United States District Court, D. Connecticut
LISANDRA DELGADO Administratrix of the Estate of Jose Luis Delgado, Plaintiff,
CITY OF HARTFORD, JAMES ROVELLA, FELIX ORTIZ, STEVEN PILESKI, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
W. EGINTON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action arises out of a late-night police pursuit of Jose Luis
Delgado by defendant police officers Felix Ortiz and Steven
Pileski. Delgado died after his motorcycle crashed into a
Jersey Barrier near an entrance to Interstate 91.
alleges that Ortiz and Pileski violated the Hartford Police
Department pursuit policy by (1) failing to account for the
seriousness of the offense and the relative performance
capabilities of Delgado's motorcycle when they engaged in
pursuit and (2) failing to immediately notify central
dispatch of the pursuit in accordance with pursuit policy
guidelines (Count I); the City of Hartford and Chief Rovella
failed to provide adequate training in pursuit policies, in
violation of the Uniform Statewide Pursuit Policy (Count II);
the City and Rovella failed to discipline Ortiz for his prior
violations of the pursuit policy (Count III); the City,
Rovella, and Ortiz violated Delgado's Fourth Amendment
right to be free from unreasonable seizure, and the
City's failure to train its police officers amounts to a
pattern or practice (Count IV); the City and Rovella violated
a consent decree entered into by the City pursuant to
Cintron v. Vaughn 3:69cv13578 (EBB) (Count V); the
City failed to adopt an adequate pursuit policy (Count VI).
Ortiz's and Pileski's actions amounted to intentional
infliction of emotional distress (Count VII); Ortiz's
actions amounted to negligent infliction of emotional
distress (Count VIII); Ortiz's and Pileski's actions
amounted to “negligent pursuit” in that they
failed to recognize the extreme dangers of a pursuit under
the circumstances (Count IX); Ortiz's and Pileski's
actions amounted to recklessness in that they knew or should
have known that violating the pursuit policies would likely
lead to serious injuries or even the death of Delgado (Count
City of Hartford and Chief Rovella have moved to dismiss
counts IV and V. For the following reasons, defendants'
motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
function of a motion to dismiss is "merely to assess the
legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight
of the evidence which might be offered in support
thereof." Ryder Energy Distribution v. Merrill Lynch
Commodities, Inc., 748 F.2d 774, 779 (2d Cir. 1984).
When deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all
well-pleaded allegations as true and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the pleader. Hishon v. King,
467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). The complaint must contain the
grounds upon which the claim rests through factual
allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). A plaintiff is
obliged to amplify a claim with some factual allegations in
those contexts where such amplification is needed to render
the claim plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009).
IV alleges that Sgt. Ortiz's conduct in pursuing Delgado
violated Delgado's Fourth Amendment right to be free from
unreasonable seizure; and that the City of Hartford and Chief
Rovella should be held responsible for the violation based on
their failure to train Sgt. Ortiz. Defendants argue that
Count IV should be dismissed, as police pursuit does not
constitute a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and a
Monell claim may not be maintained absent an
underlying constitutional violation. Indeed, the Supreme
Court has held that the Fourth Amendment reasonableness
standard does not apply in this exact scenario - a high-speed
chase that resulted in the death of a motorcycle passenger -
as police pursuit is not a seizure. County of
Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 842-45 (1998).
The Fourth Amendment covers only “searches and
seizures, ” neither of which took place here. No one
suggests that there was a search, and our cases foreclose
finding a seizure. We held in California v. Hodari
D., 499 U.S. 621, 626, 111 S.Ct. 1547, 1550-1551, 113
L.Ed.2d 690 (1991), that a police pursuit in attempting to
seize a person does not amount to a “seizure”
within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. And in Brower
v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 596-597, 109 S.Ct.
1378, 1381, 103 L.Ed.2d 628 (1989), we explained that
“a Fourth Amendment seizure does not occur whenever
there is a governmentally caused termination of an
individual's freedom of movement (the innocent passerby),
nor even whenever there is a governmentally caused and
governmentally desired termination of an
individual's freedom of movement (the fleeing felon), but
only when there is a governmental termination of freedom of
movement through means intentionally applied.”
We illustrated the point by saying that no Fourth Amendment
seizure would take place where a “pursuing police car
sought to stop the suspect only by the show of authority
represented by flashing lights and continuing pursuit,
” but accidentally stopped the suspect by crashing into
him. Id., at 597, 109 S.Ct., at 1381-1382. That is
exactly this case. See, e.g., Campbell v.
White, 916 F.2d 421, 423 (C.A.7 1990) (following
Brower and finding no seizure where a police officer
accidentally struck and killed a fleeing motorcyclist during
a high-speed pursuit), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 922, 111
S.Ct. 1314, 113 L.Ed.2d 248 (1991).
Lewis, 523 U.S. at 843-44. Plaintiff's attempts
to distinguish the instant case from Lewis are unavailing.
Accordingly, Count IV will be dismissed.
alleges that the City is party to a 1973 consent decree
resulting from the case of Cintron v. Vaughn, which requires
the City to train its officers in the prevention of
violations of the rights of citizens in light of
Hartford's systemic pattern of police misconduct.
Defendants argue that plaintiff has no standing to seek
enforcement of the consent decree in a case to which she is
not a party. See Blue Chip Stamps v. Manor Drug
Stores, 421 U.S. 723, 749 (1975). However, consistent
with Rule 71, intended third-party beneficiaries of a consent
decree may sue to enforce the decree. See Brennan v. Nassau,
352 F.3d 60, 65 (2d Cir. 2003); Berger v. Heckler,
771 F.2d 1556, 1565 (2d Cir. 1985); see also U.S. v. FMC
Corp., 531 F.3d 813, 820 (9th Cir. 2008) (collecting
cases). Accordingly, Count V will not be dismissed.
foregoing reasons, defendants' motion to dismiss is
GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Count IV ...