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Moore v. City of Norwalk

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 24, 2018

CITY OF NORWALK, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Chauncey Moore alleges that police officers from the City of Norwalk, Connecticut unlawfully stopped him, beat him up, and then forced him to have his stomach pumped in search of illegal drugs. But Moore waited more than three years before naming any of the police officers who allegedly abused him. Because the statute of limitations expired for his federal civil rights claims, I will dismiss his claims against the individual police officer defendants. I will otherwise dismiss his federal claims against the City of Norwalk on the ground that he has not alleged facts that give rise to a plausible claim for relief against the City. Accordingly, I will grant defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint without prejudice to Moore's right to seek relief on his state law claims in state court.


         The following facts are set forth as alleged by Moore in the amended complaint. Doc. #16. On April 26, 2014, Moore was walking on a sidewalk in the City of Norwalk when he was stopped without reason by two Norwalk police officers. When they attempted to handcuff him, he ran but he was caught and thrown to the ground. More police officers joined in. The officers used a taser to stun Moore four different times. They also uttered racial slurs and kicked him and stomped on him. Then they put Moore in a police vehicle to go to the hospital. During the ride in the police vehicle, he was intentionally slammed into the divider separating the front and back of the vehicle. At the hospital his stomach was pumped in a fruitless search for drugs. Moore suffered numerous physical and psychological injuries from this traumatic encounter with the police.

         Moore waited almost three years to file this federal court action. He gave his pro se complaint to prison officials on April 23, 2017, just three days before the statute of limitations would expire for his federal civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Lounsbury v. Jeffries, 25 F.3d 131, 133-34 (2d Cir. 1994). His initial complaint did not identify any of the police officers by name. Instead, it alleged claims against the City of Norwalk and six anonymous “John Doe” police officer defendants. Doc. #1.

         On June 15, 2017, I issued an initial review order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A dismissing Moore's claim against the City of Norwalk but allowing his “John Doe” claims to proceed and specifying that he must identify the “John Doe” defendants by name by August 15, 2017. Doc. #7.[1] On June 26, 2017, I granted Moore's motion to appoint pro bono counsel, and counsel was appointed on August 21, 2017. Docs. #9, #13.

         In the meantime, on August 11, 2017, Moore filed a “Motion for Extension of Time to Identify John Doe Defendants.” Doc. #10. The motion stated in part that Moore was “successful” in identifying two of the “John Doe” defendants but that Moore had “made no further attempt to obtain the rest of the Doe defendant's identities because plaintiff anticipated and assumed that Court appointed counsel would have contacted him prior to the deadline of time in which to identify/amend [the] complaint (August 15, 2017), ” and that “[p]laintiff was thinking court appointed counsel would have identities of the Doe defendants by now.” Id. at 1.

         I granted an extension of time to file an amended complaint. Doc. #15. On November 21, 2017, Moore through his appointed counsel filed an amended complaint that named the City of Norwalk and each of the defendant police officers by name. Doc. #16.

         The amended complaint alleges several federal civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for an unlawful stop by the police, use of excessive force, an unlawful search of his body at the hospital, and a conspiracy to violate his civil rights. The complaint also alleges claims for municipal liability against the City of Norwalk. Lastly, the complaint alleges state law claims for assault and battery as well as for infliction of emotional distress.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss. They argue in principal part that Moore's federal claims against the individual officers are time-barred because he failed to name them within the three-year statute of limitations, and they argue that Moore's claims against the City do not state plausible grounds for relief.


         The background principles governing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss are well established. The Court must accept as true all factual matters alleged in a complaint, although a complaint may not survive unless the facts it recites are enough to state plausible grounds for relief. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014). This “plausibility” requirement is “not akin to a probability requirement, ” but it “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Because a court should focus on what facts a complaint alleges, a court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation” or “to accept as true allegations that are wholly conclusory.” Krys v. Pigott, 749 F.3d 117, 128 (2d Cir. 2014). In short, the Court's role is to determine if the complaint-apart from any of its conclusory allegations-alleges enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief.

         Claims against individual officers

         Moore does not dispute that he did not name any of the individual defendant police officers by name until the filing of his amended complaint in November 2017, which was more than six months after the three-year statute of limitations for his § 1983 claims had expired. According to Moore, however, his later substitution of the real names of the police officers ...

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