As illustrated by a recent federal court decision, a plaintiff may be able to assert false arrest claims against a private individual who makes a false report to the police, resulting in plaintiff’s arrest.
In Sanders-Peay v. NYC Dept. of Educ., decided Nov. 18, 2014, the Eastern District of New York held that plaintiff, a Department of Education employee, stated a false arrest claim.
Here are the facts, as alleged by plaintiff:
[D]efendant Leslie Frazier (“Frazier”), the assistant principal at the time, prompted defendant Alexis Sicard (“Sicard”) to call the police and falsely report that Sanders–Peay committed an assault.1 Id. ¶ 8. In addition, Frazier asked her brother, an NYPD officer, to use his position to ensure that Sanders–Peay would be arrested. Id. at 6. As a result, unspecified NYPD officers arrested Sanders–Peay. Id. Ultimately, the Brooklyn District Attorney charged Sanders–Peay with an unspecified crime and proceeded to trial on those charges.
While the court dismissed plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims, it held that plaintiff sufficiently pled false arrest claims against Frazier and Sicard.
The law provides:
Whether brought under the U.S. Constitution or New York tort law, those claims require the same four basic elements: “(i) that defendant intentionally confined plaintiff, (ii) plaintiff was conscious of the confinement, (iii) plaintiff did not consent to the confinement and (iv) the confinement was not otherwise privileged.” Fleming v. Mattingly, 08–CV–3074 (ARR)(LB), 2012 WL 2953969, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. July 19, 2012). Critically, to avoid dismissal a plaintiff must show that law enforcement acted without the support of probable cause. Id.
Likewise, a false arrest claim is cognizable against a non-law enforcement defendant who instigates an arrest by knowingly providing false information to the police. Chepilko v. City of N.Y., No. 06–CV–5491 (ARR)(LB), 2012 WL 398700, at *10 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2012) (noting, however, that a false arrest claim under § 1983 also requires a showing that the defendant acted under color of state law) (citing Weintraub v. Bd. of Educ. of City of N.Y., 423 F.Supp.2d 38, 45 (E.D.N.Y.2006)).
Applying the law, the court held:
Here, Sanders–Peay’s alleges that “Frazier … called the police on [her] and had … Sicard make false claims against [her]” and that Frazier’s brother, a NYPD officer, “used his job position to have [Sanders–Peay] arrested.” Compl. ¶ 8, at 6. Although it is unclear against whom the false arrest claims are directed, the Court construes the allegations as asserting claims against the NYPD, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Frazier and Sicard. See Triestman, 470 F.3d at 475; Berry, 2010 WL 3932289, at *1 n. 1.
The claims against the NYPD and Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office fail because Sanders–Peay does not allege an underlying violation by an individual police officer or prosecutor.7 See City of L.A. v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796, 799 (1986). Moreover, the complaint is devoid of any suggestion that the purportedly improper arrest was the result of a municipal policy or procedure, as required by Monell v. Department of Social Services. 436 U.S. 658 (1978).8 Therefore, the Court dismisses those claims, but grants leave to replead.
The false arrest claims against Frazier and Sicard, however, are sufficiently pled. Read liberally, the allegations in the complaint make clear that Frazier and Sicard made false reports to the police, which resulted in Sanders–Peay’s arrest.