Bronx Auto Accident Case Settled One Year Later for Six Figures – March 2016

Martin + Colin, P.C. announces a settlement for a passenger who suffered personal injuries during a car accident on Baychester Avenue in The Bronx.  The car crash victim, a Bronx resident, was the front seat passenger in the automobile.  Our experienced car accident lawyers were hired within weeks of the crash.  We immediately set out to protect the injured passenger’s rights and obtain for him the financial compensation he deserved.  Today, we are pleased to report that, within one year of the accident, we were able to secure a six figure settlement for our client.

Car Accident FactsCar Accident at Intersection

One night in August 2015, our client was a passenger in a vehicle traveling northbound on Baychester Avenue at or near the intersection of Givan Avenue.  The other driver crossed over the double yellow line and collided head on with the vehicle in which our client was a passenger.  The airbags deployed.

Physical Injury and Medical Treatment Facts

Our injured client went directly from the accident scene to Jacobi Medical Center by ambulance.  His chief complaints at the hospital were pain in his neck, lower back and chest.  A chest x-ray and EKG were performed at hospital, which showed no significant abnormalities.

Our injured client was discharged with a prescription for Motrin.  He was instructed to follow up with his primary care physician if his pain was not improving or if he experienced an increase in symptoms.

Orthopedic Facts

As our injured client experienced persistent pain, he consulted with an orthopedic surgeon.  His chief complaints were:  1) aching, decreased range of motion, numbness and tingling, pain, spasms, stiffness, weakness of the neck radiating to his right arm; 2) aching, decreased range of motion, pain, spasms, weakness of the low back radiating down the right thigh; and 3) aching, clicking, decreased range or motion, pain, stiffness, swelling of the right knee radiating up the right thigh.

The orthopedic surgeon diagnosed cervical and lumbar strain and radiculopathy, recommended modification of activities, heat treatment for the neck, back and knee, and an MRI of the right knee.

MRI Imaging FactsCar Accident Objective Testing

Our injured client had an MRI of his right knee performed and went for a follow up visit with the orthopedic surgeon to discuss the results.  The MRI revealed a tear of the posterior horn of the medial meniscus and medial retinacular sprain.  The orthopedic surgeon scheduled our injured client for right knee arthroscopic surgery.

Orthopedic Surgery Facts

The right knee arthroscopic surgery was performed at Saint Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers, New York.  The orthopedic surgeon performed a synovectomy and chondroplasty of the medial femoral condyle.  The surgeon’s post-operative diagnoses were: tear of the medial meniscus – partial – right, tear of the lateral meniscus – partial – right, synovitis-right, and chondromalacia medial femoral condyle-right.

Physical Recovery Facts

Our injured client followed up with the surgeon following the orthopedic procedure and began physical therapy.  Although his knee recovered from the car accident, the client continued to complain of pain to his neck and back with radiating symptoms.

Liability Summary

Here, our client, an injured passenger, was able to establish his prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability by submitting evidence showing that the defendant – driver violated Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1120 and 1128 by failing to exercise due care, failing to remain on the right side of the roadway, and failing to take adequate precautions to avoid colliding with the vehicle in which our client was a passenger.

Damages SummaryCar Accident with Soft Tissue Injury

Our client was transported to the hospital by ambulance from the scene of the accident.  Within six months he underwent surgery to his right knee and attended physical therapy to regain the use of his knee.  In addition, he continued to treat for severe pain in his neck and back.

Our client never fully recovered from the accident.  In addition, he treated continuously from the date of the accident.

Jury Appeal

To properly value a claim, it is essential to assess the amount of jury appeal our injured client would possess if the case goes to trial.  In this case, our injured client was a likeable person who would have great jury appeal, especially to a Bronx jury.  He was, after all, a mere passenger in the vehicle and therefore was completely free of fault in the happening of the car accident.  Our experienced personal injury attorneys estimated the full amount of our client’s damages, should the case proceed to trial, was in excess of $650,000.00 by the time of trial.  It was our contention that he suffered greatly, and would continue to suffer, as a result of the defendant’s careless driving.

Settlement

Based on the above, it was our position that our injured client was entitled to substantial money damages for his pain and suffering, which continue to the present day.  The defendant’s commercial vehicle carried several million dollars of insurance covering this type of accident.  Consequently, the offending vehicle’s third-party claims adjuster was interested in a prompt resolution of this claim.

Our injured client desired a fast settlement of the claim and instructed the injury lawyers at Martin + Colin, P.C. to obtain the best result possible very quickly.  Our client preferred his money in hand as soon as possible.  Within one year of the accident, we were able to settle the case to the satisfaction of the client.

