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Rudavsky v. City of South Burlington

United States District Court, D. Vermont

September 27, 2018

MATTHEW RUDAVSKY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SOUTH BURLINGTON; CHRISTOPHER BATAILLE; PATRICK MULCAHY; DAVID SOLOMON; KENNETH SOFFEN; EDWARD SOYCHAK; JEFFREY MARTEL; PAUL EDWARDS; NICHOLAS HOLDEN; TREVOR WHIPPLE; and JAMES MILLS, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          William K. Sessions III District Court Judge.

         Plaintiff Matthew Rudavsky brings this action claiming that he was assaulted by a police officer while in the custody of the South Burlington Police Department (SBPD). Now pending before the Court are two motions to dismiss: the first filed by the City of South Burlington, SBPD Chief Trevor Whipple, SBPD Deputy Chief Paul Edwards, and Lieutenant Jeffrey Martel (the “Municipal Defendants”) (ECF No. 4); and the second a partial motion to dismiss by Detective Christopher Bataille, Officer Patrick Mulcahy, and Sergeant David Solomon (the “Officer Defendants”) (ECF No. 11). For the reasons set forth below, the Municipal Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part, and the Officer Defendants' partial motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

         Factual Background

          The Complaint alleges that on January 12, 2015, several SBPD officers responded to a report of a verbal altercation. Those officers included Officer Mulcahy, Sergeant Mills, Sergeant Soychack, Detective Bataille, and Sergeant Soffen. Plaintiff Rudavsky was arrested at the scene, handcuffed, and transported to the South Burlington police station. The police noted that Rudavsky smelled strongly of intoxicants.

         During processing at the police station, Detective Bataille and one of the other police officers removed Rudavsky's handcuffs. Officer Mulcahy subsequently joined Detective Bataille in the holding area to assist with Rudavsky's fingerprinting. Rudavsky refused to be fingerprinted, at which point Officer Mulcahy, Detective Bataille, and Officer Holden restrained him and re-cuffed him with his hands behind his back.

         Once handcuffed, Rudavsky was escorted to a different holding cell by Detective Bataille and Officer Mulcahy. Detective Bataille then seated Rudavsky, still handcuffed, on a metal bench facing away from both officers. The Complaint alleges that the two officers were standing behind Rudavsky and to his right.

         While Detective Bataille was manipulating Rudavsky's handcuffs, Rudavsky allegedly made a comment about him and shifted to look at the officers. Detective Bataille, with one hand on Rudavsky's cuffed arms and the other on his right shoulder, allegedly “attacked Rudavsky by roughly propelling him forward and downward, slamming him, head first, to the concrete floor of the holding cell.” ECF No. 7 at 4, ¶ 39. Officer Mulcahy allegedly jumped forward to aid Detective Bataille. Another officer, possibly Sergeant Solomon, pointed a weapon at Rudavsky. There is a videotape of the incident.

         Rudavsky claims that before he was “attacked” he did not pose a threat to anyone, as he was seated and handcuffed. He also contends that Officer Mulcahy had a chance to intervene but failed to do so. Sergeant Solomon, Sergeant Mills, and/or Officer Holden were in the general vicinity and able to either see or hear the alleged assault by Detective Bataille.

         Rudavsky's head began to bleed, and his wounds were treated by members of the South Burlington Fire Department. He now contends that his medical care was inadequate. He also claims that he complained about his treatment, but that his complaints were never addressed or investigated. He faults the SBPD for accepting allegedly-false incidents reports, and Chief Whipple for failing to order an administrative review of the incident despite the videotape evidence.

         Rudavksy's legal claims include excessive force in violation of the United States and Vermont Constitutions; common law assault and battery; contravention of the SBPD's use of force policy; failure to train; and failure to properly act upon reports. In total, the Complaint asserts ten causes of action, including claims of municipal and vicarious liability.

         Discussion

         I. The Motion to Dismiss Standard

         Now before the Court are the motions to dismiss filed by the Municipal Defendants and the Officer Defendants. Both motions are filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedures 12(b)(6).

         In reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), a court applies a “plausibility standard” guided by “two working principles.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). First, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.; see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (“While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations . . . a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.”) (internal citations omitted). Second, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Thus, the complaint must contain “factual amplification . . . to render a claim plausible.” Arista Records LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110, 120 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Turkmen v. Ashcroft, 589 F.3d 542, 546 (2d Cir. 2009)).

         At the motion to dismiss stage, all of the factual allegations in the complaint will be taken as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Those allegations will also be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and all inferences will be drawn in his favor. Cohen v. S.A.C. Trading Corp., 711 F.3d 353, 359 (2d Cir. 2013); see also York v. Ass'n of the Bar of the City of New York, 286 F.3d 122, 125 (2d Cir. 2002) (“On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, we construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting the complaint's allegations as true.”), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 1089 (2002).

         II. The Municipal Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

         In this case, the Complaint asserts several causes of action against the City, Chief Whipple, Deputy Chief Edwards, and Lieutenant Martel. Specifically, Count III brings a claim against the City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Monell v. Department of Social Services; Count IV asserts a claim against Chief Whipple, Deputy Chief Edwards, and Lieutenant Martel for supervisor liability under Section 1983; Count V alleges a conspiracy to cover up unconstitutional acts; Count VI includes a claim against the City under 24 V.S.A. §§ 901-901a for the officers' alleged negligence; Count VII alleges negligent training, retention, and supervision; and Count X alleges vicarious liability on the part of the City.

         A. The City's Municipal Liability

         The City first moves to dismiss Rudavsky's Section 1983 municipal liability claims. Those claims are brought in Count III, premised on a custom or policy of allowing ...


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