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Pal v. Cipolla

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 8, 2019

NEELU PAL Plaintiff,
ROBERT CIPOLLA, et al. Defendants.


          MICHAEL P. SHEA U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Neelu Pal filed suit against various officers in the Wilton Police Department (Robert Cipolla, Robert Smaldone, Michael Tyler, and Scott Sear), emergency medical personnel from Wilton Ambulance (Daniel Monahan and Richard Janes), and the Town of Wilton. (ECF No. 49). Pal's claims arise out of the search of her home and her arrest, detention, and prosecution. Pal alleges (1) deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (count one); (2) excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (count two); (3) unlawful search under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (count three); (4) malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (count four); (5) malicious abuse of process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (count five); (6) municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § (count six); (7) conspiracy to violate civil rights (count seven); (8) assault and battery (count eight); (9) negligent infliction of emotional distress (count nine); (10) intentional infliction of emotional distress (count ten); (11) theft and larceny (count eleven); and (12) negligence (count twelve). (Id.). Defendants Cipolla, Smaldone, Tyler, Sear, and the Town of Wilton (collectively, “Defendants”) moved to dismiss all state law claims for failure to complete service within the applicable statute of limitations, but later conceded that the state law claims were not time barred. I therefore DENY the motion to dismiss as to the state law claims. Defendants also moved to dismiss the municipal liability claim for failure to state a claim. For the reasons discussed below, the motion to dismiss the municipal liability claim is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         The following facts are drawn from the second amended complaint, (ECF No. 49), and are accepted as true for the purpose of deciding the Defendants' motion to dismiss.[1]

         In April 2015, Pal observed the owner of her son's school and other adults “improperly observing and/or photographing [her] son and other children while the children were undressed and in a bathroom” at the Goddard School of Wilton (“Goddard School”). (Id. at ¶ 20). Pal contacted the owner's wife, Debbie Lee, to express her concerns about this incident. (Id.). After Pal reported her concerns, Ms. Ahmad (“Ahmad”), an employee of Goddard School, repeatedly contacted Pal. (Id. at ¶ 21). Ahmad called Pal and “stated threateningly” that Pal needed to come to the school to “‘witness' what Ms. Ahmad intended to do to Debbie Lee and/or . . . the Goddard School.” (Id. at ¶ 22).

         On April 29, 2015, Pal observed someone driving past her home and through her driveway repeatedly; she believed it was Ahmad. (Id. at ¶ 26). Pal dialed 911 to reach the Wilton Police Department and reported “suspicious activity near [her] home; improper, voyeuristic and sexually abusive conditions that involved [her] son and other children at her son's preschool . . . and a threatening statement made to [her] by an employee of [her son's school].” (Id. at ¶ 19). Pal was put on hold for long periods of time and her calls were terminated by the Wilton Police Department. (Id. at ¶ 29). Pal alleges that when she reported her complaint, an unidentified police officer told her “in a threatening tone ‘you cannot make trouble for Debbie Lee.'” (Id. at ¶ 30). Pal, “frustrated by the inappropriate response, ” used profanity to address Cipolla. (Id. at ¶ 31). Cipolla called Pal back and told her the police were coming to her house. (Id. at ¶ 32). Pal contends that Cipolla, Smaldone, and Tyler went to her house to arrest her without a warrant or probable cause. (Id. at ¶ 33).

         Pal remained inside her home when the officers arrived. (Id. at ¶ 36). She asked the officers for identification, which they refused to provide. (Id. at ¶ 36). The officers approached Pal in a “physically threatening manner” and Pal closed the door of her home. (Id. at ¶¶ 36-37). The officers forced open the door and entered Pal's home without permission or a warrant and arrested her. (Id. at ¶ 38). Pal repeatedly told them to “get out of [her] house.” (Id. at ¶ 39). When Pal asked why she was being arrested, Smaldone said “words to the effect of ‘we told you to stop calling.'” (Id. at ¶ 40).

