United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ROBERT P. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
LORI A. BRIGGS, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S 12(C)
MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS [ECF NO. 35]
V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
Robert P. Thomas (“Plaintiff”) filed this lawsuit
against Defendants Lori A. Briggs (“Defendant
Briggs”) and Melissa Borden (“Defendant
Borden”) (collectively “Defendants”)
stemming from the alleged unlawful seizure and possession of
Plaintiff's two dogs. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 3, 4.)
Plaintiff filed his complaint on January 20, 2015, alleging
Defendants violated his civil rights under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
state law claims for conversion and replevin. (Id.)
before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for judgment on
the pleadings filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(c). (ECF No. 35.) For the reasons that follow,
the Court denies Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the
dispute surrounds the ownership of two dogs. Plaintiff
alleges that he is the owner of Swimmer and her offspring,
Katrina. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 10.) On October 8, 2014, Defendant
Briggs, a Detroit police officer employed by the Evidence
Technician Unit, captured Swimmer and Katrina by
“luring them from [the] property where they had a right
to be.” (Id. ¶¶ 11, 16.) Defendant
Briggs then transported the dogs to Defendant Borden, the
owner of an animal rescue, rehabilitation, and adoption
facility located in Newport, Michigan. (Id.
¶¶ 14, 28.) Defendant Borden brought the dogs to
her facility, the Devoted Barn, a nonprofit shelter located
in Monroe County, Michigan. (Id. ¶¶ 28,
alleges Defendant Briggs had no authority to seize his dogs
from his property. Plaintiff's complaint states Defendant
Briggs is not affiliated with the Detroit Animal Control
Center and did not seize the dogs in connection with any case
in her capacity as a police officer. (Id.
further alleges that Defendant Borden has conspired with
Defendant Briggs over the seizure of his dogs. (Id.
¶ 72.) As of the filing of the complaint, Defendant
Borden has continued to exercise dominion over
Plaintiff's dogs. (Id. ¶ 36.) On September
6, 2015, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and in
the alternative, a motion for a protective order and/or
security for costs and fees. (ECF No. 17.) This Court denied
Defendants' motion on September 28, 2016. (ECF No. 24.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(c) is subject to the same standards of
review as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Grindstaff v. Green, 133 F.3d 416, 421 (6th Cir.
1998). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests
the legal sufficiency of the pleading. RMI Titanium Co.
v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th
Cir. 1996). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a
pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” To survive a motion to dismiss, a pleading
need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ”
but it must contain more than “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action ___” Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A pleading
does not “suffice if it tenders ‘naked
assertions' devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
Supreme Court provided in Iqbal and
Twombly, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a
[pleading] must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to ‘state a claim of relief that is plausible
on its face.' ” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial
plausibility when [it contains] factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that [a party] is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility
standard “does not impose a probability requirement at
the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough facts to raise
a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence
of illegal [conduct].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
assessing a “plausible” claim, the district court
must accept all of the factual allegations as true.
Ziegler v. IBP Hog Mkt., Inc., 249 F.3d 509, 512
(6th Cir. 2001). Even so, “the pleading must contain
more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely
creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of
action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570, 127
S.Ct. at 1965. Therefore, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965).
APPLICABLE LAW & ANALYSIS
argues that Defendants were acting under color of state law
when they seized Plaintiff's two dogs in violation of the
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment. (ECF No. 35 at Pg ID 458.)
Plaintiff alleges Defendant Briggs was acting under the color
of state law pursuant to her authority as a Detroit police
officer. (Id. at Pg ID 460.) Additionally, Plaintiff
contends that Defendant Borden, although a private actor, was
acting under the color of state law when she “willfully
participate[d] in joint action with” Defendant Briggs
and took unlawful possession of Plaintiff's dogs.
(Id. at Pg ID 458-59.) Plaintiff argues he is
entitled to judgment pursuant to Rule 12(c) because