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Seales v. City of Detroit

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 3, 2017

Marvin Seales, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Detroit, et al., Defendants.

          David R. Grand, United States Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS CITY OF DETROIT'S AND THOMAS ZBERKOT'S AMENDED MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [74]

          Hon. Gershwin A. Drain, United States District Court Judge

         I. Introduction

         This is a wrongful arrest and detention case based on mistaken identity. Plaintiff Marvin Seales (Seales or “Plaintiff”) was arrested by City of Detroit police officers and transferred to the Wayne County Jail pursuant to an arrest warrant for an individual named Rodrick Siner (Siner), who used Seales's name as an alias. Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort laws including false arrest, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants include individual defendant Thomas Zberkot (Zberkot) and municipal defendant City of Detroit (Detroit) (collectively, “Defendants”). Wayne County was previously dismissed from the case in a separate motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 70, 82.

         Before the Court are Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [72] and Amended Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [74]. Defendants' original Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [72] appears to be mooted by Defendants' amended motion [74], so the Court confined its analysis to the amended motion.

         Upon review of the briefs, the Court finds that oral argument will not aid in the disposition of this matter. Accordingly, the hearing is cancelled and the Court will decide the matter on the submitted brief. See E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Amended Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [74] will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         II. Factual Background

         On January 18, 2012, Defendant Thomas Zberkot was on assignment to the Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team (“the Team”). See Dkt. No. 80-4, p. 2 (Pg. ID No. 658). The Team executed an arrest warrant for attempted murder for a suspect named “Roderick Siner.” Id. Siner's aliases included “Marvin Seals.” Id. The Team arrested Plaintiff, Marvin Seales, at his workplace, Reinhart Food Service, in Warren, Michigan. Dkt. No. 75, p. 9 (Pg. ID No. 520).[1] Plaintiff was then taken to the Detroit Police Department Northeast/3rd Precinct lockup. Dkt. No. 80-4, p. 2 (Pg. ID No. 658). At the precinct, Plaintiff was fingerprinted by the arresting agency. Dkt. No. 75-4, p. 5 (Pg. ID No. 554).

         Although Plaintiff's name resembled one of Siner's aliases, Plaintiff was not the person wanted on felony charges. Dkt. No. 75, p. 9 (Pg. ID No. 520). Plaintiff allegedly informed Defendant Zberkot and others that he was not Rodrick Siner and that they had the wrong individual. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that he told Defendant City of Detroit police personnel at lockup that he was not Roderick Siner and that they had the wrong individual. Id. at 10.

         Plaintiff was held in the City of Detroit Police Department facility until his video arraignment with Magistrate Millicent D. Sherman of the 36th District Court on January 20, 2012. Dkt. No. 75-5, p. 4 (Pg. ID No. 565). At Plaintiff's video arraignment, he stated his name was “Marvin Seals, ” [sic] and acknowledged that he heard the charges against him, understood the penalties that applied to those charges, and understood his right to remain silent and retain counsel. Id. at 4-5. He did not make any direct statements about mistaken identity during the arraignment. Magistrate Sherman set bond in the amount of $500, 000 dollars, “given the nature of the charges and the seriousness of the allegations.” Id. at 5.

         Plaintiff was then transferred to the Wayne County Jail until his preliminary examination. Dkt. No. 75, p. 10 (Pg. ID No. 521). On February 1, 2012, Plaintiff appeared at a scheduled preliminary examination before 36th District Court Judge Deborah G. Bledsoe Ford on the charges of Assault with Intent to Murder, Felony Assault, and Felony Firearm, as Rodrick Siner. Dkt. No. 75-3. Plaintiff was represented by counsel, Earl Washington, at the hearing. Id. at 4. At the start of the hearing, Wayne County Prosecutor Shannon Walker orally moved to dismiss the matter because the victim of the crime informed her before the hearing that Plaintiff was not the individual who shot at him. Id. That same day, Judge Deborah Ford of the 36th Judicial District signed an order of Dismissal, which states that Plaintiff was not the correct defendant and that he was wrongfully arrested. Dkt. No. 75-6.

         Plaintiff further alleges that at the time of Plaintiff's arrest and incarceration, a mug shot and further identification of Rodrick Siner and Marvin Seales was available to Defendants. The photos Plaintiff attached as exhibits are undated, and thus do not definitively establish that Defendants possessed photos of both Plaintiff and Siner at the time of Plaintiff's arrest. See Dkt. No. 75-2. Review of Michigan Department of Corrections' Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) indicates that Siner's only offense in the system is a charge of delivering or manufacturing a controlled substance, with an offense date of April 3, 3012, after Plaintiff was released.[2] OTIS lists Siner's known aliases as “Chaun Hardin, ” “John Siner, ” “Marvin Louis Seales, ” “Robert Sutton, ” “Robert Whitman, ” “Robert S Whitman, ” “Rodrick K Hardin, ” and “Rodrick Kareem Siner.” Defendants state, without citing to evidence, that Plaintiff had outstanding warrants independent of the crimes for which Siner was wanted. Dkt. No. 74, p. 9 (Pg. ID No. 495).