Call us now at (914) 771 7711 and let us apply our expertise to your case.Car Accident Law Firm Helpful Staff

Settlement for T-Bone Car Accident Victim on Taconic Parkway in Dutchess County – May 2016

Martin + Colin, P.C. announces a cash settlement for a driver injured in an automobile accident on the Taconic State Parkway in March 2013. The car accident victim, a Mahopac resident, was driving northbound on the Taconic State Parkway at the intersection of Pudding Street in Putnam Valley, New York.  The vehicle operated by the offending driver was traveling eastbound on Pudding Street, which had a stop sign at the intersection.  The driver of the offending vehicle failed to yield the right of way to our client’s vehicle.  The offending vehicle struck our client’s vehicle on the driver’s side with such force that our client’s vehicle was caused to spin and came to a stop off the road facing in the opposite direction.

As a result of the impact, the injured victim of the car crash sustained multiple injuries, including to his left knee, left leg, hip, back, right shoulder and elbow.  After the accident, the car accident victim went to Gleneida Medical Care complaining of left leg pain with weakness and radiation into the left low back, right shoulder and elbow pain, and second toe pain.  Our client informed the doctor that although he did have previous complaints regarding pain in his left leg prior to the accident, the pain before was not nearly as severe as the pain which he was experiencing after the accident.  The physician recommended a course of physical therapy and MRIs.

A treating doctor recommended that our client, who had sustained significant bodily injuries in the car accident, undergo an EMG of his upper extremities and continue to follow up with physical therapy treatment.  The physical therapy treatment helped relieve the injured driver’s pain, however he had to reduce the amount of hours he could work for his employer due to the pain in his neck and back. Despite all of the medical treatment and physical therapy, our client continued to feel pain in his neck and back as a result of the accident.

Bodily Injury Details…

Weeks after the accident, our injured client went for x-rays of his lumbar spine, left and right hips, and left and right knees.   

Soon after, our accident victim client went for an MRI of the Lumbar Spine, which revealed L2-L3 and L4-L5 disc bulges result in bilateral neural foramen stenosis with posterior facet arthropathy; L1-L2 6 mm (AP) broad-based right foraminal disc herniation superimposed upon a disc bulge, resulting in right greater than left neural foramen stenosis with posterior facet arthropathy; L3-L4 6 mm (AP) broad-based right foraminal disc herniation superimposed upon a disc bulge, resulting in mild central canal and right greater than left neural foramen stenosis with posterior facet arthropathy;  L5-S1 6 mm (AP) broad-based left foraminal disc herniation superimposed upon a disc bulge, resulting in left greater than right neural foramen stenosis with posterior facet anthropathy; and evidence of impingement upon the left-sided exiting L5 nerve roots.

About six months after the accident, our injured client went for an MRI of his left knee at Greater Northeast Radiology Associates, P.C., Open MRI of Yorktown.  The radiologist’s review of the images revealed advanced medical compartment arthrosis with complete loss of articular cartilage subchondral sclerosis and subchondral edema; extensive tear throughout the medial meniscus as described above with a displaced meniscal fragment extending to the intercondylar notch; and severe mucinous degeneration within the anterior cruciate ligament with an associated large multiseptated ganglion cyst.

Separately, we obtained copies of the left knee images and sent them to our own consulting radiologist for his professional opinion.  Our radiologist found a prominent joint effusion seen on T2 weighted sagittal images.  The medial meniscus was amputated leaving a small remnant posteriorly.  There was lateral displacement to medial collateral ligament.  The anterior cruciate ligament was torn from its origin.  There was bone marrow edema involving the medial tibial plateau.  Our radiologist also opined that these changes were related to traumatic injury and directly related to the t-bone car accident in March 2013, that the symptoms may worsen and eventually result in knee replacement surgery.

Unrelated to the accident, our client developed a cardiovascular disease and pulmonary disease following the accident, for which he was prescribed blood thinners.  He had to undergo four blood transfusions and was hospitalized for his condition at least six (6) times and had to have a stent placed in his artery.  As a result, our car crash victim could not undergo surgery related to the car accident as soon as the doctor had wanted him to due to the blood thinners.  He had to be completely off the blood thinners for a certain amount of time before he could be cleared by his doctor for surgery.  Thus, the surgery to repair the car accident injuries was delayed.  All the while, our client continued to experience excruciating pain in his knee while he waited.  He received trigger point injections and physical therapy to attempt to alleviate the pain, but they did not help.

