Palmer v. Ruggiero
Probable cause is an absolute defense to a §1983 malicious-prosecution claim. In 2006, Mary Larsen called the police to report a possible break-in. Officers Keith Ruggiero and Daniel Bothwell arrived and began to look for intruders. The plaintiff neighbor, James Palmer, heard fireworks and was worried it was gunfire. Palmer approached the officers to inform them about possible gunfire. Allegedly, Officer Bothwell repeatedly ordered Palmer to "Get the f--- out of here" and threatened to arrest Palmer, if he failed to comply. Palmer returned to his home and decided to drive to the Veterans Administration Medical Center. The police officers ordered Palmer to leave his motor vehicle. Palmer exited and did not immediately place his hands behind his back. Palmer repeatedly informed the police officers that he did not do anything wrong. Bothwell's ankle was injured when the officers took Palmer to the ground, and Palmer fell on Bothwell. The police charged Palmer with interference with an officer and assault of a public safety officer. The interference charge was nolled, and the assault charge was dismissed for lack of probable cause. In May 2010, Palmer sued the police officers, alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution, in violation of 42 United States Code §1983. The defendants moved for summary judgment. The statute of limitations for the plaintiff's false-arrest claim expired in December 2009. The plaintiff's false-arrest claim was not filed timely, prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, and the court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the false-arrest claim. In Connecticut, to establish a cause of action for malicious prosecution, a plaintiff must prove lack of probable cause, malice and that the prosecution ended in the plaintiff's favor. There is no privilege to resist arrest under Connecticut law. Palmer's failure to comply with repeated orders to leave the area while officers investigated a potentially dangerous situation constituted probable cause for arrest for interference with an officer. Bothwell's injury when the officers were attempting to handcuff the plaintiff constituted probable cause to arrest for assault of a police officer. The court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.