         III. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) “directs that summary judgment shall be granted if ‘there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.' ” Cehrs v. Ne. Ohio Alzheimer's Research Ctr., 155 F.3d 775, 779 (6th Cir. 1998). The court must view the facts, and draw reasonable inferences from those facts, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). No genuine dispute of material fact exists where the record “taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.” Matsushita Elec. Indus., Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Ultimately, the court evaluates “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         IV. Discussion

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint brings six claims against Defendants, including: (1) a Section 1983 claim for False Detention, Arrest, Imprisonment and Confinement as to Defendant City of Detroit; (2) a False/Wrongful Arrest and False Imprisonment claim against all Defendants; (3) a Willful and Wanton Misconduct, Deliberate Indifference/Gross Negligence claim against all Defendants; (4) an Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claim against unspecified Defendants; (5) a Section 1983 claim for deprivation of rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments and the Michigan Constitution, Article I, §§ 5, 6, 11 and 17 against Defendant Zberkot; and (6) a Monell claim against City of Detroit. Dkt. No. 28, pp. 6-19 (Pg. ID No. 126-139).

         Defendants allege that Plaintiff has not demonstrated that his rights were violated pursuant to an unconstitutional policy, as required for municipal liability. Dkt. No. 74, p. 9 (Pg. ID No. 495).[3] Defendants further argue that Defendant Zberkot is entitled to qualified immunity from Plaintiff's claims under Section 1983. Id. at 13. Defendants go on to argue that Defendant City of Detroit is shielded from liability under the Governmental Immunity Act, id. at 17, and that Defendant Zberkot is entitled to immunity under Michigan Compiled Laws § 691.1407 with respect to the gross negligence claim. Id. at 18.

         IV. Discussion

         A. Counts I, V, and VI: Section 1983 Claims 1. Section 1983 Claim Against An Individual Defendant

         In order to make out a Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show (1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States (2) caused by the defendant while acting under color of state law (3) occurring without due process of law. Neuens v. City of Columbus, 303 F.3d 667, 670 (6th Cir. 2002). Here, Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Article 1, Sections 5, 6, 11 and 17 of the Michigan Constitution.

         As an initial matter on Count VI, the Court will not analyze Plaintiff's claim that his First Amendment rights were violated because Plaintiff makes no argument and does not present any evidence related to any violation of his First Amendment rights. The inclusion of this amendment appears to be a briefing error. Additionally, although Section 1983 provides a mechanism for seeking redress for an alleged deprivation of a litigant's federal constitutional and federal statutory rights, it does not protect Plaintiff's rights under the Michigan Constitution. See Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 439 (6th Cir. 2008) (“A prima facie case under § 1983 has two elements: “(1) the defendant must be acting under the color of state law, and (2) the offending conduct must deprive the plaintiff of rights secured by federal law.”) (emphasis added); Pyles v. Raisor, 60 F.3d 1211, 1215 (6th Cir. 1995) (stating Section 1983 does not provide redress for a violation of state law more protective of individual rights than the United States Constitution). Thus, the Court will not evaluate Plaintiff's claim that his rights under Article 1, Sections 5, 6, 11, and 17 of the Michigan Constitution were violated, about which Plaintiff similarly did not provide any argument.

         Plaintiff's claim that he was wrongfully arrested fails as a matter of law because it is based solely on his argument that the arresting officers should have known he was innocent. “Arrest warrants in the hands of a police officer, unless facially invalid, are presumed valid, ” Fettes v. Hendershot, 375 Fed. App'x. 528, 532 (6th Cir. 2010), and Plaintiff does not challenge the facial validity of the warrant. Given that Plaintiff was held pursuant to a facially valid warrant[4] and a bond order issued after an arraignment and preliminary hearing, his detention, does not appear to be a constitutional violation. See Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 (1979); Thurmond v. Cty. of Wayne, 447 F. App'x 643, 648-49 (6th Cir. 2011).

         Plaintiff's claim that his rights were violated is based on his continued incarceration even after Defendant Zberkot and Detroit employees should have known he was not the person named in the warrant. In general, holding a person under a facially valid warrant does not constitute a constitutional violation, even if it turns out that the person was wrongfully arrested. Baker, 443 U.S. at 144 (finding that a three-day detention did not amount to a violation of due process). Nevertheless, “depending on what procedures the State affords defendants following arrest and prior to actual trial, ” “repeated protests of innocence will after the lapse of a certain amount of time deprive the accused of ‘liberty . . . without due process of law.' ” Id.

         The Supreme Court has not definitively resolved the question of how long such a mistaken-identity detention must be for it to implicate a constitutional due process right. See Flemister v. City of Detroit, 358 F. App'x 616, 620 (6th Cir. 2009). In the Sixth Circuit, such analysis appears to turn on the length of time an individual is detained, whether the detainee protested his or her innocence, and whether potentially exculpatory evidence was available at the time of arrest and detention. See Thurmond v. Cty. of Wayne, 447 F. App'x 643, 649 (6th Cir. 2011) (finding that a 35-day detention did not violate a plaintiff's constitutional rights where he never protested his innocence and deputies did not possess potentially exculpatory evidence); Flemister, 358 F. App'x at 617-18 (finding that a six-day detention did not violate a plaintiff's constitutional rights where he repeatedly protested and provided evidence of mistaken identity); Gray v. Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Dept., 150 F.3d 579, 582-83 (6th Cir. 1998) (concluding that a 41-day detention was sufficient to assert a claim where the plaintiff repeatedly protested and deputies possessed a photograph showing no resemblance to the suspect). In reaching its conclusion in Gray, the Sixth Circuit relied on two district court decisions involving detentions of 12 days and 30 days, respectively, which were found to be sufficient to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 150 F.3d at 582-83.

         a. Qualified Immunity

         A qualified-immunity defense bars individual liability where “a reasonable official in the defendant's position would not have understood his or her actions to violate a person's constitutional rights.” Gregory v. City of Louisville, 444 F.3d 725, 738 (6th Cir. 2006). Qualified immunity “ ‘gives ample room for mistaken judgments' by protecting ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the ...


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