Our injured client’s cardiologist granted him permission to discontinue taking the blood thinning medication for the requisite time period, and in December 2014, almost two years after the accident, our car accident victim underwent surgery to his left knee.  The arthroscopic surgery was performed by an outstanding surgeon at St. Joseph’s Medical Center.  The orthopedic surgeon’s post-operative diagnoses were: (a) tear medial meniscus- left; (b) tear lateral meniscus- left; (c) synovitis- left; (d) chondromalacia, medial femoral condyle- left; (e) chondromalacia, medial tibial plateau- left; and (f) chondromalacia, patella- left.  After knee surgery, our client followed up with physical therapy from December 2014 through February 2015.

The injuries that our client sustained in the March 2013 accident changed his life drastically.  Prior to the accident, our injured driver was a pharmacist who truly loved going to work each day.  He developed relationships with his customers and wanted to be there for them every day to answer their questions.  The nature of his employment required that he be on his feet and moving around the pharmacy for hours each day.  As a result of the injuries he sustained, our car crash victim was physically unable to perform the tasks of his employment anymore.  Being forced into early retirement was truly devastating for our client, who had planned on working for many more years.  Not only has this effected his livelihood, but also his emotional wellbeing.

The injuries he sustained also put a strain on his relationship with his grandchildren.  Prior to the accident, our client used to take his granddaughter to the ballet.  However, the pain in his knee prohibited him from standing, walking, taking stairs, and made outings with his grandchildren much too difficult.  As a result, his personal relationships suffered.

Based on all the factors cited above, it was our position that the our injured plainitff was entitled to damages for his pain and suffering, loss of income and loss of enjoyment of life which continued. Jury verdicts for similar damages can exceed $300,000.00.

The insurance company for the offending vehicle acknowledged responsibility for the accident and acknowledged that the accident forced our client into an early retirement.  However, the insurance company challenged the significance of our client’s bodily injuries, and claimed that any injuries that he had all pre-dated the accident. 

Nevertheless, the lawyers at our firm negotiated a settlement satisfactory to our client.

The experienced personal injury and auto accident lawyers can be contacted by phone at (914) 771 7711 or online at martincolin.com 

The experienced accident lawyers at Martin + Colin, P.C. applied their combined expertise handling similar car crash cases and, at our client’s request, successfully convinced the other driver’s insurance company that a settlement was better than an unfavorable jury verdict.

 

The injury attorneys at Martin + Colin, P.C., headquartered in White Plains, handle accident claims, negligence and personal injury cases. If you have been hurt in an accident due to the negligence of another person or firm, Martin + Colin, P.C. may be able to help.  Please call (914) 771 7711 or email using the ‘Contact Us’ form on this webpage

Call us now at (914) 771 7711 and let us apply our expertise to your case.

 

Fourth Amendment – Improper Stop, Unlawful Detention

Civil Rights Law – 42 U.S.C. 1983 – Fourth Amendment – Search and Seizure – May 2016

Part 3 of 3

Here is the decision and order of the federal court.  The facts were set forth in our first post in the series (read here…).  The legal arguments were set forth in our second post in the series (read here…)  This is our final post in this sample of federal civil rights litigation arising out of a false arrest by police officers.  Here is that portion of the decision and order of the federal court judge which declared that the police action constituted false arrest and unlawful detention of our client.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
——————————————————————-X

FERNANDO COLON,

               Plaintiff,

     -against-                                          DECISION AND ORDER

CITY OF NEW YORK, et al.,

               Defendants.
——————————————————————-X

STANDARD

A court reviews motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure under the same standard as motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Bank of N.Y. v. First Millennium, Inc., 607 F.3d 905, 922 (2d Cir. 2010).  “To survive a Rule 12(c) motion, the complaint ‘must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’”  Id. (quoting Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 160 (2d Cir. 2010)).  The Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See L-7 Designs, Inc. v. Old Navy, LLC, 647 F.3d 419, 429 (2d Cir. 2011).  A complaint does not “suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (alteration in original) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)).  Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “requires factual allegations that are sufficient to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Anderson News, L.L.C. v. Am. Media, Inc., 680 F.3d 162, 182 (2d Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 846 (2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

The standard for summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment is appropriate where the record before the court establishes that there is no “genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).  The Court must construe the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); In re “Agent Orange” Prod. Liab. Litig., 517 F.3d 76, 87 (2d Cir. 2008).  A motion for summary judgment should be denied “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict” in favor of the nonmoving party.  NetJets Aviation, Inc. v. LHC Commc’ns, LLC, 537 F.3d 168, 178-79 (2d Cir. 2008).  Summary judgment is warranted if a party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”  Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

DISCUSSION

I.                False Arrest, Detention & Confinement (Counts I, II & V)

All parties move for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s false arrest, detention and confinement claims.  Summary judgment is granted for Plaintiff with respect to his detention prior to Defendant Tisdale’s discovery of marijuana, and for Defendants with respect to Plaintiff’s detention thereafter.

