New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

NOSAL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-015-519, Claim No. 105588


Synopsis


Claimant awarded $950.00 plus interest for his unlawful confinement for 1 ½ hours following a warrantless arrest on charges which pertained to his brother.

Case Information

UID:
2005-015-519
Claimant(s):
LEO J. NOSAL, JR.
Claimant short name:
NOSAL
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
105588
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Higgins & Moran, PLLC By: Dean J. Higgins, Esquire
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General By: Dennis M. Acton, Esquire Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
August 18, 2005
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
By decision dated December 10, 2004 the Court found the defendant liable for the false arrest/false imprisonment of the claimant arising from a warrantless arrest on February 23, 2001.
The Court held in the decision on liability that although New York State Trooper Philip Poitier was mistakenly advised that a warrant had been issued he "failed under the circumstances to act reasonably in effecting the arrest of [the claimant] upon a warrant he had not seen for a charge which he could not identify." The above quoted portion of the original liability decision incorrectly referred to the arrest of Michael Nosal. The Court here clarifies that the subject of the arrest referred to therein was the claimant, Leo Nosal Jr.
Claimant was handcuffed at the residence he shares with his parents and sister near Saratoga Lake and transported a distance of approximately 11 miles to the State Police substation in Schuylerville, New York. Upon his arrival at the substation claimant was removed from the State Police vehicle and taken to the trooper's office where he was chained to the floor by a ring and chain attached to his handcuffs. Within minutes of his arrival in Schuylerville the Town Justice, who had issued a warrant for Michael Nosal (claimant's brother), appeared and advised Trooper Poitier that he had taken the wrong person into custody. After issuing two vehicle and traffic tickets the trooper released the claimant and offered to drive him home. Claimant refused the offer and exited the building.
A trial on the issue of damages was held in Albany on April 21, 2005.
Claimant called only two witnesses, the claimant and his mother, Mary Theresa Dabek. Both testified to essentially the same facts established at the liability trial.
Ms. Dabek related her recollection of the arrest including allegations that claimant's head struck the wall of the residence while he was being handcuffed and that he was crying. She testified that claimant was also crying when he called her on the telephone to request a ride home following his release from custody and continued to cry from the time he was picked up until they arrived at home. She described the claimant as emotional for 4-7 days following the incident. The witness's cross-examination was unremarkable.
Claimant's testimony was largely a recapitulation of his testimony at the liability phase of this bifurcated trial. He complained that the handcuffs pinched his wrists and created extreme discomfort. He further related that he was emotionally upset, scared and confused. He alleged that the route Trooper Poitier took to Schuylerville took 20-25 minutes rather than other routes which would have taken only 10-15 minutes. He alleged that after the incident he had trouble sleeping for several days and that whenever he sees a trooper vehicle he wonders if it is being operated by Trooper Poitier.
On cross-examination the witness testified that he was in custody for the 20-25 minute ride from his home to Schuylerville and that he spent approximately 15-20 minutes at the substation prior to his release. He reiterated that he gets upset whenever he sees a trooper car and admitted that he received a traffic ticket in 2002 from a different trooper. Claimant further admitted that he neither sought nor received medical or psychological attention as a result of the subject incident. At the conclusion of his testimony the claimant rested.
The defendant called Trooper Philip Poitier as its only witness. He testified that the trip from Saratoga Lake to Schuylerville took approximately 15-20 minutes and that his route was the shortest route between those two locations. He further alleged that he and claimant arrived at the substation at 10:00 a.m. and claimant was released from custody and left the building at 10:15 a.m. Trooper Poitier denied that he harbored any animosity toward claimant and reported that he chained the claimant to the floor because he didn't know him and needed to secure him in order to leave the office. The witness acknowledged that claimant was upset by his arrest but did not recall sobbing or crying. He admitted that handcuffs are uncomfortable but indicated that the handcuffs used on the claimant were double-locked to prevent them from tightening.
"As a general rule, the measure of damages for false arrest and confinement is such a sum as will fairly and reasonably compensate the injured person for injuries caused by the defendant's wrongful act" (Hallenbeck v City of Albany, 99 AD2d 639, 640) including humiliation, lost earnings and injury to one's reputation (Dabbs v State of New York, 59 NY2d 213). Here the claimant was arrested in his home in the presence of his parents only, was detained for approximately three-quarters of one hour during which he was seen only by the arresting trooper and the Town Justice. Claimant offered no proof of lost wages or substantial physical or mental suffering (see Woodard v City of Albany, 81 AD2d 947). Under these circumstances the Court awards claimant the sum of $750.00 (Casler v State of New York, 33 AD2d 305; Blanchfield v State of New York, 104 Misc 2d 21; Budgar v State of New York, 98 Misc 2d 588).
The Chief Clerk shall enter judgment in the amount of $750.00 plus statutory interest from the date of the determination of liability. Claimant shall also recover from the defendant the filing fee paid pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a (2).

August 18, 2005
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims