Robinson v. Town of Colonie

Decision Date02 March 1995
Docket NumberNo. 91-CV-1355.,91-CV-1355.
Citation878 F. Supp. 387
PartiesAngelese ROBINSON and E. Keith Robinson, Plaintiffs, v. The TOWN OF COLONIE; Michael J. Torrey, who at all times mentioned herein was a Town of Colonie Police Officer, individually and in his official Capacity; Joseph Valiquette, Jr., who at all times mentioned herein was a Town of Colonie Police Officer, individually and in his official capacity; David Mesick, who at all times mentioned herein was a Town of Colonie Police Officer, individually and in his official capacity; and The TJX Operating Cos., Inc., d/b/a T.J. MAXX, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of New York

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Walter, Thayer & Mishler, Albany, NY (Mark S. Mishler, of counsel), for plaintiffs.

Maynard, O'Connor & Smith, Albany, NY (Edwin J. Tobin, Jr., Arete Sprio, of counsel), for defendants Town of Colonie, Michael J. Torrey, Joseph Valiquette, Jr., and David Mesick.

Roche, Corrigan, McCoy & Bush, Albany, NY (Robert P. Roche, of counsel), for defendant TJX Operating Cos., Inc. d/b/a T.J. Maxx.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

McCURN, Senior District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs filed this action against TJX Operating Companies, Inc. ("T.J. Maxx") and Police Officers Michael J. Torrey, Joseph Valiquette, Jr., and David Mesick as well as the Town of Colonie (referred to collectively as "the Town Defendants") on November 25, 1991. Plaintiffs subsequently filed an amended complaint and a second amended complaint. Their second amended complaint contains both federal and state causes of action.

The first three causes of action are based upon alleged violations of plaintiffs' federal constitutional and statutory rights. The first of these, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges that defendants discriminated against them because of their race and color in violation of those rights of plaintiffs which are protected by the First, Fourth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The second alleges that defendants discriminated against plaintiffs on the basis of their race and color in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Finally, the third alleges that defendants unlawfully conspired to deprive plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).

Plaintiffs' fourth through seventh causes of action are pendent state statutory and common law claims. Their fourth cause of action alleges that defendants discriminated against plaintiffs on the basis of their race and color in a place of public accommodation in violation of New York State Executive Law § 296(2)(a). Their fifth, sixth and seventh causes of action allege various common law tort claims based upon defamation, unlawful imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Having completed discovery, the Town Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 56").1 Plaintiffs opposed this motion in its entirety and, in addition, cross-moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of the liability of defendant Torrey on their Fourth Amendment and state law false imprisonment claims. The court took these motions under advisement without oral argument. The following constitutes the court's decision with respect to these motions.

BACKGROUND

The incident which forms the basis of plaintiffs' claims occurred on November 2, 1991, at the T.J. Maxx store in the Town of Colonie. On that date at approximately 5:00 p.m., the Town of Colonie Police dispatcher received a call from Tom Moss, store manager of T.J. Maxx, that three black gentlemen had walked out of the store with a woman's jacket. See Sprio Affidavit dated July 2, 1993, at ¶ 6 and Exhibit C attached thereto. At Mr. Moss' request, the dispatcher called for a police unit to respond. See id. As a result of this call, a person was handcuffed and arrested for the larceny of a woman's coat. See id.

Approximately one hour later, the Town of Colonie Police dispatcher received a call from Susan Miner, Assistant Manager of T.J. Maxx, stating that

the shoplifters are back in. They've been coming up and they open the doors and they walk in and they look at coats and they walk back out and now we just followed two of em' in, a man and a woman, and he put a sweater on and started to leave, but the woman saw watching, a management —.

See Sprio Affidavit dated July 2, 1993, at ¶ 7 and Exhibit C attached thereto.

The dispatcher told Ms. Miner that he would have a police officer stop by and "take care of these guys." See id.

Officer Torrey was the first one to arrive on the scene in response to Ms. Miner's call. See Sprio Affidavit at ¶ 8. Upon his arrival, he was referred to Mary Pennant, the supervisor in charge that evening. See id. At his deposition, Officer Torrey stated that Ms. Pennant told him that "she had some subjects in the store that she believed were there to shoplift." See Torrey Deposition, attached to Sprio Affidavit as Exhibit D ("Torrey Deposition"), at 29. He asked her if anyone had seen these persons shoplift. She responded that "she had an employee that witnessed one of the subjects place a set of socks in his coat and another one of the subjects put a sweater on and walked sic into another department, and then took sic the sweater off and left sic it in that department." See id. at 29-30. Officer Torrey spoke to the employee who had seen what allegedly had transpired. This employee told him that the man in the shirt department, Mr. Robinson, was the one who had put the sweater on and then had taken it off in another department. See id. at 45-46. None of the T.J. Maxx employees had seen Mrs. Robinson do anything suspicious. See id. at 44. Officer Torrey also stated that when he asked Ms. Pennant what she wanted him to do about the situation, she told him that she did not want the suspects arrested but that she wanted them to leave the store. See id. at 30.