A.             Plaintiff’s Detention Before the Discovery of Marijuana

Defendant Tisdale’s conduct in handcuffing and detaining Plaintiff before discovering marijuana violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and is not entitled to qualified immunity.

In the absence of probable cause to arrest, “Terry v. Ohio [, 392 U.S. 1 (1968),] and Michigan v. Summers [, 452 U.S. 692 (1981),] provide distinct standards for reasonable stops . . . .” United States v. Bailey, 743 F.3d 322, 334 (2d Cir. 2014) (“Bailey V”).  A Terry stop “require[s] reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct beyond proximity to a location of suspected crime,” and a Summers detention “require[s] spatial proximity to the premises to be searched without regard to reasonable suspicion.” Id.

1.     Terry Analysis

A Terry stop is justified if an officer “reasonably suspects that the person apprehended is committing or has committed a criminal offense.” Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323, 326 (2009).  Reasonable suspicion requires more than a “hunch.”  Terry, 392 U.S. at 27.  It demands “specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts,” id. at 21, provide detaining officers with a “particularized and objective basis for suspecting wrongdoing,” United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Even viewing the record in the light most favorable to Defendants, there could not have been the reasonable suspicion necessary to stop Plaintiff pursuant to Terry in the first instance.  First, when Plaintiff was initially detained, the only fact connecting him to any possible criminal activity was that Evans, the person associated with the apartment being searched, had just entered the minivan in which Plaintiff was sitting.  However, Defendant Tisdale admitted that he knew, upon approaching the vehicle, that the individual seated in the back was the person connected to the apartment being searched, and therefore that Plaintiff was not that person.

Defendant Tisdale also admitted that he did not believe that Evans was involved in illegal activity at the time.  In light of these admissions, any nexus between Plaintiff and Evans was insufficient to permit Defendant Tisdale to order Plaintiff out of a parked vehicle at gunpoint and immediately handcuff him.  Although “[t]he [reasonable suspicion] standard is not high,” Bailey V, 743 F.3d at 332 (internal quotation marks omitted), it is not satisfied on these facts, and Plaintiff’s detention cannot be justified by Terry.

2.     Summers Analysis

Under Summers, a detention incident to search is constitutional only if “limit[ed] . . . to the area in which an occupant poses a real threat to the safe and efficient execution of a search warrant.” Bailey v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 1031, 1042 (2013) (“Bailey IV”).  In determining whether an occupant was lawfully detained within such “immediate vicinity” of the premises to be searched, courts may consider “the lawful limits of the premises, whether the occupant was within the line of sight of his dwelling, the ease of reentry from the occupant’s location, and other relevant factors.” Id.  Here, nothing in the record suggests – and Defendants do not claim – that Plaintiff was an occupant of the searched apartment at any relevant time, had any intention of entering it or otherwise had any connection to it.  Moreover, Plaintiff was inside a vehicle that was “[a]round the block” from the apartment according to Defendant Tisdale, not within the line of sight, and access to the apartment presumably would have required passage through at least one if not two doors.  These facts are far from satisfying the Summers standard, and could not have justified Plaintiff’s initial detention as effected incident to the search of the apartment.

3.               Qualified Immunity

Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense for which defendants have the burden of proof.  See Lore v. City of Syracuse, 670 F.3d 127, 149 (2d Cir. 2012).  An official sued under § 1983 is entitled to qualified immunity unless it is shown that the official violated a statutory or constitutional right that was clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct. See Ashcroft v. al–Kidd, 131 S. Ct. 2074, 2080 (2011).  A defendant cannot be said to have violated a clearly established right unless the right’s contours were sufficiently definite for any reasonable official in the defendant’s shoes to understand that he was violating it. Id. at 2083-84.  “In other words, existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question confronted by the official beyond debate.” Plumhoff v. Rickard, 134 S. Ct. 2012, 2023 (2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).  “[T]he salient question . . . is whether the state of the law at the time of an incident provided fair warning to the defendants that their alleged [conduct] was unconstitutional.” Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S. Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (alterations in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).  The “dispositive inquiry . . . is whether it would [have been] clear to a reasonable officer in the agents’ position that [their] conduct was unlawful in the situation [they] confronted.” Wood v. Moss, 134 S. Ct. 2056, 2059 (2014) (alterations in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).  “[I]f . . . officers of reasonable competence could disagree . . . , immunity should be recognized.” Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 752 (2002) (internal quotation marks omitted).  Whether a clearly established right existed must be considered “in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general proposition.”  Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S. 194, 198 (2004) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Qualified immunity does not save Defendant Tisdale from liability for Plaintiff’s unlawful initial detention. First, as discussed above, the record contains no evidence tending to show that Defendant Tisdale had any individualized suspicion about Plaintiff, whether reasonable or unreasonable. Thus, there is no factual basis upon which to base a finding of qualified immunity for Defendant Tisdale under Terry.

