Karlyg v. Merino, 20-CV-991 (PKC) (CLP)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
Writing for the CourtPamela K. Chen United States District Judge
Decision Date15 September 2021
Docket Number20-CV-991 (PKC) (CLP)

JOHN KARLYG, Plaintiff,


No. 20-CV-991 (PKC) (CLP)

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 15, 2021


Pamela K. Chen United States District Judge

One morning in July 2019, three officers of the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (“TLC”), Jeffrie Merino, Phillip White, and Rosiana Hinds (collectively “Defendants”), participated in the arrest of Plaintiff John Karlyg, a driver for Lyft, Inc. (“Lyft”), at LaGuardia Airport in Queens County, New York. Plaintiff was charged with having a cover over his license plate in violation of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 402-1(v). He was detained until his arraignment that night, when he accepted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (“ACD”). Defendants also issued summonses to Plaintiff for violating TLC Administrative Code Rules 80-12(d) and 80-13(a)(2), which required Plaintiff to subsequently appear at a hearing before the TLC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. At the hearing, the TLC dismissed the charges on the merits.

On February 24, 2020, Plaintiff sued Defendants under New York law and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims for malicious prosecution and fabrication of evidence, as well as his state-law claims for malicious prosecution, negligence, and invasion of privacy/trespass to person. (Dkt. 24.) The Court grants Defendants' motion as to Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claims, but otherwise denies it.


I. Factual Background

The Amended Complaint alleges the following facts, which the Court accepts as true for purposes of this motion. See Forest Park Pictures v. Universal Television Network, Inc., 683 F.3d 424, 429 (2d Cir. 2012).

A. Plaintiff's Arrest

Plaintiff is a resident of Queens, New York. (Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”), Dkt. 19, ¶ 4.) Around July 9, 2019, Plaintiff was working as a driver for Lyft. (Id. ¶ 12.) Shortly after 7:00 a.m. that day, he was waiting for a passenger named “Gary” at LaGuardia Airport in Queens. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) A man approached his car with luggage and said “JFK, JFK.” (Id. ¶ 14)[1] Plaintiff told the man that he was waiting for a passenger and could not take him to JFK. (Id. ¶ 15.) The man told Plaintiff to “get the fuck out of here.” (Id.) Plaintiff responded something to the effect of, “[Y]ou get the fuck out of here. I am waiting for my passenger.” (Id. ¶ 16.)

The man walked over to three nearby TLC officers, Merino, White, and Hinds, and conversed with them. (Id. ¶ 17.) Defendant White approached Plaintiff's car and “requested his documents.” (Id.) Defendant White did not “indicate that he was a law enforcement officer.” (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff gave Defendant White his driver's license and TLC licenses. (Id.)

Plaintiff's passenger arrived, and Defendant White told him to get out of the car because Plaintiff was “not going anywhere.” (Id. ¶ 19.) Defendant White told Plaintiff, “‘I'm gonna throw your white ass in jail[, ]' and that he was going to send [P]laintiff back to where he came from.” (Id. ¶ 20.)

Defendants White and Merino pulled Plaintiff's arms behind him and “forcefully handcuffed him, ” causing “extreme pain and injury to [P]laintiff's shoulder.” (Id. ¶ 21.) They then shoved Plaintiff into a car, causing his head to hit the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 22.) In the car, Plaintiff complained about the tightness of the handcuffs, but Defendants White and Merino ignored him. (Id. ¶ 23.)

Defendants took Plaintiff to a police station in LaGuardia Airport. (Id. ¶ 24.) A Port Authority officer saw that Plaintiff “was suffering from pain and discomfort[, ] and an ambulance was requested to take [P]laintiff to a hospital for medical treatment.” (Id.) At the hospital, Plaintiff “heard [Defendants White and Merino] laughing about the fact that they would be getting overtime due to [his] arrest.” (Id. ¶ 25.) Defendants did not tell Plaintiff what the charges against him were, or why they had arrested him. (Id. ¶ 28.)

