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Anjorin v. City of Detroit

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

May 24, 2017

CITY OF DETROIT, et. al., Defendants.


          Sean F. Cox U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff Stephen Anjorin (“Plaintiff”) has filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is proceeding without prepayment of the filing fee for civil actions under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Plaintiff names the following as defendants in this action: (1) the City of Detroit; (2) Detroit Police Chief James Craig; (3) Detroit Police Officer Morris Joseph; (4) Detroit Police Officer Sheila Homic; and (5) Boulevard & Trumbull Towing. Plaintiff's complaint stems from the towing and resulting damage to several of Plaintiff's vehicles. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in excess of $2 million as a result of Defendants' alleged conduct.

         Defendants City of Detroit, James Craig, and Boulevard & Trumbull have filed motion for summary judgment.[1] This matter is currently before the Court on both motions.[2] (Doc. # 25, Def.s' Br.; Doc. # 23, B&T Br.).

         Defendant Boulevard & Trumbull argues that Plaintiff's claim against it should be dismissed on three alternative grounds: (1) that Boulevard & Trumbull complied with Michigan law when it removed Plaintiff's vehicles at the direction of the Detroit Police Department; (2) that Plaintiff's gross negligence claim is barred by the signed release that Plaintiff signed waiving any potential claims for damages associated with the towing and storage of his vehicles; and (3) that the evidence establishes that Boulevard & Trumbull did not damage Plaintiff's vehicles.

         Defendants City of Detroit and James Craig seek dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint on various grounds, including: (1) Defendant Craig and the defendant officers are immune from tort liability; (2) Defendant Craig and the defendant officers did not engage in conduct which was the proximate cause of Plaintiff's injuries; (3) Plaintiff fails to make any particularized factual allegations implicating Defendant Craig; (4) Plaintiff fails to offer any evidence of constitutional violations; and (5) Plaintiff's municipal liability claim against the City of Detroit fails because Plaintiff has not established that any alleged deprivation occurred due to a policy, custom or practice.

         The Court heard oral argument as to the motions on May 11, 2017. For the reasons stated below, the Court shall GRANT Defendants' motions and dismiss this case.


         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff alleges that on September 29, 2014, at approximately 7 a.m., he was at his house located at 2440 West Euclid Street in Detroit, Michigan. (Doc. # 30, Am. Compl. at ¶ 10). Upon hearing noise downstairs, Plaintiff stepped outside of the house and saw two unnamed Detroit police officers (presumably Defendants Morris Joseph and Sheila Homic) and two tow trucks belonging to Defendant Boulevard & Trumbull Towing. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13).

         Plaintiff alleges that he was told by the Defendant officers that four of his vehicles were being towed because they were stolen property. (Id. at ¶ 15). Plaintiff further claims that upon request, he was able to provide Defendants with the title, registration, and insurance belonging to one of his vehicles (a 1998 Toyota Corolla). (Id. at ¶ 17). According to Plaintiff, the Toyota Corolla was subsequently released but the remaining three vehicles were towed. (Id. at ¶ 18). Plaintiff alleges that the 1998 Toyota was damaged.

         Defendants claim that the 2440 West Euclid property did not belong to Plaintiff and that Plaintiff was illegally squatting there at the time of the incident at issue. The 2440 West Euclid property was issued a Judgment of Foreclosure on March 30, 2012, which became final and unappealable on April 20, 2012. (Def.s' Br. at Pg ID 273). The property then vested to the Wayne County Treasurer and reverted back to the City of Detroit on February 7, 2013. (Def.s' Br. at Pg ID 274). The City of Detroit later Quit Claimed the property to the Detroit Land Bank Authority on November 20, 2014. (Def.s' Br. at Pg ID 275).

         On September 26, 2014, Defendants claim that the Seventh Precinct received complaints regarding abandoned vehicles/inoperable motor vehicles in the area of the 2440 West Euclid property. Defendants Joseph and Homic subsequently investigated several vehicles in the area. On September 30, 2014, Defendant Boulevard & Trumbull was called to perform towing services by the Detroit Police Department.[3] (Ex. 1 to B&T's Br. at ¶ 2). At the direction of the defendant officers, Boulevard & Trumbull impounded a 2008 Toyota Camry and a 1999 Mercedes Benz. (Ex. 1 to B&T's Br. at ¶¶ 5-6; Ex. B to Def.s' Br. at Pg ID 294-95). The Impounded Vehicle reports, dated September 30, 2014, indicate that the vehicles were impounded because they were parked on private property. (Id.).

         Plaintiff eventually retrieved his vehicles from Defendant Boulevard & Trumbull. Plaintiff paid the towing and storage fees incurred upon the 2008 Toyota Camry and the 1999 Mercedes, and signed a release discharging Boulevard & Trumbull from any cause of action or claims for damages associated with the towing and impounding of the vehicle in question. (Ex. 2 & 3 to B&T Br.). Plaintiff alleges that upon retrieving the vehicles, he discovered that the 1999 Mercedes was damaged and that the 2008 Toyota Camry no longer moved on drive. (Am. Compl. at 22, 24).

         Plaintiff subsequently went to the Tenth Precinct to launch a formal complaint and requested to speak to the supervisor. (Id. at ¶ 23). According to Plaintiff, he was advised that the vehicles were impounded “due to violation of Environmental laws.” (Id.).

         B. Evidence Presented

         In support of Plaintiff's version of the facts, he provides a sworn statement by John Olivier, Plaintiff's neighbor, stating that on an unspecified date in the Fall of 2014, Olivier witnessed “some police officers with the tow truck company at the Plaintiff's residence towing his vehicles out of his building to the street while [Olivier] was standing outside of [his] building.” (Doc. # 31 at Pg ID 350-51).

         Plaintiff also provides a document entitled, “Damage Claim Form, ” which is dated October 4, 2014. (Doc. # 28 at Pg ID 316). Defendant Boulevard & Trumbull's address is located on the upper lefthand side of the document. The document includes information regarding alleged loss/damage to Plaintiff's 1999 Mercedes. The document contains the following handwritten notes describing the loss/damage as follows: “right side mirror half broken left side hub cap missing.” (Id.). There is no indication as to whether Boulevard & Trumbull provided this document to Plaintiff. Nor is there any indication as to who filled the document out. Plaintiff additionally provides copies of the Detroit Police Department Impounded Vehicle report for the 1999 Mercedes and the 2008 Toyota Camry. (Doc. # 28 at Pg ID 317-18)

         In support of their motion, Defendants City of Detroit and James Craig provide, in relevant part: (1) Wayne County Deeds regarding the 2440 West Euclid property; (2) the Impounded Vehicle reports, which contain information regarding the impound of the 1999 Mercedes and the 2008 Toyota Camry; and (3) Detroit Police Department's Impounding of Vehicles Directive.

         Defendants Boulevard & Trumbull provides the following in support of its motion: (1) affidavit of Boulevard & Trumbull employee, Scott Kopke; (2) Towing Records of the 2008 Toyota Camry and the 1999 Mercedes; and (3) photos of the 2008 Toyota Camry and the 1999 Mercedes.

         C. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed the instant § 1983 action on March 11, 2016. (Doc. # 1). After the close of discovery, Defendant Boulevard & Trumbull and Defendants City of Detroit and James Craig filed motions for summary judgment, respectively. (Doc. # 23; Doc. # 25). Plaintiff filed responses opposing the motions. (Doc. # 28; Doc. # 31).

         On January 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed a “First Amended Complaint” (Doc. # 30) without first seeking leave from the Court. On February 15, 2016, Plaintiff was ordered to show cause why the Court should not strike the unauthorized amended complaint. (Doc. # 32). On March 28, 2017, the Court held an on-the-record status conference. At the conference, Defendants stated that they do not object to Plaintiff having filed an amended complaint in order to name the two Detroit police officers alleged in the complaint as Defendants. ...

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