Second, with respect to Summers, the relevant Supreme Court jurisprudence is grounded in the premise that those who may be subject to detentions incident to search are occupants of the searched premises.  452 U.S. at 701-05.  This occupancy nexus is relevant to each of the three law enforcement interests underpinning the Summers detention: (1) “minimizing the risk of harm to the officers” conducting the search, id. at 702; (2) “the orderly completion of the search,” which “may be facilitated if the occupants of the premises are present,” id. at 703; and (3) “preventing flight in the event that incriminating evidence is found,” id. at 702; see also Bailey IV, 133 S. Ct. at 1038-1041 (elaborating on the three law enforcement interests underpinning a Summers detention).  The Supreme Court has never departed from the occupancy requirement, including in its two cases revisiting Summers that had been decided at the time of Plaintiff’s 2011 detention. See Los Angeles Cnty. v. Rettele, 550 U.S. 609 (2007) (finding that the detention of individuals found on the premises at the time of the search was constitutional pursuant to Summers); Muehler v. Mena, 544 U.S. 93 (2005) (same).  Although some courts have found constitutional the detention of individuals who were leaving the premises to be searched, each case involved someone who had just occupied the premises when the officers arrived to execute a search.  See Summers, 452 U.S. at 693 & n.1 (upholding the detention of an individual as he exited the front door of the premises and descended the porch steps); see also United States v. Fullwood, 86 F.3d 27, 29-30 (2d Cir. 1996) (upholding the detention of an individual found outside the premises and about to enter his vehicle); United States v. Bailey, 468 F. Supp. 2d 373, 376 (E.D.N.Y. 2006) (“Bailey I”) (upholding the detention of two individuals after they exited the relevant premises and drove for one mile), aff’d, No. 06 Cr. 232, 2010 WL 277069 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 19, 2010) (“Bailey II”), aff’d, 652 F.3d 197 (2d Cir. 2011), rev’d, 133 S. Ct. 1031, aff’d, 743 F.3d 322 (2d Cir. 2014). Even in Bailey, the case most heavily relied upon by Defendants on the qualified immunity issue,4 the district court stated that officers needed at minimum a “reasonable basis to believe that the person [to be detained] has just left or is about to enter the location to be searched.” Bailey II, 2010 WL 277069, at *14. Thus, in 2011, at the time of Plaintiff’s detention, the occupancy nexus was a clearly established prerequisite to the invocation of Summers.

Here, as discussed above, no evidence suggests that Defendant Tisdale believed or had grounds to believe that Plaintiff had any connection to the apartment that was being searched, let alone that Plaintiff had occupied or intended to occupy the apartment. In light of the clearly established requirement that detentions made pursuant to Summers be limited to the occupants of the premises to be searched, no reasonable officer could have believed that the detention of Plaintiff as he sat in a parked vehicle on another block was justified by Summers. Consequently, Defendant Tisdale is not entitled to qualified immunity under the Summers theory.

To the extent that Defendants could argue that Plaintiff’s initial detention was a reasonably necessary step to detaining Evans pursuant to Summers or Terry, that argument would fail. Even assuming that Defendant Tisdale is entitled to qualified immunity for the detention of Evans, that does not by itself justify the detention of Plaintiff. In United States v. Di Re, police arrested all three occupants of a car when a police informant in the backseat told the officers that the driver had sold him counterfeit coupons but said nothing about the passenger seated next to the driver. 332 U.S. 581, 583 (1948).  The Supreme Court ruled that the passenger’s arrest violated the Fourth Amendment because “[a]ny inference that everyone on the scene of a crime is a party to it must disappear if the Government informer singles out the guilty person.” Id. at 594; see also Ybarra v. Illinois, 444 U.S. 85, 91 (1979) (“[A] person’s mere propinquity to others independently suspected of criminal activity does not, without more, give rise to probable cause to search that person.”). Cf. Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 374 (2003) (finding that police had probable cause to arrest Pringle and two other occupants of a car because “[n]o such singling out occurred in this case”). Likewise here, the confidential informant had singled out Evans alone, and Defendant Tisdale had no information about Plaintiff except that he was with Evans in the car. Because it would have been clear to a reasonable officer in Defendant Tisdale’s position that “merely . . . sitting in the suspect’s vehicle when officers approached,” United States v. Delossantos, 536 F.3d 155, 160 (2d Cir. 2008), “do[es] not, without more, amount to probable cause,” id. at n.4, Defendant Tisdale is not entitled to qualified immunity for Plaintiff’s initial detention, even assuming he would be entitled to qualified immunity for Evans’s detention.

