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Hill v. City of Detroit

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

April 18, 2017




         Mother and son, Latoya Hill and Charlie Dontrez Hill, brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action and related state law claims in Wayne County Circuit Court, arising out of Mr. Hill's three-day detention, and 45-day placement on a tether as a result of his arrest for assault with intent to commit murder and other crimes. Defendants are the City of Detroit, the Detroit Police Department, Detective Lawrence Mitchell, and unknown police officers. The named defendants removed the action here based on federal question jurisdiction. Now before the court is a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by all of the named defendants. Oral argument had been scheduled in this matter, but upon review of the written submissions, the court determines that a hearing is not needed pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion will be granted.

         A. Factual Background

         Because the court is addressing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the facts summarized here are those set forth in the Complaint. On a dark and rainy evening on July 31, 2016 at about 7:30 p.m., Douglas Martin was near a McDonald's on Jefferson in Detroit, when he was approached by a young black male who threatened to shoot him. When Martin turned and ran, he was shot once in the shoulder. On August 1, 2016, Martin gave a statement to the police describing his assailant as a black male, in his late twenties, thin, approximately 6'3” to 6'4”, with a dark complexion, a mustache, and armed with a dark revolver. In his statement, Martin stated that he may have seen the shooter before at the store on Mack and Rohns, known as the Blue Light Liquor Store.

         Two days after the shooting, on August 2, 2016, Martin identified Mr. Hill from a photo line-up. On August 3, 2016, Mr. Hill was arrested by Officer Kristopher Hernden. The state charged Mr. Hill with assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, carrying a concealed weapon, and felony firearm. He spent three days in jail and 45-days on a tether.

         At the time of the shooting, Mr. Hill used a cane to walk because of knee surgery he had undergone in March, 2016. On September 8, 2016, Mr. Hill's investigator gave the prosecutor exculpatory documents. On September 9, 2016, the date of the preliminary investigation, Mr. Hill's investigator gave defendant Detroit Police Officer Lawrence Mitchell exculpatory documents showing he could not be the shooter including: (1) surveillance video from McDonald's showing that the shooter did not use a cane, (2) surveillance video from the Blue Light Liquor Store showing that Mr. Hill was in the store at around 8:34 p.m. on the date of the shooting while using a cane, and (3) a witness' affidavit stating that he saw Mr. Hill at about 8:45 p.m. on the day of the shooting using a cane as Mr. Hill headed back to his apartment. Mr. Hill claims that he sought to have the criminal charges against him dismissed based on the exculpatory evidence, but the prosecution refused to do so and proceeded with the preliminary examination.

         At the preliminary examination on September 9, 2016, Martin testified but was unable to identify Mr. Hill as the person who shot him, admitting that Mr. Hill was considerably taller than him, standing at 6' 6” tall, while his assailant was only slightly taller than him. Martin admitted that he had encountered Mr. Hill at a local liquor store previously, but at the time of the shooting, he did not tell the police that he recognized his assailant. Martin admitted that he may have picked out Mr. Hill in the photo lineup because he recognized him from other encounters, not necessarily because he was his assailant. He also admitted that it was dark and rainy on the night he was shot, and he was not sure of the identity of his shooter. Based on Martin's inability to positively identify Mr. Hill, the court dismissed the charges for insufficient evidence and ordered Mr. Hill's tether to be removed.

         In addition to plaintiffs' § 1983 claim for alleged violations of their Fourth Amendment rights, plaintiffs also plead related state law claims of violations of state constitutional law, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and gross negligence. The court discusses the federal civil rights claims below, and determining that plaintiffs have failed to state any federal claim, remands the related state law claims to state court.

         B. Standard of Law

         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 “‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557, 570). 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.'” D'Ambrosio v. Marino, 747 F.3d 378, 383 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). 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.'” New Albany Tractor, Inc. v. Louisville Tractor, Inc., 650 F.3d 1046, 1051 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         C. Discussion

         1. Latonya Hill

         Latonya Hill seeks to recover under § 1983 on the basis that she is Mr. Hill's mother and incurred legal and investigative fees on his behalf and suffered emotional distress because of his arrest, detention, and imposition of a tether. Latonya Hill is not a proper plaintiff under § 1983. The Sixth Circuit has held:

In the Sixth Circuit, a section 1983 cause of action is entirely personal to the direct victim of the alleged constitutional tort. Accordingly, only the purported victim, or his estate's representative(s), may prosecute a section 1983 claim; conversely, no cause of action may lie under section 1983 for emotional distress, loss of a loved one, or any other ...

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