United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
NILI 2011, LLC; EETBL, LLC, and Investment Realty Services, LLC D/B/A SBYC Garner, LLC Plaintiffs,
The City of Warren, Defendant.
Steven Whalen, United States Magistrate Judge
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, United States District Court Judge
a class action against the City of Warren (hereinafter
“Defendant” or “the City”).
Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief based on
the Defendant's alleged violations of due process and the
Fourth Amendment. Currently before the Court is
Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Class . For the reasons
stated below, the Court will GRANT Plaintiffs' Motion IN
are three lead Plaintiffs: NILI 2011, LLC (hereinafter
“NILI”); EETBL, LLC (hereinafter
“EETBL”); and Investment Realty Services, LLC
doing business as SBYC Garner, LLC (hereinafter
“SBYC”). Dkt. No. 1, p. 2 (Pg. ID 2). NILI,
EETBL, and SBYC are each Michigan limited liability companies
with registered offices in Wayne County. Id. The
Defendant is the City of Warren, located in Macomb County,
Michigan. Id. The Plaintiffs each own rental
property in the City of Warren Id., pp. 13, 14 and
17 (Pg. ID 13, 14, and 17).
Home Rule City Act permits municipal entities like the City
of Warren to adopt laws and rules for building maintenance.
Id., p. 4 (Pg. ID 4); Mich. Comp. Laws §
117.3(k). According to the Plaintiffs, the City adopted the
international property maintenance code (the
“IPMC”) pursuant to the Home Rule City Act.
Id. The IPMC governs the regulation of rental
property, inter alia. Id., p. 5 (Pg. ID 5).
An owner of rental property cannot obtain a certificate of
compliance from the City of Warren until the owner passes
IPMC inspection. Id. If the City of Warren does not
issue a certificate of compliance after an inspection, the
City issues a property inspection report that requires the
owner to correct violations of the IPMC and other City codes.
IPMC guidelines emphasize the importance of due process and
equal protection and contain its own set of procedural
guidelines that the City must comply with. Id., p.
6. For example, the IPMC establishes procedure for
prosecuting violations of its code and appealing decisions
made by enforcement officers. Id., p. 8. However,
according to the Plaintiffs, the City of Warren did not adopt
the language in the IPMC pertaining to appeals. Plaintiffs
also allege that the City of Warren fails to properly issue
allege that omitting the appellate procedures mentioned in
the IPMC guidelines is unconstitutional and illegal.
Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief from the
City of Warren based on: (1) violations of due process for
failure to provide proper notice and meaningful opportunity
to be heard; (2) violations of due process due to vague and
uncertain provisions on the IPMC; (3) violations of the
Fourth Amendment due to warrantless searches of rental
properties; and (4) violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
district court has broad discretion to decide whether to
certify a class and [the Sixth Circuit] reviews class
certification for an abuse of discretion. A district
court's decision to certify a class is subject to very
limited review and will be reversed only if a strong showing
is made that the district court clearly abused its
discretion. An abuse of discretion occurs if the district
court relies on clearly erroneous findings of fact, applies
the wrong legal standard, misapplies the correct legal
standard when reaching a conclusion, or makes a clear error
of judgment.” Young v. Nationwide Mut. Ins.
Co., 693 F.3d 532, 536 (6th Cir. 2012) (internal
citations and quotations omitted).
trial court has broad discretion in deciding whether to
certify a class, but that discretion must be exercised within
the framework of Rule 23.” In re Am. Med. Sys.,
Inc., 75 F.3d 1069, 1079 (6th Cir. 1996). First, the
Court must determine whether the class is sufficiently
definite. Young, 693 F.3d 532, 537-38. Next, a class
must satisfy Rule 23. Id.
a court may certify a class pursuant to Rule 23, the class
definition must be sufficiently definite so that it is
administratively feasible for the court to determine whether
a particular individual is a member of the proposed
class.” Id. (citing 5 James W. Moore et al.,
Moore's Federal Practice § 23.21
(Matthew Bender 3d ed. 1997) (“Although the text of
Rule 23(a) is silent on the matter, a class must not only
exist, the class must be susceptible of precise definition.
There can be no class action if the proposed class is
‘amorphous' or ‘imprecise.' ”).
“For a class to be sufficiently defined, the court must
be able to resolve the question of whether class members are
included or excluded from the class by reference to objective
criteria. In some circumstances, a reference to damages or
injuries caused by particular wrongful actions taken by the
defendants will be sufficiently objective criterion for
proper inclusion in a class definition. Similarly, a
reference to fixed, geographic boundaries will generally be
sufficiently objective for proper inclusion in a class
alleges that the proposed class definitions are
“inaccurate and overbroad” because they do not
“adequately define who would be class members and such
class members are not easily ascertainable.” Dkt. No.
35, p. 17 (Pg. ID 319). The Court disagrees. In this case,
Plaintiffs propose three classes:
(1) All persons and entities that currently own or at one
time owned any parcel of real property located within the
City of Warren for the purpose of renting or leasing a
residential structure or multiple family unit on that
property who or which has been issued a civil infraction for
failing to obtain a certificate of compliance and
subsequently paid them, stemming from an inspection under the
IPMC and the City Code, at any time since September 28, 2009
and through the date of final judgment, or such longer amount
of time as may be allowed by law. (hereinafter “Class
(2) All persons and entities that currently own or at one
time owned any parcel of real property in the City of Warren
for the purpose of renting or leasing a residential structure
or multiple family unit on that property, who or which have
made repairs pursuant to a City of Warren International
Property Maintenance Code of 2009 City Certification
Inspection Report or other deficiency notice issued by the
City of Warren without being provided with notice of the
violation or their ability to appeal such determination to an
impartial Board of Appeals. (hereinafter “Class
(3) All persons and entities who paid rental registration and
inspection fees to the City of Warren pursuant to the
ordinance permitting searches without a warrant. (hereinafter
Dkt. No. 36, pp. 2-3 (Pg. ID 416-17).
class adequately defines the members that should comprise the
group. For Class One and Class Two, the Plaintiffs include
sufficient objective information to determine which members
should be included in the class. For example, Plaintiffs
include the geographic boundaries where the properties must
be located, the type of infraction issued, the specific type
of residential structure, and the relevant time period. These
specifics are precise enough for the Court to determine who
belongs in the classes.
Three is written more broadly, but is still sufficiently
definite. See Young, 693 F.3d 532, 538 (upholding
certification of class of persons “who were charged
local government taxes on their payment of premiums which
were either not owed, or were at rates higher than
permitted.”). Class Three includes the type of fee,
geographic boundary, the type of property and the
circumstances leading up to issuance of the fee. Although
Class Three is more general, it still provides sufficient
detail to identify class members without speculation. Based
on the multiple categories of objective criteria, which
include a fixed geographical boundary and reference to
injuries caused by a specific wrong, each class is
sufficiently definite to support a class action suit.
with its objection that the class is overbroad, the Defendant
argues that the class definition is improper because a
six-year statute of limitations does not apply. According to
the Defendant, the proposed class should date back three