In light of the foregoing, summary judgment is granted in favor of Plaintiff for his unlawful detention before Defendant Tisdale’s discovery of marijuana.

B.        Plaintiff’s Detention After the Discovery of Marijuana

Plaintiff’s claims for false arrest and unlawful detention and confinement (Counts I, II, V) must be analyzed separately for the period after the officers discovered marijuana in Plaintiff’s vehicle. Because probable cause existed for the arrest, summary judgment is granted to Defendants on Counts I, II and V for the period after the discovery.

“‘In analyzing § 1983 claims for unconstitutional false arrest, [courts generally look] to the law of the state in which the arrest occurred.’” Jaegly v. Couch, 439 F.3d 149, 151-52 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Davis v. Rodriguez, 364 F.3d 424, 433 (2d Cir. 2004)). In order to state a claim for false arrest or imprisonment under New York law, a plaintiff must show that: (1) the defendant intentionally confined the plaintiff; (2) the plaintiff was conscious of the confinement; (3) the plaintiff did not consent to the confinement; and (4) the confinement was not otherwise justified. See Posr v. Doherty, 944 F.2d 91, 97 (2d Cir. 1991).  Under New York law, “the existence of probable cause is an absolute defense to a false arrest claim.” Jaegly, 439 F.3d at 152.

“‘Probable cause to arrest exists when the arresting officer has knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information of facts and circumstances that are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the belief that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a crime.’”  Torraco v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 615 F.3d 129, 139 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Escalera v. Lunn, 361 F.3d 737, 743 (2d Cir. 2004)). “The inquiry is limited to ‘whether the facts known by the arresting officer at the time of the arrest objectively provided probable cause to arrest.’”  Gonzalez v. City of Schenectady, 728 F.3d 149, 155 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Jaegly, 439 F.3d at 153).

There is no dispute that Defendant Tisdale ordered Plaintiff and two other individuals out of Plaintiff’s vehicle, in which Defendant Tisdale then discovered marijuana.  That fact alone provides probable cause for Plaintiff’s arrest. See Abreu v. Romero, 466 F. App’x 24, 26 (2d Cir. 2012) (finding, in a New York case, that probable cause to arrest existed after officers found two ounces of marijuana in the plaintiff’s bedroom).

Plaintiff argues that the charge for which he was arrested – unlawful possession of marijuana in violation of New York Penal Law 221.05 – does not authorize law enforcement officers to effect custodial arrests.  With respect to the § 1983 false arrest claim, the Supreme Court in Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164 (2008), rejected the same argument.  In that case, the appellant argued that he was unlawfully arrested for the misdemeanor of driving on a suspended license because state law did not authorize the arrest. Id. at 167.  The Supreme Court found that the arrest was made with probable cause and did not violate the Fourth Amendment, even if the arrest was impermissible under state law. Id. at 178.  The Court held that “state restrictions do not alter the Fourth Amendment’s protections,” and that to hold otherwise would cause the Fourth Amendment to “vary from place to place and from time to time . . . .” Id. at 176 (internal quotation marks omitted).  Moreover, contrary to Plaintiff’s position, New York law authorizes arrest for the unlawful possession of marijuana in violation of New York Penal Law 221.05.  Under New York Criminal Procedure Law § 140.10, “a police officer may arrest a person for: (a) [a]ny offense when he or she has reasonable cause to believe that such person has committed such offense in his or her presence.”  An “offense” under § 140.10 is defined by New York Penal Law § 10.00(1) as “conduct for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment or to a fine is provided by any law of this state or by any law, local law or ordinance of a political subdivision of this state . . . .” New York Penal Law § 221.05, under which Plaintiff was charged, expressly provides for punishment by a fine.  Plaintiff’s invocation of New York Criminal Procedure Law § 150.75 – requiring that “an appearance ticket shall promptly be issued and served upon” arrestees in connection with § 221.05 – does not change the fact that the unlawful possession of marijuana in violation of § 221.05 is an arrestable offense.  Consequently, Plaintiff’s argument fails with respect to his false arrest claims under both federal and state laws.

Plaintiff asks that the Court decline to follow Townes v. City of New York, in which the Second Circuit held that “[v]ictims of unreasonable searches or seizures may recover damages directly related to the invasion of their privacy . . . ; but such victims cannot be compensated for injuries that result from the discovery of incriminating evidence and consequent criminal prosecution” – i.e., that the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine does not apply in § 1983 actions. 176 F.3d 138, 148 (2d Cir. 1999).  Townes remains binding law in this circuit.  Thus, even assuming that the search of the vehicle that led to the discovery of marijuana was illegal, Plaintiff cannot recover for his arrest on that ground because the arrest was made with probable cause.

