Coward v. City of New York
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: The Defendants motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.Defendants motion for sanctions is DENIED without prejudice to renew in a separate motion. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 11(c)(2) (A motion for sanctions must be made separately from any other motion and must describe the specific conduct that allegedly violates Rule 11(b).). Ordered by Judge Frederic Block on 7/12/2017. (Innelli, Michael)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, ARIAS J.
ELIOT, and LUCIOUS B. JOHNSON,
For the Plaintiff
ROBERT JOSEPH DI GIANNI, JR.
159 20th Street, Suite 1B-20
Brooklyn, New York 11232
For the Defendant
JOSEPH AARON GUTMANN
New York City Law Department
100 Church Street
New York, New York 10007
BLOCK, Senior District Judge:
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the City of New York, Arias J.
Eliot, and Lucious B. Johnson (together, “defendants”) move for summary judgment to
dispose of Noel Coward’s (“plaintiff”) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 case against them.
On June 8, 2015—in the settlement of a separate matter against the City of New
York—plaintiff executed a general release discharging the City and “all past and present
officials, employees, representatives, and agents of the City . . . from any and all liability,
claims, or rights of action alleging a violation of [plaintiff’s] civil rights . . . from the
beginning of the world to the date of [the] General Release . . . .” Defendants argue that the
general release is a legal bar to the current suit; plaintiff argues that the release is
ambiguous on its face, and also that he did not knowingly and voluntarily enter into the
release because he believed he was releasing the City only from the claims in the case he
Plaintiff’s argument is wholly without merit. “[A] party cannot create an ambiguity
in an otherwise plain agreement merely by ‘urging different interpretations . . . .’” Red Ball
Interior Demolition Corp. v. Palmadessa, 173 F.3d 481, 484 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting
Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. RJR Nabisco, Inc., 906 F.2d 884, 889 (2d Cir. 1990)). The
language of the release—discharging “any and all liability . . . “from the beginning of the
world to the date of [the] General Release”—is “unambiguous, and bars all claims arising
out of past events.” Muhammad v. Schriro, No. 13-cv-1962, 2014 WL 4652564, at *5
(S.D.N.Y. Sept. 18, 2014) (finding a similar general release unambiguous); see also
Cuadrado v. Zito, No. 13-cv-3321, 2014 WL 1508609, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 21, 2014)
(finding the same language in a general release unambiguous); Walbrook v. Reilly, 56 F.
Supp. 3d 176, 177 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (finding a similar general release unambiguous). This
Court “take[s] care not to alter or go beyond the express terms of the agreement, or to
impose obligations on the parties that are not mandated by the unambiguous terms of the
agreement itself.” Red Ball, 173 F.3d at 484. And plaintiff’s conclusory argument that he
did not knowingly enter into the release is unpersuasive, particularly because the same
attorney representing him in this matter represented him when he signed the unambiguous
general release. Therefore, defendants’ motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.
Defendants’ motion for sanctions is DENIED without prejudice to renew in a
separate motion. See Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 11(c)(2) (“A motion for sanctions must be made
separately from any other motion and must describe the specific conduct that allegedly
violates Rule 11(b).”).
_/S/ Frederic Block_____________
Senior United States District Judge
Brooklyn, New York
July 12, 2017
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