Statement, but those denials are not “followed by a specific citation to . . . evidence that would be admissible at trial . . . .” L. Civ. R. 56 (a)3. The Court will proceed to recite the facts based on the record as it stands, keeping in mind that, for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party Marzullo “will have [his] allegations taken as true, and will receive the benefit of the doubt when [his] assertions conflict with those of the movant.” Dawson v. County of Westchester, 373 F.3d 265, 272 (2d Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         On January 18, 2012, at approximately 3:00 p.m., Marzullo was operating his motor vehicle on Pinerock Avenue in Hamden, Connecticut. His sister, Susan Marzullo (“Susan”), was a passenger in the front seat of the vehicle. Marzullo began to suffer an epileptic seizure at that time and his vehicle crashed into a low stone wall and garage at 442 Pinerock Avenue.

         Shortly after the accident, Onofrio and Doherty, as well as paramedics, arrived at the scene and asked Susan questions about the accident. She responded that she was not hurt, but that her brother was hurt and that he was having an epileptic seizure. Onofrio and Doherty demanded that Marzullo produce his driver’s license, but he was slumped over the steering wheel, unresponsive. Susan located Marzullo’s wallet, removed his driver’s license, and provided it to the officers.

         After Susan provided them with Marzullo’s driver’s license, one or both of the officers ordered Marzullo to get out of his vehicle, stating “I’m going to give you to the count of blank[2] to get out of the car.” (Doc. # 31-1, at 10, p. 52:7-8). At that time Mazullo remained slumped over the steering wheel, unresponsive. At her deposition, Susan Marzullo testified that he was “[o]ut of it” at this point. (Id. at 10, p. 52:17-21). Onofrio then got into the back seat of the vehicle directly behind Marzullo and shot him in the neck with a Taser. Marzullo groaned and screamed out in pain. Marzullo then bit Doherty on his arm and Onofrio shot Marzullo a second time with a Taser. Marzullo then reached for his car keys, which were still in the ignition. During this period, Marzullo struggled with Onofrio and Doherty and, as they were attempting to physically remove him from his vehicle, the officers threatened to arrest him. Susan advised the officers that Marzullo was an epileptic and one of them responded, “I know it.” (Id. at 23, p. 79:13-16).

         After Marzullo was removed from inside his vehicle, he was placed in an ambulance. Susan Marzullo testified at her deposition that during this entire period Marzullo continued to be “in a grand mal state.” (Id. at 22, p. 78:7). After his seizure had ended, Marzullo informed Susan that he had no recollection of the accident or anything else that occurred during the time he was having a seizure.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         A motion for summary judgment shall 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). Summary judgment is appropriate if, after discovery, the nonmoving party “has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of [his] case with respect to which [he] has the burden of proof.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of any material factual issue genuinely in dispute.” American International Group, Inc. v. London American International Corp., 664 F.2d 348, 351 (2d Cir.1981) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute concerning a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. “When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, the nonmoving party “must present specific evidence demonstrating a genuine dispute.” Gannon v. UPS, 529 F. App’x 102, 103 (2d Cir. 2013).

         The Court must view all inferences and ambiguities in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir.1991). “The function of the district court in considering the motion for summary judgment is not to resolve disputed questions of fact but only to determine whether, as to any material issue, a genuine factual dispute exists. . . . Summary judgment is inappropriate when the admissible materials in the record make it arguable that the claim has merit, for the court in considering such a motion must disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party ...


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