Call Us Now – (914) 771 7711

The experienced lawyers at Martin + Colin, P.C., headquartered in White Plains, handle unlawful search and seizure claims, false arrest cases and lawsuits alleging violations of civil rights.  If you have had your civil rights violated, Martin + Colin, P.C. may be able to help. Please call (914) 771 7711 or email using the ‘Contact Us’ form on this webpage.

 

Settlement for Yonkers Bicyclist Injured in Car Crash – March 2016

The experienced injury lawyers at Martin + Colin, P.C. announce a settlement for a City of Yonkers, Westchester County, resident injured in September 2014 when the bicycle he was riding was struck by a car on Nepperhan Avenue in the City of Yonkers.  The car was at an intersection making a turn when it struck our client.

The impact knocked our client off his bicycle onto the hood of the car and then knocked him onto the pavement.

Our client the bicyclist was taken by ambulance from the car accident location to Westchester Medical Center. After release from the emergency room, he continued to experience left side pain and left leg pain.  The bicyclist followed up with an orthopedist and received physical therapy for his injuries.

The experienced car accident attorneys in our firm faced several challenges in this case. One challenge was that, although the bicyclist was traveling in a crosswalk, the bicyclist was traveling on the wrong side of the street.  The car driver had good reason not to expect a bicyclist traveling on the wrong side of the street.  Thus, establishing the car driver’s liability for the accident was not clear cut.

The experienced accident lawyers at Martin + Colin, P.C. applied their combined expertise handling similar car crash cases and, at our client’s request, successfully convinced the other driver’s insurance company that a settlement was better than an unfavorable jury verdict.

In addition, our client preferred the certainty of settlement rather than the risk of trial, and during settlement negotiations, we were able to settle the case to the satisfaction of the client.

The injury attorneys at Martin + Colin, P.C., headquartered in White Plains, handle accident claims, negligence and personal injury cases. If you have been hurt in an accident due to the negligence of another person or firm, Martin + Colin, P.C. may be able to help.  Please call (914) 771 7711 or email using the ‘Contact Us’ form on this webpage

Call us now at (914) 771 7711 and let us apply our expertise to your case.

Settlement for Scarsdale Resident Injured in Car Crash – April 2015

Martin + Colin, P.C. announces a settlement for Westchester County resident injured in a car accident on I-287 (the Cross-Westchester Expressway) in the Town of Greenburgh.

Auto Accident LawyersOur client was taken by ambulance from the car accident location to Westchester Medical Center. After release from the emergency room, she continued to experience pain in her right hand and thumb and sought medical treatment. She complained of “use of hand” pain at the right thumb. Her physician diagnosed a right thumb strain and recommended physical therapy and use of voltaren gel to the right thumb. Our client followed up with physical therapy to her right hand.

The experienced car accident lawyers in our firm faced several challenges in this case. One of the most difficult: in addition to the physical pain our injured client experienced as a result of the car accident, she also sustained a serious emotional/mental health injury. Prior to the car crash, our client drove for 20 years without a single parking ticket or accident. She had never consulted with a psychologist before. After the car accident, she could not think about operating her vehicle without being overcome by a crushing anxiety that kept her awake at night and affected every aspect of her daily life. If a meeting required highway travel, our client has to cancel the appointment because she simply could not travel on highways due to the paralyzing fear. Her job required substantial driving locally, and she experienced severe anxiety whenever traveling on the highway. The car crash caused her to experience paralyzing fear and prevented her from driving on highways. She contacted a psychologist because of the extreme anxiety and insomnia she experienced as a result of the accident. According to the psychologist, the clinician who spoke with our client during the initial call noted that she appeared to be in extreme distress, with a quivering voice and crying as she requested to see a psychologist as soon as possible because she was experiencing multiple disturbing symptoms that were interfering with her daily life.

As a result of the extreme psychological stress, our client manifested painful physical symptoms such as chest pain and rapid breathing. In addition, she has developed compulsive ritualistic behavior, adding religious icons to her vehicle, praying more frequently, and having obsessional thinking that interfered with her daily functioning and caused difficulty sleeping.

The injury lawyers at Martin + Colin, P.C. applied their combined expertise handling similar auto accident cases and successfully convinced the other driver’s insurance company that a good settlement was better than an unfavorable jury verdict. In addition, our client preferred the certainty of settlement rather than the risk of trial, and during settlement negotiations, we were able to settle the case to the satisfaction of the client.

Call us now at (914) 771 7711 and let us apply our expertise to your case.

Emotional Distress Injuries

Injuries and accidents can occur to most of us, as none can have the guarantee that these problems will pass us by. What effects can an accident or injury have on our lives? Unfortunately, it can be far more serious than you might imagine.

