Take 5

Court Denies NYPD Officers’ Motions in Civil Rights Violation Case

In a recent development, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York has denied the motions of several New York Police Department (NYPD) officers who were seeking judgment as a matter of law and an order of remittitur in a civil rights violation case. The case was brought by Rosie Martinez, who accused the officers of violating her civil rights while she was in police custody in January 2015.

The court documents reveal that the jury had previously awarded Martinez compensatory and punitive damages on claims that her civil rights were violated when she was physically injured in police custody. The defendants, City of New York, Police Officer Eric Ryan, Lieutenant David Camhi, Sergeant Joseph DiGennaro, and Sergeant Keith Laliberte, sought judgment as a matter of law on Martinez’s assault and battery claim against the City of New York and her deliberate indifference claims against the four individual officer-defendants. They also argued that the jury’s award of $100,000 in punitive damages against each individual officer-defendant was excessive.

The case’s background reveals that Martinez, a housecleaner, returned from work one day in January 2015 to find several NYPD officers in her apartment. They had conducted a search and found that her then-boyfriend, Danny Rivera, possessed heroin. Martinez was arrested and subsequently transported to the 107th Precinct in Queens, New York, where she was detained until the following morning. During her time in custody, Martinez suffered a serious hand injury.

Martinez filed the action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and related provisions of New York state law in January 2016, asserting that two NYPD officers deliberately injured her while she was in handcuffs after she told them during an interrogation that she did not know anything about Rivera’s drugs, including where he had acquired his heroin. The defendants disputed Martinez’s version of events, asserting that she injured herself while in custody.

The case proceeded to trial after years of substantial delay, largely due to discovery misconduct by the City of New York. At trial, the jury was presented with constitutional claims under Section 1983 against four defendant officers, and a state law claim of assault and battery against the City of New York.

The jury heard sharply conflicting accounts as to the cause and scope of the injuries that Martinez suffered on the night of January 22, 2015. Martinez introduced evidence supporting her claim that she was unlawfully assaulted by two New York City police officers while she was restrained in handcuffs. The defendants, on the other hand, offered a sharply different account of the events, presenting the jury with a stark credibility dispute as to what transpired at the 107th precinct that night.

The court’s decision to deny the defendants’ motions marks a significant development in the case. The court documents do not provide information on the next steps in the case or whether the defendants plan to appeal the decision.

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