B. Post-Arrest Proceedings

After Plaintiff received unspecified treatment at the hospital, “he was taken to Queens Central Booking and detained until he saw a judge sometime late at night.” (Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff's appointed lawyer told him “that he had been arrested for having a cover over his license plate, although [P]laintiff had no [such] cover.” (Id. ¶ 27.) Defendant Merino alleged in the criminal complaint that he saw “a padded covering placed over the front license plate of [P]laintiff's vehicle, and that he was informed by [Defendant White] that he observed the rear license plate of [P]laintiff's vehicle to be covered with a plastic covering in violation of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law §402-1(v).” (Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff was arraigned in Queens County Criminal Court, and accepted an ACD under New York Criminal Procedure Law § 170.55. (Id. ¶ 31.)

Defendants also issued summonses to Plaintiff for violations of TLC Administrative Code Rules 80-12(d) and 80-13(a)(2), which required Plaintiff to attend a hearing before the TLC on August 23, 2019. (Id. ¶ 32.) At the hearing, the TLC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings reviewed evidence including photos of Plaintiff s license plates. (Id. ¶ 33.) It dismissed the TLC Code charges against Plaintiff. (Id.)

II. Procedural Background

On February 24, 2020, Plaintiff sued Defendants. (See generally Dkt. 1.) The Court held a pre-motion conference on July 8, 2020 (see 7/8/2020 Minute Entry), after which Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (Am. Compl., Dkt. 19). In it, Plaintiff alleged eleven substantive claims:[2]

. False arrest under Section 1983 (id. ¶¶ 36-40)
. False arrest under New York law (id. ¶¶ 41-44)
. Excessive use of force under Section 1983 (id. ¶¶ 45-50)
. Assault and battery under New York law (id. ¶¶ 51-56)
. Negligence under New York law (id. ¶¶ 57-60);
. Fabrication of evidence under Section 1983 (id. ¶¶ 61-64);
. Malicious prosecution under Section 1983 (id. ¶¶ 65-69);
. Malicious prosecution under New York law (id. ¶¶ 70-75);
. Invasion of privacy and trespass under New York law (id. ¶¶ 76-78);
. Equal protection violations under Section 1983 (id. ¶¶ 79-81); and
. Failure to intervene under Section 1983 (id. ¶¶ 82-84).

On October 16, 2020, Defendants moved to dismiss various claims in the Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (See generally Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mot.”), Dkt. 24-2.) They ask the Court to dismiss (1) Plaintiffs malicious prosecution claims for failure to adequately plead the elements (see Defs.' Mot., Dkt. 24-2, at ECF[3] 13-16), (2) Plaintiff's fabrication of evidence claim for failure to plead a favorable termination and that he suffered a post-arraignment deprivation of liberty (see Id. at ECF 16-17), (3) Plaintiff's state law negligence and invasion of privacy/trespass claims for failure to file a proper Notice of Claim under N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law § 50-E (see Id. at 11), and (4) Plaintiff's negligence claim as improper (see Id. at ECF 18). Defendants' motion was fully briefed on October 16, 2020. (See Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss (“Pl's. Resp.”), Dkt. 27; Defendants' Reply (“Defs.' Reply”), Dkt. 25.)


I. Legal Standards

A. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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 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.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The “plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citation omitted).

Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679 (citation omitted). “In addressing the sufficiency of a complaint[, ] [the Court] accept[s] as true all factual allegations and draw[s] from them all reasonable inferences; but [the Court] [is] not required to credit conclusory allegations or legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.” Rothstein v. UBS AG, 708 F.3d 82, 94 (2d Cir. 2013) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).

B. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Section “1983 does not confer any substantive rights, but merely provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.” Village of Freeport v. Barrella, 814 F.3d 594, 600 n.8 (2d Cir. 2016) (citation and quotations omitted). “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that defendants violated plaintiff's federal rights while acting under color of state law.” McGugan v. Aldana-Bernier, 752 F.3d 224, 229 (2d Cir. 2014) (citations omitted).

II. Analysis

A. Malicious Prosecution

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claims under New York law and Section 1983 on the grounds that those claims do not rely on a criminal prosecution, and Plaintiff has not alleged a deprivation of liberty. (Dkt. 24-2, at 7-10.)

1. Legal Standard

Under New York law, a plaintiff alleging malicious prosecution must show that “(1) the defendant initiated a prosecution against [the] plaintiff, (2) without probable cause to believe the proceeding can succeed, (3) the proceeding was begun with malice, and (4) the matter terminated in...

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