United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JAMES M. WARNER, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM T. FREEMAN, KEVIN DOWD, LUKE LARUE, JUSTIN LUSSIER and KRISTOPHER BERNIER, Defendants.
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
F. Martinez United States Magistrate Judge
plaintiff, James Warner, brings this action against Putnam
police officers Justin Lussier and Kristopher Bernier and
Connecticut State Troopers William Freeman, Kevin Dowd and
Luke Larue, alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution
in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Pending before the
court are the defendants' motions for summary judgment.
(Doc. ##30, 43.) The motions are granted in part and denied
following facts, taken from the parties' Local Rule 56(a)
Statements, are undisputed unless otherwise indicated.
plaintiff is a landscaper. A customer of his, John Fox
("Fox"), lived at 11 Tattoon Road in Woodstock,
Connecticut. Fox asked the plaintiff to clean up the property
across the street at 16 Tattoon Road. At that address, there
was a small dilapidated house on a partially wooded,
overgrown lot with debris in the yard. The plaintiff had met
the man who lived at 16 Tattoon Road but had never done any
landscaping work for him. The plaintiff knew that Fox did not
own the 16 Tattoon Road property.
morning of December 9, 2013, the plaintiff and two other men
drove to 16 Tattoon Road. The plaintiff had planned to pick
up leaves from his customers' lawns that day, but it was
snowing so he was unable to work on leaf removal. Instead he
decided to clean up the property at 16 Tattoon Road.
plaintiff parked his pickup truck in the driveway of 16
Tattoon Road. He and the two other men took items from the
property including, among other things, an aluminum rowboat,
a cement mixer, a heater, and aluminum gutters. They loaded
everything into the bed of the plaintiff's truck. The
plaintiff did not know who owned the items. Meanwhile,
another neighbor called the police. The caller reported that
there were men on the property at 16 Tattoon Road, that the
house was vacant, and that the men were taking things from
the property and loading them into a truck.
town of Woodstock does not have its own police department; it
is patrolled by the Connecticut State Police. The State
Police, however, could not immediately respond to the call so
Putnam police were dispatched to investigate, secure the
scene and wait for the state police if necessary.
Sergeant Justin Lussier and Officer Kristopher Bernier of the
Putnam police department responded. Sergeant Lussier asked
the plaintiff for identification, which he provided. The
plaintiff said that he was cleaning up the property. Sergeant
Lussier asked the men if they had spoken to the owner and had
permission to be there. The plaintiff responded that he had
knocked at the door but nobody answered. He explained that he
then began to collect things to bring to the dump. Officer
Bernier knocked on the front door of the residence but there
was no response. He walked around to the back and found no
sign of tampering.
Lussier and Officer Bernier knew there had been thefts of
scrap metal and copper pipe in the area. Lussier called his
police department. He learned that the property owner at 16
Tattoon Road was in a nursing home. Sergeant Lussier and
Officer Bernier informed the plaintiff that they intended to
detain him until the state police arrived. They asked if he
was willing to wait. The plaintiff was agreeable. It was
snowing and the defendants placed the plaintiff in a police
A state police officer, defendant Trooper William Freeman,
arrived 20 to 30 minutes later.
Trooper Freeman arrived, he saw a pickup truck parked in the
driveway. The bed of the truck was filled with things,
including an aluminum boat and a cement mixer. He observed
marks in the snow which he suspected were made from dragging
items to the truck. Defendant Troopers Luke LaRue and Kevin
Dowd arrived next. LaRue transported one of the men to the
state police barracks for processing and Dowd transported the
plaintiff. Trooper Dowd learned that Freeman intended to
charge the suspects and assisted him with processing.
plaintiff was charged with larceny in violation of Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 53a-119, criminal trespass in the third degree
in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-109 and criminal
mischief in the third degree in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat.
§ 53a-117. The charges were later dismissed.
plaintiff previously had been convicted of a felony. At the
time of his arrest, he was on probation. He subsequently
pleaded guilty to violation of probation.
plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against the Putnam police officers and the Connecticut
state troopers alleging false arrest and malicious
prosecution. The Putnam defendants and the state trooper
defendants both move for summary judgment.
Standard for Summary Judgment
judgment may be granted only 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). A genuine dispute of material fact
"exists for summary judgment purposes where the
evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, is such that a reasonable jury could decide in that
party's favor." Zann Kwan v. Andalex Gr.,
LLC, 737 F.3d 834, 843 (2d Cir. 2013). The evidence
adduced at the summary judgment stage must be viewed in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party and with all
ambiguities and reasonable inferences drawn against the
moving party. See, e.g., Caronia v. Philip
Morris USA, Inc., 715 F.3d 417, 427 (2d Cir. 2013). The
court's "function at summary ...