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Ludi v. Maylone

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

April 25, 2017

Musleh Ludi and Nargis Sultana, Plaintiffs,
v.
Theresa Maylone and Jerome Wren. Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [2]

          Nancy G. Edmunds United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss. (Docket 2.) Plaintiffs bring claims for violation of their civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983, and the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs also brought state law claims for common law and statutory conversion. This action was removed from state court and the Court remanded Plaintiffs' state law claims. (Dkt. 4.) Plaintiffs filed a response to Defendant's motion and Defendant filed a reply. (Dkts. 7, 8.) In their response, Plaintiffs “abandoned” their procedural due process claims. (Pls.' Resp. 10, dkt. 7.) Thus, the only issues remaining in the current motion are Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim and Defendants' claim of qualified immunity. The Court heard Defendants' motion on April 12, 2017.

         I. FACTS

         The actions at issue in this case arose during the investigation of a store known as Surma Grocery for alleged bridge card fraud in violation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (Compl. ¶ 11; Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, Ex. A, dkt. 2-2.) Plaintiffs Musleh Ludi and Nargis Sultana are a married couple. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Although neither Plaintiff was ever involved in the operation of Surma Grocery and Plaintiff Musleh Ludi is employed full time working for a hotel, Plaintiff Ludi's brothers, Mukim Ludi and Mahtab Ludi, were involved in the operation of the grocerystore. (Compl. ¶¶ 9, 10, 16.)

         On September 23, 2014, the Michigan State Police executed a search warrant at 12237 Gallagher, Detroit, Michigan 48212 (the “Gallagher home”), in connection with the investigation of Surma Grocery, Mukim Ludi and others involved in operating the grocery store. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 12.) The Gallagher home is owned by Plaintiff Musleh Ludi's nephew and at the time the warrant was executed, Plaintiffs were renting a portion of the Gallagher home and resided there. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 7.) Other relatives of Plaintiffs resided there as well, including Mukim Ludi. (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 9.) Neither Plaintiff was the subject of the investigation for which the search warrant was issued. (Compl. ¶ 17.)

         Defendants Theresa Maylone and Jerome Wren are employed by the Michigan State Police Department and were involved in executing the search warrant at the Gallagher property. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 12.) When the search took place, both Plaintiffs and Mukim Ludi were present at the Gallagher home. (Compl. ¶ 13.) Plaintiffs allege that during the search, Defendants wrongfully seized property belonging to Plaintiffs that was located in rooms that “Defendants knew were rooms used/rented by Plaintiffs.” (Compl. ¶ 18.) This property included currency of approximately $16, 000 to $17, 000, and other property owned by Plaintiffs. (Compl. ¶¶ 18, 19.) Plaintiffs allege that despite their protests, Defendants have not returned their property. (Compl. ¶ 20.)

         Plaintiffs allege that at all relevant times, Defendants knew that Plaintiffs had never been involved in any way with the operation of Surma Grocery. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants were advised by Plaintiff Ludi that certain rooms in the house were used and occupied by Plaintiffs, and that Defendant Maylone interviewed Plaintiff Ludi during the execution of the search warrant, and Plaintiff Ludi advised her that he had nothing to do with Surma Grocery and was not affiliated with it in any way. (Compl. ¶¶ 14, 15.) Plaintiffs allege that during this search, “Defendants wrongfully seized property belonging to the Plaintiffs located in rooms that the Defendants knew were rooms used/rented by Plaintiffs (and so designated by the Defendants on their tabulation form), specifically the rooms designated in the evidence tabulation sheet as rooms ‘B' and ‘G.'”[1](Compl. ¶ 18.) Plaintiffs ultimately allege that “there was nothing in the search warrant or warrants executed at the Gallagher property that authorized the Defendants to take property belonging to the Plaintiffs, who were not mentioned in the search warrant and the search warrant affidavits and were not the subject of the criminal investigation.” (Compl. ¶ 21.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Plaintiffs bring this motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), alleging the "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Sixth Circuit noted that under the United States Supreme Court's heightened pleading standard laid out in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), “a complaint only survives a motion to dismiss if it contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Estate of Barney v. PNC Bank, Nat'l Ass'n, 714 F.3d 920, 924 (6th Cir. 2013) (internal quotations and citations omitted). The court in Estate of Barney goes on to state that under Iqbal, “[a] claim is plausible when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). Furthermore, while the "plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Estate of Barney, 714 F.3d at 924 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). If the plaintiffs do "not nudge[ ] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Finally, the Court must keep in mind that “on a motion to dismiss, courts are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. at 555 (citation omitted).

         “[D]ocuments attached to the pleadings become part of the pleadings and may be considered on a motion to dismiss.” Commercial Money Ctr., Inc. v. Ill. Union Ins. Co., 508 F.3d 327, 335 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c)). "A court may consider matters of public record in deciding a motion to dismiss without converting the motion to one for summary judgment.” Id. at 336. "In addition, when a document is referred to in the pleadings and is integral to the claims, it may be considered without converting a motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment." Id. at 335-36; see also Greenberg v. Life Ins. Co. of Va., 177 F.3d 507, 514 (6th Cir.1999)(documents not attached to the pleadings may still be considered part of the pleadings when the “document is referred to in the complaint and is central to the plaintiff's claim”) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Whether Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment Claim Fails As A Matter Of Law

         Defendants argue that because the seizure of the currency was authorized by a valid judicial warrant, Plaintiffs cannot claim a Fourth Amendment violation. Defendants point out that Plaintiffs do not claim that the warrant was not supported by probable cause. Instead, Plaintiffs appear to argue that the currency was not subject to seizure because Plaintiffs were not a subject of the investigation or warrant, the Defendants knew the currency belonged to Plaintiffs, and the currency was located in rooms Defendants knew were “used/rented” by Plaintiffs. (Compl. ¶¶ 14, 15, 18, 19, 37, 40.)

         The Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. “In general, like seizures of the person, seizures of personal property require probable cause.” Farm Labor Org. Comm. v. Ohio State Highway Patrol, 308 F.3d 523, 543 (6th Cir. 2002). “In the ordinary case, the Court has viewed a seizure of personal property as per se unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment unless it is accomplished pursuant to a judicial ...


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