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Ericksen v. United States

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

March 9, 2017




         This Federal Torts Claims Act (“FTCA”) action is the second case plaintiff Daniel Ericksen (“Daniel”) has brought arising out of his arrest after marijuana and drug paraphernalia were found in the trunk of his vehicle at the United States and Canadian border at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan. Now before the court is the government's motion to dismiss. Having carefully reviewed the written submissions, the court finds that the matter may be decided without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(f)(2). Based on the doctrine of issue preclusion and claim preclusion, and because routine searches and seizures at an international border are lawful simply because they occur at the border where there is no need for probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or a warrant, the government's motion to dismiss shall be granted.

         I. Background

         In deciding the government's motion to dismiss, the court has carefully considered the allegations in the complaint as well as the prior opinion of this court granting defendants' motion to dismiss in Daniel's prior Bivens suit, and the Sixth Circuit's decision affirming that order. D.E. v. John Doe I, 834 F.3d 723 (6th Cir. 2016).

         On June 22, 2012, Daniel was en route to a summer camp in Michigan when he missed his turn and inadvertently ended up at the international border crossing to Canada at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan. When Daniel presented at the primary inspection booth at the international border, a CBP agent searched his vehicle and discovered marijuana and drug paraphernalia in a backpack in his trunk. A canine also alerted to drugs. Daniel was arrested, and state authorities charged him with misdemeanor drug offenses of possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Daniel sought to suppress the evidence in his state criminal proceedings, and the state judge denied his motion. Daniel appealed the ruling, and the circuit court affirmed. Daniel ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and was sentenced to one month probation under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“HYTA”).

         In his first suit, brought under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Federal Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), Daniel alleged that the search of his vehicle and his arrest at the border crossing violated his Fourth Amendment rights. In the earlier lawsuit, in which Daniel was represented by his father, Michael Ericksen (“Michael”), defendants were four named Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officers and two unnamed defendants. In the earlier matter, the court found that the border search exception applied and thus, defendants did not violate Daniel's Fourth Amendment rights, and dismissed the suit. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. D.E., 834 F.3d at 727-28.

         In this second lawsuit brought under the FTCA, Daniel and his father, Michael, allege false arrest and imprisonment; Daniel for his arrest in June, 2012 at the international border crossing at the Blue Water Bridge, and Michael for his visit to the same international border crossing in November, 2012, when he attempted to secure documents related to Daniel's earlier search and arrest by CBP officers at the border. In this suit, Daniel also alleges battery by a CBP officer arising out of the same encounter he had with CBP officers on June 22, 2012. Defendant seeks dismissal for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         II. Rule 12(b)(6) Dismissal Standard

         Rule 12(b)(6) allows the Court to make an assessment as to whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. Under the Supreme Court's articulation of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554-56 (2007), the Court must construe the complaint in favor of the plaintiff, accept the allegations of the complaint as true, and determine whether plaintiff's factual allegations present plausible claims. “[N]aked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement” are insufficient to Astate a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, plaintiff's pleading for relief must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Ass'n of Cleveland Fire Fighters v. City of Cleveland, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555) (citations and quotations omitted). Even though the complaint need not contain “detailed” factual allegations, its “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true." Id. (citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555).

         III. Analysis

         A. Issue Preclusion Bars Daniel's Claims of False Arrest and False Imprisonment

         Daniel's claim of false arrest and imprisonment is barred by the doctrine of issue preclusion because this court previously found that Daniel's detention and arrest at the international border was lawful, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. Issue preclusion bars a party from relitigating an issue of law necessary to a judgment, which has been previously decided by a court of competent jurisdiction, even if the new case is based on a different cause of action. Rambacker v. C.I.R., 4 F.App'x 221, 223 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing United States v. Mendoza, 464 U.S. 154, 158-59 (1984)). Four criteria must be met for issue preclusion to apply: "(1) the identical issue was raised and actually litigated in a prior proceeding; (2) the determination of the issue was necessary to the outcome of the prior proceeding; (3) the prior proceeding resulted in a final judgment on the merits; and (4) the party against whom issue preclusion is sought had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior proceeding." Gen. Elect. Med. Sys. Europe v. Prometheus Health, 394 F.App'x 280, 283 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Aircraft Braking Sys. Corp. v. Local 856, Int'l Union, United Auto., Aerospace and Agric. Implement Workers, UAW, 97 F.3d 155, 161 (6th Cir. 1996)). In this case, all four criteria are easily met.

         In this FTCA suit, Daniel alleges that his detention by CBP constitutes false imprisonment and false arrest under Michigan law. Specifically, he claims that CBP lacked the authority to hold him longer than necessary to determine that he did not intend to cross the bridge into Canada, and that he was unlawfully detained when he was required to report to a primary officer prior to exiting the bridge, at the pre-primary area, at the primary inspection booth, in the secondary-inspection area, and in the station house.

         Under Michigan law, a “false arrest is an illegal or unjustified arrest, ” while false imprisonment is “an unlawful restraint on a person's liberty or freedom of movement.” Peterson Novelties, Inc. v. City of Berkley, 259 Mich.App. 1, 17-18 (2003). A false imprisonment claim “is broader, but includes a false arrest involving law enforcement.” Moore v. City of Detroit, 252 Mich.App. 384, 387 (2002). The elements of a false imprisonment claim are: (1) an act committed with the intention of confining another, (2) the act directly or indirectly results in such confinement, (3) the person confined is conscious of his confinement, and (4) the imprisonment was false - without the right or authority to confine. Id. at 387-88. To ...

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