         Cipolla, Smaldone, and Tyler “physically and violently dragged” Pal out of her home. (Id. at ¶ 41). They handcuffed, searched, and “repeatedly and forcefully grop[ed] [Pal's] breast, ” and then forced Pal into the rear of the police cruiser. (Id. at ¶ 41). Pal did not resist or threaten the officers. (Id. at ¶ 42). During the encounter, Tyler referred to Pal as “[M]uslim bitch” and Smaldone made other derogatory comments toward Pal and threatened to use his taser on her. (Id. at ¶ 44). Pal's four-year-old son ran frantically between the police cars and Pal heard the officers tell strangers that they were looking for someone to take Pal's son because they were going to “take [Pal] away.” (Id. at ¶ 46).

         Next, Cipolla and Smaldone called an ambulance. (Id. at ¶ 47). At approximately 2:40 p.m., Cipolla, Smaldone, and Tyler, along with emergency medical personnel, Monahan and Janes, handcuffed Pal and restrained her inside the ambulance. (Id. at ¶ 48). Monahan, Janes, and Smaldone then “removed portions of her clothing, and subjected her to physical assault and sexual assault.” (Id. at ¶ 49). They also injected a substance into Pal's arm. (Id. at ¶ 50). Because of the injection, Pal lost consciousness for a period of time in the ambulance. (Id. at ¶ 52). On the way to the hospital, the ambulance made multiple stops. (Id. at ¶ 51). Pal was released about four hours after she arrived at the emergency room. (Id. at ¶ 53).

         Later that day, Cipolla, Tyler, and Smaldone entered Pal's home without a warrant, permission or purpose. (Id. at ¶ 56). Cipolla conducted a search upstairs in Pal's home. (Id. at ¶ 56). Pal's child witnessed Cipolla opening drawers and closets and removing contents from within them. (Id.). Upon returning home, Pal discovered that she was missing $404 and gold jewelry worth over $4, 000. (Id.). Pal contends that the officers took the money and jewelry during their search. (Id.).

         Also, on April 29, 2015, Cipolla, Tyler, and Smaldone, as well as “other unknown persons, ” used their personal cellphones to discuss Pal. (Id. at ¶ 59). During one call, Cipolla said “we pulled her out (of the home), and toughed her up [sic] like we were arresting her.” (Id. at ¶ 60). Later, the officers were recorded on a body microphone talking about how to create false incident reports. (Id. at ¶ 61). One of the officers said: “we can say we were here for investigation [sic] and put her in handcuffs.” (Id.). Pal alleges that the officers falsified documents and testimony against her. (Id. at ¶ 63). On May 25, 2015, Pal demanded in writing that the Wilton Police Department preserve audio and video from April 29, 2015 as well as any subsequent recordings related to the events of that day. (Id. at ¶ 62).

         On or about June 1, 2015, Smaldone and Monahan “created affidavits that contained false statements and information[] to support a warrant” for Pal's arrest. (Id. at ¶ 63). Pal contends that the officers “prepared false, fraudulent and misleading incident reports, and made false, fraudulent, and misleading statements to their superior officers and to the prosecuting attorney.” (Id.). On June 7, 2015, Pal was arrested and charged with “misuse of 911 in violation of CGS § 53-182d” as well as “assault on safety personnel in violation of CGS § 53a-167c” and “attempted assault on safety personnel in violation of CGS § 53a-49.” (Id. at ¶ 64).

         On August 18, 2015, Pal submitted a written complaint to Chief Crosby and Sargent Tunney of the Wilton Police Department about the actions of Cipolla, Smaldone, Tyler, Monahan, and Janes. (Id. at ¶ 65). At the time she filed her second amended complaint, Pal had not received any information about the status of her complaint or whether a complaint No. had been assigned. (Id. at ¶¶ 65-66).

         On March 6, 2017, Pal missed a hearing in her criminal case, and the court charged her with failure to appear and issued a $5, 000 non-surety bond. (Id. at ¶¶ 70-72). Pal voluntarily turned herself in to the Wilton Police Department and when she tried to leave, Cipolla and Sears “detained, threatened, assaulted, imprisoned and forcibly prevented” her from leaving the station unless she paid them $5, 000 in cash. (Id. at ¶ 73). On May 10, 2017, the State's Attorney abandoned the charges of misuse of 911, assault on a safety personnel, and attempted assault on a safety personnel. (Id. at ¶ 75). On May 10, 2017 the State's Attorney “entered a long form substitute charge of infraction of creating a public ...

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