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Jordan v. Town of Windsor

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 8, 2018

EDWARD JORDAN, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF WINDSOR, ET AL. Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.

         On March 14, 2015, Edward Jordan and two officers of the Windsor Police Department had an altercation. Jordan alleges that the officers detained him without probable cause, physically restrained him, and injured him. He alleges that this misconduct violated his rights under the federal and Connecticut constitutions. He also alleges that this incident resulted from the Town of Windsor's failure to train its officers. He has sued the two officers, the Chief and a captain of the Windsor Police Department, and the Town of Windsor. The defendants have moved to dismiss several counts of the Amended Complaint. For the reasons that follow, their motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Factual Allegations

         In Jordan's amended complaint (ECF No. 17), he makes the following allegations. Defendant Kearse was the chief of the Windsor Police Department, and defendant Lappore was “the captain” of the Windsor Police Department. (Id. at ¶¶ 2-3.) They were responsible for the supervision and training of the members of the Windsor Police Department. (Id.) Jordan alleges that “at all times relevant hereto[, ] there was a policy within the Windsor Police of having [p]atrol officers on duty at all times and having such officers armed at all times with weapons including firearms and/or tasers.” (Id. at ¶ 4.) He further alleges that “there was an obvious need to train officers in the proper use and handling of firearms” and that there was also “an obvious need to train officers in proper use of force, including de-escalation of force, confronting members of the public, including suspects[, ] and keeping the firearms and weapons of the officer secure.” (Id. at ¶¶ 5-6.)

         Jordan also alleges that defendants Sanchez and Taylor were patrol officers of the Windsor Police Department. (ECF No. 17 at ¶¶ 7-8.) On March 14, 2015, Jordan was “lawfully in the area of Deerfield Package Store, 264 Deerfield Road, Windsor, Connecticut.” (Id. at ¶ 9.) He alleges that, at that time, he was “verbally confronted by” Sanchez and Taylor. (Id.) “During the aforementioned confrontation, the Plaintiff discontinued his conversation with [Sanchez and Taylor] and began calmly and slowly walking away from defendants.” (Id. at ¶ 10.) Jordan alleges that Sanchez “began . . . shouting at plaintiff, despite plaintiff's clear expressed intention to leave the presence of defendant, and no probable cause [sic] to arrest or detain Plaintiff.” (Id. at 11.) Jordan states that at no time during this conversation did the officers tell him that he was under arrest. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-12.) He alleges that the “shouting and verbal demands were upsetting, threatening[, ] and constituted verbally provoking [sic] to Plaintiff.” (Id. at ¶ 14.) He alleges that a physical altercation ensued: Sanchez “pushed [him] to the ground and punched [him] in the face” and “twist[ed] [his] limbs, press[ed] on [him] forcefully with [Sanchez's] knees and other extremities”; and Taylor “aimed and pointed her taser weapon at” Jordan when “it was unsafe to do so and in an unsafe manner, ” which “created a risk that others might be harmed by the taser weapon.” (Id. at ¶¶ 17-20.)

         Jordan alleges that he suffered the following injuries: (1) “injuries [sic] head, face, jaw[, ] and neck”; (2) “swelling, bruising[, ] and visual impairment in both eyes”; (3) “swollen and bruised lips”; (4) “swollen and bruised right hand”; (5) “numbness and nerve damage to the upper torso and head area”; (6) “related surgeries and treatments to the head”; (7) “traumatic brain injury”; (8) “depression”; (9) “anxiety and panic attacks”; and (10) “injuries to the contiguous muscles, ligaments, nerves, soft tissues, glands, bones[, ] and joints of the injured parts [sic].” (ECF No. 17 at 6-8.) He also alleges that he incurred medical expenses, suffered diminished ability to participate in the activities of everyday life, and lost earning capacity. (Id.)

         The defendants have moved to dismiss several of Jordan's claims under Rule 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 20.) They have moved to dismiss Jordan's Monell claims, his claims under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Sections 7, 8, and 9 of the Connecticut Constitution, his claims for negligence against Kearse and Lappore, and his false imprisonment claim. (Id.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the plaintiff has alleged “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Under Twombly, the Court accepts as true all of the complaint's factual allegations-but not conclusory allegations-when evaluating a motion to dismiss. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 572. The Court must “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” Vietnam Ass'n for Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chem. Co., 517 F.3d 104, 115 (2d Cir. 2008). “When a complaint is based solely on wholly conclusory allegations and provides no factual support for such claims, it is appropriate to grant defendants['] motion to dismiss.” Scott v. Town of Monroe, 306 F.Supp.2d 191, 198 (D. Conn. 2004). For a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, “[a]fter the court strips away conclusory allegations, there must remain sufficient well-pleaded factual allegations to nudge plaintiff's claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” In re Fosamax Products Liab. Litig., No. 09-cv-1412 (JFK), 2010 WL 1654156, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 9, 2010). In its review of a motion to dismiss, the court may consider “only the facts alleged in the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the pleadings and matters of which judicial notice may be taken.” Samuels v. Air Transport Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 15 (2d Cir. 1993).

         III. Analysis

         A. Monell and Supervisory Liability Claims

         The defendants have moved to dismiss Count One of Jordan's Amended Complaint, which is brought against the Town of Windsor, because he has not sufficiently alleged that an unconstitutional policy or custom caused his injuries. They have moved to dismiss Count Two, which names Chief Kearse and Captain Lappore, because there are insufficient allegations that those two defendants were personally involved in the March 14, 2015 incident. (ECF No. 20-1 at 8-12.)

         A municipality is liable under Section 1983 only if it had a “policy or custom” that caused the plaintiff's injury. Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); see also Wray v. City of New York, 490 F.3d 189, 195 (2d Cir. 2007) (“To hold a city liable under Section 1983 for the unconstitutional actions of its employees, a plaintiff is required to plead and prove three elements: (1) an official policy or custom that (2) causes the plaintiff to be subjected to (3) a denial of a constitutional right.” (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)). Courts have recognized that “[a] plaintiff may satisfy the policy or custom prong in one of four ways: by alleging the existence of (1) a formal policy; (2) actions taken or decisions made by final municipal policymakers that caused the violation of plaintiff's rights; (3) a practice so persistent and widespread that it constitutes a custom or usage and implies the constructive knowledge of policymakers; or (4) a failure to properly train or supervise municipal employees that amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of those with whom municipal employees will come into contact.” Aquino v. City of N.Y., No. 1:16-cv-1577, 2017 WL 384354, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 25, 2017) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Albert v. City of Hartford, 529 F.Supp.2d 311, 329 (D. Conn. 2007).

         “A municipality's culpability for a deprivation of rights is at its most tenuous where a claim turns on a failure to train.” Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 61 (2011). For municipal liability to attach on a failure to train theory, “a municipality's failure to train its employees in a relevant respect must amount to deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the [untrained employees] come into contact.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “A pattern of similar constitutional violations by untrained employees is ordinarily necessary to demonstrate deliberate indifference for purposes of failure to train.” Id. at 62 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “While it may be true that Section 1983 plaintiffs cannot be expected to know the details of a ...


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