After requesting backup, Officer Torrey approached the Robinsons who were in the shirt department. See Torrey Deposition at 46. Officer Torrey asked plaintiffs to come with him toward the front of the store. See id. at 47. The Robinsons asked him what the problem was, to which he responded "The store would like you to go out for the evening." See id. Mrs. Robinson asked why, and Officer Torrey stated that "They don't need a reason. If you don't want to leave you will be arrested for trespass." See id. at 49; A. Robinson Declaration at ¶¶ 12-13. Plaintiffs then followed Officer Torrey into the vestibule at the front of the store. See Torrey Deposition at 50; A. Robinson Declaration at ¶ 17.

Once plaintiffs and Officer Torrey were in the vestibule, they had a further conversation concerning the reason that plaintiffs were being asked to leave. See Torrey Deposition at 51. At that time, Officer Torrey told plaintiffs that "the store is asking you to leave, they feel you are here to commit petit larceny and they would like you to leave." See id. During this conversation, Mrs. Robinson stated more than once that "the reason you are asking us to leave is because we are black." See id. According to Officer Torrey, he advised plaintiffs that that was not the reason. See id.

At Mrs. Robinson's request that she be allowed to talk to a supervisor, Officer Torrey went inside the store to get one. See Torrey Deposition at 52; A. Robinson Declaration at ¶ 20. Ms. Miner returned to the vestibule with Officer Torrey. Although Officer Torrey does not remember exactly what Ms. Miner said to the Robinsons, plaintiffs state that she told them "There was an earlier incident involving some minorities, and everyone is still very nervous and very upset." See Torrey Deposition at 52-53; A. Robinson Declaration at ¶ 24.

At some point in time while plaintiffs and Officer Torrey were in the vestibule, Officers Mesick and Valiquette arrived separately. When Officer Mesick arrived, Mrs. Robinson asked him why plaintiffs were being asked to leave. See Mesick Deposition, attached as Exhibit E to Sprio Affidavit ("Mesick Deposition"), at 23. He told her that he did not know but that he would go inside and ask. See id. at 22. Officer Mesick spoke to a management person who told him that a security employee thought Mr. Robinson had picked up a couple of pairs of socks and attempted to conceal them in his coat and then had gone into another part of the store. See id. at 24. Since the security employee thought Mr. Robinson might have been attempting to shoplift, the store was asking plaintiffs to leave. See id.

Officer Mesick returned to the vestibule and told plaintiffs what he had learned. See Mesick Deposition at 25. At his deposition, Officer Mesick stated that he told plaintiffs that the police were not forcing them to leave the store but were asking them to cooperate with the store's request. See id. at 26. He also told plaintiffs that if they believed that their rights were being violated they should contact the store on Monday and talk to management. See id. at 26; A. Robinson Declaration at ¶ 39.

Officer Mesick then asked the Robinsons for their driver's licenses. See Mesick Deposition at 26; A. Robinson Declaration at ¶ 21. He then had Officer Torrey radio plaintiffs' names and dates of birth to the dispatcher. See Mesick Deposition at 27; Torrey Deposition at 55; A. Robinson Declaration at ¶ 28. Both Officer Torrey and Officer Mesick stated that this was standard procedure when the police confronted someone in any kind of incident. See Mesick Deposition at 27; Torrey Deposition at 56. Officer Mesick also told plaintiffs that here had been an earlier incident involving a black person who had been arrested for shoplifting and that the people inside the store felt that plaintiffs might have been involved with the earlier group. See Mesick Deposition at 29. He also stated that this might be the reason the store was asking plaintiffs to leave. See id.; A. Robinson...

To continue reading

Request your trial
23 cases
  • Federation of African American Contractors v. City of Oakland
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • September 19, 1996
    ...v. City of Philadelphia, No. Civ. A. 95-1588, 1996 WL 18821 at * 4 (E.D.Pa., Jan.18, 1996) (unpublished); Robinson v. Town of Colonie, 878 F.Supp. 387, 405, n. 13 (N.D.N.Y.1995); La Compania Ocho, Inc. v. U.S. Forest Serv., 874 F.Supp. 1242, 1251 (D.N.M.1995); Gallardo v. Bd. of County Comm......
  • Johnson v. City of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • September 20, 1995
    ...1421 (D.Kan.1994); La Compania Ocho, Inc. v. United States Forest Service, 874 F.Supp. 1242 (D.N.M.1995); Robinson, et al. v. Town of Colonie, et al., 878 F.Supp. 387 (N.D.N.Y.1995); Arnett v. Davis County School Dist., 1993 WL 434053 (D.Utah 1993); Gallardo v. Board of County Comm., 857 F.......
  • Bond v. City of Middletown
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
    • August 23, 2005
    ...the exclusive federal remedy against state actors for the violation of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981."); Robinson v. Town of Colonie, 878 F.Supp. 387, 405 n. 13 (N.D.N.Y.1995) ("[S]ubsection (c) [of 42 U.S.C. § 1981] ... overrules, in pertinent part, the Supreme Court's decision in [Jett]."......
  • Bolden v. City of Topeka
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Kansas
    • May 25, 2004
    ...in 1991, Section 1981 contains implied cause of action against state actors, thereby overturning Jett); Robinson v. Town of Colonie, 878 F.Supp. 387, 405 n. 13 (N.D.N.Y.1995) (Congress intended to overrule Jett); La Compania Ocho, Inc. v. U.S. Forest Serv., 874 F.Supp. 1242, 1250 (D.N.M.199......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT