Selvam v. United States

Decision Date05 November 2021
Docket Number20-CV-3299 (RPK)
Citation570 F.Supp.3d 29
Parties Kamaladoss SELVAM, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES of America, Patrick Connor, Food and Drug Administration, and Unknown Defendant(s), Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York

Kamaladoss Selvam, Ridgewood, NY, Pro Se.

Ekta R. Dharia, United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, NY, for Defendants United States of America, Patrick Connor, Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RACHEL P. KOVNER, United States District Judge:

Plaintiff Kamaladoss Selvam was arrested in 2019 on federal charges related to the importation of misbranded controlled substances. After prosecutors dropped those charges, Mr. Selvam brought this lawsuit. He alleges that Special Agent Patrick Connor lied to obtain the warrant for his arrest. Based principally on that alleged conduct, Mr. Selvam brings ten claims against defendants Agent Connor and unknown federal officers. In addition, he brings five Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA") claims against the United States. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss. For the reasons set out below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Mr. Selvam's complaint and briefs, and from the warrant application integral to Mr. Selvam's claims. Mr. Selvam's allegations are assumed true for the purposes of this order. Because Mr. Selvam comes to this Court pro se , the Court considers not only the facts in Mr. Selvam's complaint but also "the facts and allegations contained in [Mr. Selvam's] additional submissions." Manley v. New York City Police Dep't , No. 05-cv-679 (FB) (LB), 2005 WL 2664220, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 19, 2005).

In the fall of 2019, Special Agent Patrick Connor of the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") obtained warrants for the arrest of Mr. Selvam, a relative of Mr. Selvam, and eight others. Pl.’s Mem. in Opp'n 5, 9, 11 (Dkt. #14). In his application for a warrant, Agent Connor alleged that Mr. Selvam and the others had conspired to distribute the drug Tramadol illegally from a warehouse in Queens, and to launder the proceeds. See Compl. & Aff. in Supp. of Appl. for Arrest Warrants, Defs.’ Ex. A, in Decl. of Ass't U.S. Att'y Ekta R. Dharia ¶¶ 2, 11, 49-54 (Dkt. #13-2) ("Criminal Complaint" or "Crim. Compl."). Mr. Selvam was held for eight days before prosecutors dropped the charges against him. Compl. 4 (Dkt. #1).* After Mr. Selvam was released, Agent Connor contacted bank and credit card companies that maintained accounts of Mr. Selvam's that were allegedly involved in the drug-distribution scheme. According to Mr. Selvam, those companies then closed the accounts. Compl. 11.

Mr. Selvam now brings this lawsuit. He principally alleges that Agent Connor "knowingly and maliciously made sworn false statements" to obtain the warrant for Mr. Selvam's arrest and then caused the closure of Mr. Selvam's bank and credit card accounts in retaliation for Mr. Selvam's exercise of First Amendment rights. Id. at 3, 11. Mr. Selvam brings eight claims against Agent Connor and unknown federal officers, invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics , 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971) : committing malicious prosecution, fabricating evidence, committing false arrest, violating the equal protection clause, violating the due process clause, causing physical pain and suffering, intentionally inflicting emotional distress ("IIED"), and engaging in retaliation in violation of the First Amendment. Compl. 7-11.

Under Section 1983 alone, Mr. Selvam also brings claims against Agent Connor and the unknown federal officers for negligence and gross negligence and future loss of income and medical expenses. Compl. 9, 11.

Finally, Mr. Selvam brings claims against the United States under the FTCA based on malicious prosecution, false arrest, negligent infliction of emotional distress ("NIED"), IIED, and negligence. Compl. 12-15.

Defendants have moved to dismiss Mr. Selvam's claims under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). See Pls.’ Notice of Mot. to Dismiss (Dkt. #13). To their motion, they attached a copy of Agent Connor's Complaint and Affidavit in Support of Application for Arrest Warrants. See Crim. Compl.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

When a defendant moves to dismiss a lawsuit based on lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the plaintiff must show that the Court has "the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate" the action. Cortlandt St. Recovery Corp. v. Hellas Telecomms., S.À.R.L. , 790 F.3d 411, 417 (2d Cir. 2015). Where, as here, the facts bearing on jurisdiction are not in dispute, "the district court must take all uncontroverted facts in the complaint ... as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party asserting jurisdiction." Tandon v. Captain's Cove Marina of Bridgeport, Inc. , 752 F.3d 239, 243 (2d Cir. 2014) ; see 5B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1350 (3d ed. 2021).

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant may also move to dismiss a complaint based on "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." To avoid dismissal on that basis, a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (discussing Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 ). The facial "plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement.’ " Ibid. (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ). But it requires a plaintiff to allege sufficient facts to enable the court to "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ibid. In evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept all facts alleged in the complaint as true. Ibid. But it need not adopt "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action" that are "supported by mere conclusory statements." Ibid.

When a plaintiff is proceeding pro se , the plaintiff's complaint must be "liberally construed, and ... however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam) (quotations and citations omitted). "Nonetheless, a pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for relief." Meadows v. United Servs., Inc. , 963 F.3d 240, 243 (2d Cir. 2020).

Agent Connor's Criminal Complaint is properly considered in adjudicating defendantsmotion to dismiss. A document outside the pleadings may be considered in evaluating a motion to dismiss when the document is "incorporated ... by reference" and "integral" to the complaint. United States v. Strock , 982 F.3d 51, 63 (2d Cir. 2020) (internal quotations omitted); see Roth v. Jennings , 489 F.3d 499, 509 (2d Cir. 2007). Applying this principle, courts often consider warrant affidavits when evaluating motions to dismiss that involve challenges to a warrant's validity. Green v. City of Mount Vernon , 96 F. Supp. 3d 263, 284 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) ; Vessa v. City of White Plains , No. 12-cv-6989 (ER), 2014 WL 1271230, at *4 n. 9 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 27, 2014), aff'd, 588 F. App'x 9 (2d Cir. 2014) ; Brodeur v. City of New York , No. 99-cv-651 (WHP), 2002 WL 424688, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2002). In doing so, a court may consult the warrant application "only to establish [its] existence and legal effect, [and] to determine what statements [it] contained ... not for the truth of the matters asserted."

Liang v. City of New York , No. 10-cv-3089 (ENV) (VVP), 2013 WL 5366394, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 24, 2013) (internal quotation omitted), aff'd sub nom. Liang v. Zee , 764 F. App'x 103 (2d Cir. 2019).

DISCUSSION

Defendantsmotion to dismiss is granted in its entirety. While the Court has jurisdiction over Mr. Selvam's FTCA claims, the standalone Section 1983 claims lack a valid cause of action, as do the fabrication-of-evidence, First Amendment, IIED, and physical-pain-and-suffering claims brought under Bivens . The remaining Bivens claims and FTCA claims are also dismissed as insufficiently plead.

I. Mr. Selvam's Claims Under Section 1983 Are Dismissed

Mr. Selvam's claims under Section 1983 are dismissed. Section 1983 authorizes recovery only against persons acting "under color of any [law] ... of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. It "does not provide a cause of action against federal defendants." McCarthy v. Cuomo , No. 20-cv-2124 (ARR), 2020 WL 3286530, at *6 (E.D.N.Y. June 18, 2020) ; see Dotson v. Griesa , 398 F.3d 156, 162 (2d Cir. 2005) ("This court has long construed the phrase ‘under color of state law’ as used in related civil rights statutes, notably 42 U.S.C. § 1983, to apply only to state actors, not federal officials."). Since the individual defendants—Agent Connor and unnamed individuals "employed by defendant USA"—are federal agents, Compl. 2, Section 1983 cannot sustain his claims against them. Accordingly, Mr. Selvam's claims under Section 1983 are dismissed for want of a valid cause of action. See Lubrano v. United States , 751 F. Supp. 2d 453, 455 (E.D.N.Y. 2010), aff'd , 448 F. App'x 159 (2d Cir. 2012).

II. Mr. Selvam's Claims Under Bivens Are Also Dismissed

Mr. Selvam has failed to state a claim under Bivens . Even assuming that Bivens supplies a cause of action for malicious prosecution, qualified immunity bars it. Moreover, Mr. Selvam does not state a claim for false arrest or for equal protection or due process violations. Finally, Bivens does not extend to his fabrication-of-evidence, First Amendment, IIED, or physical-pain-and-suffering claims.

A. Qualified...

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