Delgado v. Hartford et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 49 Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff is instructed to file an amended complaint consistent with this ruling. Signed by Judge Warren W. Eginton on 11/15/17. (Ladd-Smith, I.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
Administratrix of the
Estate of Jose Luis Delgado,
CITY OF HARTFORD,
JAMES ROVELLA, FELIX ORTIZ,
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS
This action arises out of a late-night police pursuit of Jose Luis Delgado by defendant
police officers Felix Ortiz and Steven Pileski. Delgado died after his motorcycle crashed into a
Jersey Barrier near an entrance to Interstate 91.
Plaintiff alleges that Ortiz and Pileski violated the Hartford Police Department pursuit
policy by (1) failing to account for the seriousness of the offense and the relative performance
capabilities of Delgado’s motorcycle when they engaged in pursuit and (2) failing to
immediately notify central dispatch of the pursuit in accordance with pursuit policy guidelines
(Count I); the City of Hartford and Chief Rovella failed to provide adequate training in pursuit
policies, in violation of the Uniform Statewide Pursuit Policy (Count II); the City and Rovella
failed to discipline Ortiz for his prior violations of the pursuit policy (Count III); the City,
Rovella, and Ortiz violated Delgado’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable
seizure, and the City’s failure to train its police officers amounts to a pattern or practice (Count
IV); the City and Rovella violated a consent decree entered into by the City pursuant to Cintron
v. Vaughn 3:69cv13578 (EBB) (Count V); the City failed to adopt an adequate pursuit policy
(Count VI). Ortiz’s and Pileski’s actions amounted to intentional infliction of emotional distress
(Count VII); Ortiz’s actions amounted to negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count VIII);
Ortiz’s and Pileski’s actions amounted to “negligent pursuit” in that they failed to recognize the
extreme dangers of a pursuit under the circumstances (Count IX); Ortiz’s and Pileski’s actions
amounted to recklessness in that they knew or should have known that violating the pursuit
policies would likely lead to serious injuries or even the death of Delgado (Count X).
The City of Hartford and Chief Rovella have moved to dismiss counts IV and V. For the
following reasons, defendants’ motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
The function of a motion to dismiss is "merely to assess the legal feasibility of the
complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof."
Ryder Energy Distribution v. Merrill Lynch Commodities, Inc., 748 F.2d 774, 779 (2d Cir.
1984). When deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations as
true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the pleader. Hishon v. King, 467 U.S. 69, 73
(1984). The complaint must contain the grounds upon which the claim rests through factual
allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). A plaintiff is obliged to amplify a claim with some factual
allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Count IV alleges that Sgt. Ortiz’s conduct in pursuing Delgado violated Delgado’s Fourth
Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure; and that the City of Hartford and Chief
Rovella should be held responsible for the violation based on their failure to train Sgt. Ortiz.
Defendants argue that Count IV should be dismissed, as police pursuit does not constitute a
seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and a Monell claim may not be maintained absent an
underlying constitutional violation. Indeed, the Supreme Court has held that the Fourth
Amendment reasonableness standard does not apply in this exact scenario – a high-speed chase
that resulted in the death of a motorcycle passenger – as police pursuit is not a seizure. County
of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 842-45 (1998).
The Fourth Amendment covers only “searches and seizures,” neither of which took
place here. No one suggests that there was a search, and our cases foreclose finding
a seizure. We held in California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621, 626, 111 S.Ct. 1547,
1550–1551, 113 L.Ed.2d 690 (1991), that a police pursuit in attempting to seize a
person does not amount to a “seizure” within the meaning of the Fourth
Amendment. And in Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 596–597, 109 S.Ct.
1378, 1381, 103 L.Ed.2d 628 (1989), we explained that “a Fourth Amendment
seizure does not occur whenever there is a governmentally caused termination of
an individual's freedom of movement (the innocent passerby), nor even whenever
there is a governmentally caused and governmentally desired termination of an
individual's freedom of movement (the fleeing felon), but only when there is a
governmental termination of freedom of movement through means intentionally
applied.” We illustrated the point by saying that no Fourth Amendment seizure
would take place where a “pursuing police car sought to stop the suspect only by
the show of authority represented by flashing lights and continuing pursuit,” but
accidentally stopped the suspect by crashing into him. Id., at 597, 109 S.Ct., at
1381–1382. That is exactly this case. See, e.g., Campbell v. White, 916 F.2d 421,
423 (C.A.7 1990) (following Brower and finding no seizure where a police officer
accidentally struck and killed a fleeing motorcyclist during a high-speed pursuit),
cert. denied, 499 U.S. 922, 111 S.Ct. 1314, 113 L.Ed.2d 248 (1991).
Lewis, 523 U.S. at 843-44. Plaintiff’s attempts to distinguish the instant case from Lewis are
unavailing. Accordingly, Count IV will be dismissed.
Count V alleges that the City is party to a 1973 consent decree resulting from the case of
Cintron v. Vaughn, which requires the City to train its officers in the prevention of violations of
the rights of citizens in light of Hartford’s systemic pattern of police misconduct. Defendants
argue that plaintiff has no standing to seek enforcement of the consent decree in a case to which
she is not a party. See Blue Chip Stamps v. Manor Drug Stores, 421 U.S. 723, 749 (1975).
However, consistent with Rule 71, intended third-party beneficiaries of a consent decree may sue
to enforce the decree. See Brennan v. Nassau, 352 F.3d 60, 65 (2d Cir. 2003); Berger v. Heckler,
771 F.2d 1556, 1565 (2d Cir. 1985); see also U.S. v. FMC Corp., 531 F.3d 813, 820 (9th Cir.
2008) (collecting cases). Accordingly, Count V will not be dismissed.
For the foregoing reasons, defendants’ motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part. Count IV is dismissed but Count V remains.
Dated this 15th day of November, 2017, at Bridgeport, Connecticut.
/s/Warren W. Eginton
WARREN W. EGINTON
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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