On October 16, 1997, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Article 1, Section 12 of the New York State Constitution against the City of New York, the New York City Police Department, a Detective, unknown female officers, and Plaintiff’s cousin in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked for compensatory and punitive damages, alleging she was falsely arrested, police used excessive force when arresting her, that she was strip-searched in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and that Defendants committed battery. Plaintiff alleged claims against her cousin for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress because Plaintiff was arrested after her cousin filed a complaint against her.
On January 21, 1997, Defendant Detective arrested Plaintiff for a misdemeanor. Plaintiff alleged Defendant used excessive force by bruising her arm when the Detective handcuffed her. Plaintiff was subjected to a strip and body cavity search at Central Booking by two female Corrections Department employees, in accordance with a City policy of strip-searching all arrestees, and without any reasonable suspicion. Plaintiff was released on her own recognizance the following day and the charges against her were eventually dropped. Plaintiff was traumatized and humiliated, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, entered therapy, and took antidepressants.
On July 17, 1998, Defendants offered Plaintiff $25,001 plus reasonable attorney’s fees accrued up to that date. Plaintiff did not accept the settlement offer.
On April 26, 1999, Plaintiff settled her claims against her cousin for $2,500.
On May 7, 1999, the United States District Court (Judge Robert P. Patterson, Jr.) awarded plaintiff $19,645 in compensatory damages and $5,000,000 in punitive damages against the city according to a jury verdict following a three day jury trial. The Court granted a directed verdict for Plaintiff regarding the strip-search. The Court found that Defendant’s strip-search policy violated the Fourth Amendment and there was no evidence the officers believed Plaintiff concealed contraband. The jury found for Defendants on Plaintiff’s claims of unlawful arrest, excessive force, and battery.
Defendant appealed award of punitive damages.
On June 15, 2000, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (Judges Guido Calabresi, Robert Katzmann, Pierre N. Leval) reversed and remanded. The Court held that the city was immune from punitive damages because municipalities are only responsible for punitive damages where taxpayers are directly responsible for perpetrating an outrageous abuse of constitutional rights. Judges Calabresi and Katzmann filed separate concurring opinions.
Ciraolo v. City of New York, 216 F.3d 236 (2nd Cir. 2000).
Plaintiff moved for attorney’s fees and costs. Defendants cross-moved for costs incurred subsequent to their offer of pre-trial judgment.
On October 13, 2000, the District Court (Judge Patterson) granted these cross-motions. The Court held that Plaintiff was liable for Defendants’ costs from the date of their offer because their offer was more than her jury award. Plaintiff was awarded attorney’s fees and costs incurred prior to July 17, 1998, a total of $419,116.45. Defendants were granted $8,038.40. Ciraolo v. City of New York, No. Civ. 8208, 2000 WL 521180 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2000).
On November 13, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Plaintiff’s petition for writ of certiorari. Ciraolo v. City of New York, 531 U.S. 993 (2000).Shira Gordon - 04/07/2012