United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
Jerome Hamlin is a prisoner of the State of Connecticut. He
has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
City of Waterbury and two of its police officers. Based on my
initial review of his complaint, this action shall proceed
against the officers with respect to plaintiff's
excessive force claim but shall be dismissed with respect to
all of plaintiff's remaining federal law claims.
complaint names the following defendants: the City of
Waterbury, Officer McMahon, and Officer Stafford. I will
accept the following facts as true solely for purposes of my
initial review to decide if plaintiff has alleged facts that
give rise to plausible grounds for relief.
13, 2015, plaintiff was driving his car on Wolcott Street in
Waterbury, Connecticut. His fiancée, Jasmina Ortiz,
was a passenger in the car. Officers McMahon and Stafford of
the Waterbury Police Department began tailgating him in their
police car at a high rate of speed, while training a white
spotlight on plaintiff's car as they followed him. The
officers then rammed plaintiff's car, causing him to lose
control and to crash into a utility pole on the side of the
road. As plaintiff got out of the car to help his
fiancée, he was struck from behind by the officers and
knocked to the ground. The officers kicked plaintiff in his
mouth and face, causing him to lose consciousness.
plaintiff woke up in the hospital, he learned that his
fiancée had not survived the crash. Plaintiff himself
was seriously injured with a fractured femur, dislocated
wrist, and lacerations to his arm and face, and he continues
to suffer from multiple life-altering injuries. The officers
prepared a false police report in an attempt to cover up key
facts of the fatal crash that they had deliberately caused.
alleges that defendants “violated plaintiff's
rights to be free from unreasonable use of force in an
arrest, cruel and unusual punishment, denial of medical care,
delay of medical care, assault, [and] deliberate
indifference, ” all in violation of the U.S.
Constitution. Doc. #1 at 5-6. He seeks compensatory and
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a
prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity
or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims
or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if
the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se,
the allegations of the complaint must be read liberally to
raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See
Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir.
recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold
“plausibility” pleading standard for courts to
evaluate the adequacy of allegations in federal court
complaints. A complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct
from legal conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds
for relief. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Notwithstanding the
rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se
complaint, a pro se complaint may not survive
dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet the basic
plausibility standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v.
Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).
Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right
of the people to be free from unreasonable searches or
seizures. The Fourth Amendment is violated if the police use
excessive force on a free person in the course of an arrest
or other law enforcement action. See Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). The intentional use of a
police car to cause a person's car to crash may amount to
the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth
Amendment. See Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S.
593, 597 (1989). There are no facts alleged in the complaint
to indicate that the defendant officers had any lawful or
legitimate reason to ram plaintiff's car. Compare
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007) (police did not use
excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment when
they caused a suspect's car to crash in order to end a
dangerous high-speed chase that threatened the lives of
innocent bystanders). Accordingly, I conclude that the
complaint on its face states a valid claim for the use of
excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
however, that the complaint does not describe the outcome of
any subsequent criminal proceedings stemming from the crash
of plaintiff's car. According to the State of Connecticut
Judicial Branch website, plaintiff was convicted and
sentenced in the Waterbury Judicial District to 10 years of
jail on two charges of running from the police and causing
death, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-223(b), and
illegal operation of a motor vehicle while under the
influence of alcohol or drugs, in violation of Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 14-227a. These convictions may possibly
foreclose this lawsuit for money damages to the extent that
this lawsuit depends on plaintiff's ability to prove any
facts that would impugn the validity of his criminal
convictions. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477
(1994); McKay v. E. Hartford Police Dep't, 2017
WL 4247383, at *3 (D. Conn. 2017).
these concerns about whether plaintiff's lawsuit may
ultimately proceed, it would be premature at this time for me
to decide if this lawsuit is barred under the rule of
Heck v. Humphrey. Defendants may raise this argument
if they choose as grounds for a motion to dismiss or for
summary judgment and to include any records that would allow