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False Arrest: Masetta v. Town of Irondequoit

By: Daily Record Staff//December 2, 2010

False Arrest: Masetta v. Town of Irondequoit

By: Daily Record Staff//December 2, 2010

U.S. District Court, Western District of New York

False Arrest

Excessive Force

Masetta v. Town of Irondequoit
Judge Telesca

Background: The plaintiff, Mary Claire Masetta, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments alleging that her constitutional rights were violated in connection with her arrest and the arrest of her husband, Steven Masetta, on Dec. 11, 2004 by the Irondequoit Police Department.  Plaintiff also alleges various common law claims in connection with the arrests. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that Officers James Reed and Alan Laird unlawfully arrested her and Steven Masetta and employed an unreasonable amount of force in effectuating her arrest. The plaintiff now moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the following claims in the complaint: (1) Excessive Use of Force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, (2) False Arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment and (3) common law battery.
The brief factual background is as follows: On Dec. 11, 2004, Irondequoit Police Officers, Alan J. Laird and James Reed, responded to a report of a fight at the scene of a motor vehicle accident at the intersection of Durand Boulevard and Culver Road in the Town of Irondequoit. A chaotic scene, that also involved the emergency responders, had unfolded and the officers had difficulty restraining plaintiffs when arrests were finally made. Plaintiff Maryclaire Masetta was charged with two counts of resisting arrest, based on her resistance of Steven Masetta’s and her arrest, one count of harassment in the second degree and one count of disorderly conduct.  The plaintiffs pled guilty to disorderly conduct.

Ruling: The plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is denied and defendants’ motion for summary judgment for the dismissal of the false arrest claim is granted. The plaintiff claimed that Steven Masetta’s arrest violated the Fourth Amendment because the crime for which he was arrested was not committed in the officers’ presence and the arresting officers did not obtain an arrest warrant pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law §140.10(1).
The court, holding that probable cause is therefore a complete defense to a cause of action for false arrest, agrees with the defendants. A plaintiff suing for false arrest must show that the police lacked probable cause to arrest him for any unlawful conduct. Further, the plaintiffs’ plea to disorderly conduct effectively forecloses the issue of probable cause.  Summary judgment is awarded to defendants on the claim for false arrest.
As to the excessive force claim, the actual amount of force used by Officer Laird to arrest the plaintiff was in dispute. The plaintiff claimed that Officer Laird grabbed her hair and threw her to the ground.  She also states that he stepped on her and rolled her over to handcuff her. Officer Laird testified that he did not know how they got on the ground. The court does not find that plaintiff has presented facts sufficient to find that there is no genuine issue of material fact with respect to plaintiff’s claims of excessive use of force and battery, as the amount of force actually used by Officer Laird and the reasonableness of such force are in dispute. The plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on her claims for battery and excessive use of force is denied.

R. Brian Goewey for the plaintiff; Nelson E. Schule Jr. of Kenney, Shelton, Liptak & Nowak LLP for the defendants

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