Imagine yourself as a healthy individual with a family and a job. You have both responsibilities and activities that you do for enjoyment. You work hard at your job, you support your family, you go out with them, you exercise and you stay active. This is your normal lifestyle, which might entail different things – trips, exercise, walks, going out with friends, being able to work, etc.

However, at any point this may change for the worse. We all may be the victim in a car accident or a workplace accident, getting injuries in a situation we are not responsible for. What are the actual effects that an injury can have? Well, the extent may vary, however, we can consider some different possible effects.

  • Significant lifestyle changes

An injury can mean a complete change in your lifestyle. You may have to stop exercise and cut down on your physical activity, since you may not be able to walk for a long time or make a significant physical effort. You may have to have difficulties doing things you used to do (e.g., taking a bike to work, walking to the store, carrying things around) and, if the damage is more severe, you might have difficulties with daily things, like shopping, cooking and others. Sometimes, the injury or accident can prevent you from continuing to do your job as before.

  • Grief

A grieving process can occur when there is a significant change in your life. This is especially true if the injuries have caused you to stop doing things that were important to you or led to you losing hopes, opportunities and aspiration for the future. All these things can lead to a grieving process that can be quite long and difficult to manage. Grieving can involve deep feelings of sadness and anger and appear as a process with features that are similar to depression. A grieving process can last for a while.

  • Depression

Depression may be experienced due to difficulties adjusting to the changes and to all the things that become off-limits to you. Many individuals may become more isolated and struggle with feelings of helplessness and guilt over the situation, especially if their ability to work and provide for their family has been in some way affected.

  • Anxiety

An individual may experience significantly higher and limiting levels of anxiety. Anxiety may occur out of fear of experiencing another injury or due to a person’s fear of being unable to handle different situations in their new condition. Many individuals may choose not to leave their homes alone or to hardly go outside.

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

If the accident was severe enough to make the person fear for their life or has affected their physical integrity, individuals may develop PTSD. This disorder involves flashbacks, high degrees of anxiety, avoidance of situations and ideas reminiscent of the traumatic situations, as well as difficulties moving on and having hopes for the future. Emotions become mostly negative and there are difficulties in interpersonal relationships.

  • Relationship Problems

A significant change in a person’s life can affect their closest relationships as well. It’s possible that the relationships will be affected negatively in many cases, because if the injury is significant, the individual may not be able to do the things they used to do or to be as involved with their family as before. Depression, anxiety and other emotional issues can also change the individual’s outlook and way to interact with others.

  • Family troubles

Many view the family as a system, in which every person’s situation affects the situations of the other members. A serious injury or accident can have a serious impact on the lives of the spouse or the children of the person who had the accident. They also might feel depressed, anxious and to experience limited opportunities, as well as an increased amount of pressure. For example, a child might feel worried about their parent’s situation, afraid that the parent will die and pressured to not share the child’s own problems or to become independent at an early age, when they still need support, which can hurt their development.

  • Pain and health complications

Many injuries lead to chronic pain that can not always be adequately managed by medication. Other injuries may lead to different side effects in the body that can occur over the long run. For instance, an injury might heal, but increase the likelihood of future trauma. A forced period of inactivity combined with medication might lead to problems due to side effects of the medicines and to problems due to the lack of exercise, like weight gain or lack of energy.  All these effects can make it difficult for the person to go on normally about their daily life.

  • Financial and material losses

Although financial losses may be less significant than emotional and health issues, they still need to be considered.  Financial losses may be linked to high hospital bills, paying for rehabilitation, therapy and other procedures that can be needed to recover. If the individual who had the accident was also the main provider for the family, the family may also end up in debt or losing property in order to pay for the medical care and for their daily expenses. If the person is not able to continue their job, the family can also feel a significant change in their quality of life.

In general, an accident or serious injury can lead to many problematic effects that involve an individual’s emotions, mental health, interpersonal relationships and financial state. It can also affect other family members and the family as a whole. It can lead to loss of opportunities, expectations and even dreams, and, if the injury is serious enough, it can limit the person’s activities in their family life, prevent them from working like they used to and stop them from achieving their goals. A serious injury can force the individual to give up hobbies or to limit daily activities, even simple ones like walking.

In sum, an accident can severely change an individual’s life well beyond the observable physical injuries.  There can also be substantial psychological damage that results in a significant loss of enjoyment of life.

 

The injury lawyers at Martin Colin, P.C., headquartered in White Plains, New York, handle accident claims, negligence and personal injury cases.  If you have been hurt in an accident due to the negligence of another person, our attorneys may be able to help.

Please call (914) 771 7711 or email using the ‘Contact Us’ form on this page.