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Mayberry v. City of Ann Arbor

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

February 7, 2018



          Denise Page Hood Chief Judge, United States District Court


         Plaintiff Rodney Mayberry filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on November 16, 2017, alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights when they unreasonably seized him, searched his vehicle, and ticketed him after falsely claiming that he was driving on a suspended license. Plaintiff amended his complaint on January 6, 2017 (the “Complaint”). [Dkt. No. 3] On March 16, 2107, Defendants filed a Rule 12(c) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted (“Motion to Dismiss”). [Dkt. No. 9] The Motion to Dismiss was fully briefed, and the Court held a hearing regarding the Motion to Dismiss on July 12, 2017.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.


         On November 16, 2014, Defendants Michael Fechik and Mark Kelso, both of whom were City of Ann Arbor (the “City”) police officers, made a traffic stop of Plaintiff. When Plaintiff asked Defendant Fechik why Plaintiff had been stopped, Defendant Fechik stated that Plaintiff was stopped because Plaintiff's vehicle had tinted windows. [Dkt. No. 3, ¶ 16] Defendant Kelso opened the back door of Plaintiff's vehicle, without notice or consent. Id. at ¶ 17. When Plaintiff inquired why Defendant Kelso did so, Defendant Kelso stated that he was making sure nobody was pointing a gun at him. Id. Defendant Kelso closed the back door after Plaintiff asked him a second time what Defendant Kelso was doing. Id. at ¶ 18. Defendant Kelso then asked Plaintiff to roll down his back window. Id. Plaintiff complied with Defendant Kelso's request and rolled down the back window. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff alleges the rolled down window enabled Defendant Kelso to look into Plaintiff's car. Id.

         At that point, Defendant Fechik asked Plaintiff's permission to search the vehicle, but Plaintiff declined to give that consent. Id. at ¶ 20. Defendant Fechik then told Plaintiff that Defendant Fechik did not care if there was weed in the car, as Defendant Fechik “was looking for weapons and hard drugs.” Id. at ¶ 21. Plaintiff again refused to give consent to search his vehicle. Id. at ¶ 22. Defendants Kelso and Fechik walked back to their police vehicle and when they returned to talk to Plaintiff, they advised Plaintiff that his driver license was suspended. Id. at ¶¶ 23-24. Defendant Fechik asked Plaintiff a third time for permission to search the car. Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiff denied consent to search his car for a third time and stated that he did nothing wrong because his license was not suspended. Id.

         After Plaintiff denied consent to search the vehicle for a third time, Defendant Fechik allegedly replied, “I tried to give you a break and you wouldn't cooperate” before ordering Plaintiff to get out of the vehicle. Id. at ¶¶ 26-27. Plaintiff got out of the vehicle, was handcuffed, and was seated on the ground. Id. at ¶¶ 28-29. Defendants Fechik and Kelso then began searching Plaintiff's vehicle based on Plaintiff's allegedly suspended license. Id. at ¶ 30. When a third City of Ann Arbor police officer (Defendant John Doe) arrived, Defendant Fechik advised Defendant Doe to continue searching the vehicle while Defendant Fechik wrote the ticket. Id. at ¶ 37. When Plaintiff asked why a tow truck was there to take his vehicle, Defendant Kelso allegedly stated to Plaintiff, “you want to be an asshole, I can be one to[o].” Id. at ¶ 38. After the search of Plaintiff's vehicle was complete (and no contraband was found) and Plaintiff's vehicle was towed, Defendant Fechik removed the handcuffs from Plaintiff, handed Plaintiff the ticket, and told Plaintiff that he was lucky he did not get arrested. Id. at ¶ 40.

         Plaintiff twice went to court regarding the ticket before the ticket was dismissed because there was no record of Plaintiff's license being suspended on November 16, 2014. Id. at ¶ 42. Plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the City, wherein he: (1) complained of Defendants Fechik's and Kelso's conduct at the time of his arrest; and (2) sought reimbursement for the costs and damages incurred in conjunction with getting his car out of towing and damages to his dashboard and other parts of his car. Id. at ¶ 43. Plaintiff was reimbursed for the tow cost, but he did not receive any reimbursement for damage to his vehicle or any information regarding discipline or actions taken regarding Defendants Fechik and Kelso. Id. at ¶ 44.

         Plaintiff's seven-count Complaint includes the following claims: (1) unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (2) malicious prosecution under the Fourth Amendment; (3) malicious prosecution under Michigan law; (4) unlawful detention in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress under Michigan law; (6) gross negligence under Michigan law; and (7) a Monell claim pursuant to Section 1983. The first six claims are against Defendants Fechik, Kelso, and Doe, and the Monell claim is against the City.


         A. Rule 12(c)

         In deciding a motion brought pursuant to Rule 12(c), the standard is the same as that used in evaluating a motion brought under Fed.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See, e.g., Stein v U.S. Bancorp, et. al, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18357, at *9 (E.D. Mich. February 24, 2011). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. The Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and review the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Eidson v. Tennessee Dep't of Children's Servs., 510 F.3d 631, 634 (6th Cir. 2007); Kottmyer v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684, 688 (6th Cir. 2006).

         As a general rule, to survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state sufficient “facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The complaint must demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that the defendant's conduct was unlawful. Id. at 556. Claims comprised of “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555. Rather, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         B. Qualified Immunity

         As recently stated by the Supreme Court:

The doctrine of qualified immunity shields officials from civil liability so long as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. A clearly established right is one that is sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he is doing violates that right. We do not require a case directly on point, but existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate. Put simply, qualified immunity protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.

Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (citations and quotation marks omitted).Qualified immunity is a two-step process. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001). First, the Court determines whether, based upon the applicable law, the facts viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff show that a constitutional violation has occurred.Second, the Court considers whether the violation involved a clearly established constitutional right of which a reasonable person would have known. Saucier v. Katz, supra.; Sample v. Bailey, 409 F.3d 689 (6th Cir. 2005). Only if the undisputed facts, or the evidence viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, fail to establish a prima facie violation of clear constitutional law can this court find that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. Turner v. Scott, 119 F.3d 425, 428 (6th Cir. 1997).

         Once a government official has raised the defense of qualified immunity, the plaintiff “bears the ultimate burden of proof to show that the individual officers are not entitled to qualified immunity.” Cockrell v. City of Cincinnati, 468 Fed.Appx. 491, 494 (6th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). A plaintiff also must establish that each individual defendant was “personally involved” in the specific constitutional violation. See Salehphour v. University of Tennessee, 159 F.3d 199, 206 (6th Cir. 1998); Bennett v. Schroeder, 99 Fed.Appx. 707, 712-13 (6th Cir. 2004) (unpublished) ...

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