United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING RE: MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 37)
C. HALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
December 27, 2017, the plaintiff, Charles Lamont Britt
(“Britt”), filed a complaint pro se
pursuant to title 42, section 1983, against several New Haven
police officials, later identified as Gary C. Monk,
Christrian J. Bruckhart, Michael F. Criscoulo, Derek L.
Wener, and Nicholas W. Katz, and a cooperating witness named
John Pettigrew. Compl. (Doc. No. 1). He later filed two
Amended Complaints (Doc. Nos. 15, 16). This court permitted
Britt's Fourth Amendment claims for unreasonable search
and malicious prosecution, as stated in the Second Amended
Complaint (Doc. No. 16), to proceed against Monk, Bruckhart,
Criscoulo, Wener, and Katz, but dismissed the claims against
Pettigrew. Ruling Re: Second Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 17).
February 21, 2019, Britt filed a Motion for Leave to File a
Third Amended Complaint “adding [a] new claim with
exhibits to support [the] new claim and to better specify
damages sought.” Mot. for Leave to File Am. Compl.
(Doc. No. 34). The court granted the Motion to Amend absent
objection and docketed the third amended complaint as a
separate entry. Order (Doc. No. 39); 3d Am. Compl. (Doc. No.
40). Monk, Bruckhart, Criscoulo, Wener, and Katz have moved
to dismiss the new defamation claim that Britt has asserted
in his Third Amended Complaint. Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 37);
Mem. of Law in Supp. of Defs.' Preemptive Mot. to Dismiss
(“Defs.' Mem.”) (Doc. No. 38). They contend
that the defamation claim is barred by the statute of
limitations set forth in section 52-597 of the Connecticut
General Statutes, and alternatively, Britt has failed to
state a claim upon which relief could be granted under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Mot. to Dismiss at
1; Defs.' Mem. at 7-8. Britt has filed an Opposition to
the defendants' Motion. Britt's Obj. to Defs.'
Mot. to Dismiss (“Britt's Opp'n”) (Doc.
No. 42). For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss the
defamation claim is GRANTED.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
survive a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic 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[s] [are] liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. This standard is not a
probability requirement; a complaint must show, not merely
allege, that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See
all allegations contained in the complaint are assumed to be
true, this tenet is ‘inapplicable to legal
conclusions.'” LaMagna v. Brown, 474
Fed.Appx. 788, 789 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Ashcroft,
556 U.S. at 678); see also Amaker v. New York State
Dep't of Corr. Services 435 Fed.Appx. 52, 54 (2d
Cir. 2011) (same). Accordingly, the court is not “bound
to accept conclusory allegations or legal conclusions
masquerading as factual conclusions.” Faber v.
Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011)
(quoting Rolon v. Henneman, 517 F.3d 140, 149 (2d
Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted)).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This is true whether the
plaintiff has counsel or appears pro se. Chavis
v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010). However,
“[w]here . . . the complaint was filed pro se,
it must be construed liberally with ‘special
solicitude' and interpreted to raise the strongest claims
that it suggests.” Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d
509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Hill v. Curcione,
657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011)).
deciding a motion to dismiss, the court may consider
“statements or documents incorporated into the
complaint by reference, . . . and documents possessed by or
known to the plaintiff and upon which [he] relied in bringing
the suit.” ATSI Communications, Inc. v. Shaar Fund,
Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007). The court may also
“take judicial notice of public records such as
pleadings, orders, judgments, and other documents from prior
litigation, including state court cases.” Lynn v.
McCormick, No. 17-CV-1183 (CS), 2017 WL 6507112, at *3
(S.D.N.Y. Dec. 18, 2017) (citing Lou v. Trutex,
Inc., 872 F.Supp.2d 344, 349 n.6 (S.D.N.Y. 2012));
see also Samuels v. Air Transport Local 504, 992
F.2d 12, 15 (2d Cir. 1993).
October 7, 2015, the defendants, who collectively formed the
Narcotics Enforcement Unit of the New Haven Police Department
(“NHPD”), developed a plan to use a cooperating
witness to make a controlled purchase of narcotics inside
Britt's home at 358 Orange Street, Apartment 616, in New
Haven. 3d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2. The defendants
“alleged th[at] [Britt's] home was the target of an
ongoing investigation.” Id., ¶ 2.
However, there had been “no prior transactions”
between Britt and the cooperating witness, and Britt had been
hospitalized at Yale New Haven Hospital during the month
leading up to the planned controlled purchase. Id.,
¶ 4. The employees of Elm City Communities/Housing
Authority of New Haven, where Britt resided, were not aware
of any investigation into Britt's apartment.
Id., ¶ 5.
defendants provided the witness with covert surveillance
equipment to capture the controlled purchase. Id.,
¶ 6. The witness then went to Britt's apartment and
asked him “where to get perks at.” Id.,
¶ 7. The witness had not been invited to Britt's
apartment and was, therefore, trespassing on the property.
Id., ¶ 8. The witness entered Britt's
apartment and recorded Britt without his knowledge.
Id., ¶ 9. Later that day, the defendants
released a NHPD Incident Investigation Report with their
findings from the witness. Id., ¶ 5. This was
the first time the staff at Britt's apartment complex
learned about his apartment being the subject of a police
investigation. Id. The defendants did not have
probable cause or a search warrant to surveil Britt's
home. Id., ¶ 11.
[d]efendants defamed [Britt] in the . . . Investigation
Report . . . with the false statement of [his] [a]partment
being a location where illegal drugs are bought and sold on a
daily basis among other untruthful allegations. [Britt's]
landlord, [the Elm City Communities], acted on the[se]
defamatory allegations and drafted a pre-termination notice
dated December 1, 2015.” Id., ¶¶ 13-14.
November 3, 2015, the defendants secured an arrest warrant
for Britt, and they arrested him on November 16, based on
information they learned from the controlled purchase on
October 7. Id., ¶ 12. As a result of the
arrest, Britt was unable to receive medical and Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) benefits
from the State of Connecticut Department of Social
Services. Id., ¶ 15. He was also
unable to follow up on a social security disability claim
that had been pending at the time. Id., ¶ 16.
The loss of medical and SNAP benefits prevented Britt from
receiving his mental health medication and caused him to
suffer from mental anguish and malnutrition. Id.,
August 2, 2017, a Connecticut Superior Court judge dismissed
the charges that arose from the narcotics purchase on October
7, 2015. 2d Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 16), ¶ 16. On October
24, 2017, Britt filed a Complaint against the defendants with
the NHPD Internal Affairs Division. Id. In response,
NHPD Sergeant Wolcheski wrote that the surveillance on
October 7, 2015 was authorized by the State's
Attorney's Office and was reasonable because the
investigation began outside the apartment in the public
domain. Pl.'s Ex. D (Doc. No. 16 at 25). Thus, the
Internal Affairs Division concluded that Britt's
complaint was “unfounded.” Id.