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Lombardi v. Myers

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 15, 2016

KAREN LOMBARDI, Plaintiff,
v.
KAREN MYERS and BRIAN MCCARTHY, Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Karen Lombardi, sued Sergeant Brian McCarthy of the Woodbridge Police Department and Karen Myers, a former work colleague. Notice of Removal at Compl., ECF No. 1.[1] Ms. Lombardi’s claims arise out of an incident in which Ms. Myers accused Ms. Lombardi of physically abusing a twenty-one pound dog named Timone. Ms. Lombardi alleges that both Defendants are liable for malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and that Ms. Myers is liable for defamation.

         Defendants Myers and McCarthy have moved for summary judgment on the malicious prosecution claims only. Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 16. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED in its entirety, and the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining defamation claim.

         I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Ms. Lombardi works as an Animal Control Officer in Woodbridge, Connecticut. Ms. Myers worked in “Kennel Care” at the same shelter in Woodbridge. At the time relevant to this lawsuit, the Woodbridge Police Department oversaw the shelter’s operations. Defs.’ Ex. B, McCarthy Dep. 14:23-24, ECF No. 16-3. Ms. Lombardi and Ms. Myers also have known each other for many years, because Ms. Myers is friends with Ms. Lombardi’s cousin and attends family events. Defs.’ Ex. A, Myers Dep. 5:22-6:6, ECF No. 16-3.

         While working together at the Woodbridge Animal Control Shelter, Ms. Myers claims that she witnessed Ms. Lombardi physically abuse a dog named Timone. After Ms. Myers resigned from her position at the shelter, she discussed the incident with her cousin, Mr. McCarthy, who worked as a police officer for the Town of Woodbridge. Id. at 22:19-23:2; Pl.’s Ex. 1, Myers Dep. 12:14-18, ECF No. 17-2. Officer McCarthy reported the conversation to his supervisors. Defs.’ Ex. B, McCarthy Dep. 19:14-19, ECF No. 16-3.

         One of his supervisors, Lieutenant Lieby, sent Officer McCarthy and another officer to take a formal statement from Ms. Myers about the incident. Id. at 19:23-20:1. She ultimately made a written statement, which she signed. Defs.’ Ex. C, Myers’s Statement, ECF No. 16-3. The statement indicates that Ms. Myers resigned from her position with Animal Control, because she felt that Ms. Lombardi created a hostile work environment by yelling at her and failing to control her anger. See Id. During one incident, she claims that Ms. Lombardi kicked a series of kennel doors “as hard as she could” because she was angry. Id. at 2. She also mentioned the incident with Timone in the statement. Ms. Myers claims that Ms. Lombardi threw the dog against a wall and yelled obscenities at him. Id. at 2-3. Ms. Myers explained that just before the altercation occurred, she was having trouble putting a coat on Timone because he would not hold still, and Ms. Lombardi came to assist her. Id. at 2. Ms. Myers claimed that another Animal Control Officer, Paul Niedmann, had also witnessed the incident. Id. at 2.

         Officer McCarthy filed Ms. Myers’s statement and a police report. Defs.’ Ex B, McCarthy Dep. 21:24-22:2, ECF No. 16-3. To further investigate her claims, Officer McCarthy then sought a statement from Mr. Niedmann. Id. at 22:15-16. Mr. Niedmann came into the police station and gave a formal written statement, which he signed, indicating that he had seen Ms. Lombardi shaking Timone and yelling obscenities at him. Defs.’ Ex. D, Niedmann Statement at 2-4, ECF No. 16-4. He did not indicate that he had seen Ms. Lombardi throw Timone against a wall. But he did opine in his statement that the way that Ms. Lombardi shook Timone constituted animal cruelty. Id. at 4. McCarthy again submitted Mr. Niedmann’s statement to his supervisor. Defs.’ Ex B, McCarthy Dep. 25:9-11, ECF No. 16-3.

         As the final part of his investigation of the incident, Officer McCarthy testified that he asked Ms. Lombardi whether she would speak to him about it, and that she refused. Id. at 25:12-16. Ms. Lombardi testified that no one ever asked her for a statement about the incident. Pl.’s Ex. 3, Lombardi Dep. 64:22-24, ECF No. 17-2.

         Based on the information gathered by Officer McCarthy, Lieutenant Lieby decided to apply for an arrest warrant for Ms. Lombardi on a charge of animal cruelty. Defs.’ Ex B, McCarthy Dep. 27:6-14, ECF No. 16-3. When the warrant was approved, Ms. Lombardi was arrested. She was required to pay a $1, 000 bond to be released. Pl.’s Ex. 3, Lombardi Dep. 26:22-24, ECF No. 17-2. Ultimately the criminal charge was nolled.[2]

         In the context of this lawsuit, Ms. Lombardi claims that she did not yell at, shake, or otherwise physically harm Timone. She testified that she tried to “restrain him while trying to put a sweater on him” and had done so to assist Ms. Myers, who had also been trying to put a sweater on him. Id. at 63:17-20, 68:23-25. She testified that it was difficult putting the sweater on him, as “[h]e was pretty wiggly, ” and that in doing so, she recalls verbally telling Timone “no” firmly and possibly cursing. Id. at 72:17-73:9. She denies shaking Timone or throwing him into a wall. Id. at 79:10-15. After this alleged incident, Ms. Lombardi adopted Timone. Id. at 8:9-12.

         II. STANDARD

         A party who moves for summary judgment bears the burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970). An issue of fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law” and is “genuine” if it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper.” Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991).

         III. ...


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