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Lumbard v. City of Ann Arbor

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

February 7, 2018

LYNN LUMBARD, et al., Plaintiffs,


          STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs are residents of Ann Arbor affected by a city ordinance regulating residential drainage and sewage systems. They allege that the implementation and enforcement of the ordinance violates, inter alia, their rights under the Fifth Amendment. Before the Court is Ann Arbor's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). After reviewing the briefs, the Court finds that a hearing is unnecessary. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion.


         After bouts of heavy rainfall, Ann Arbor's sanitary-sewer system kept overflowing. ECF 6, PgID 150. To remedy the issue, Ann Arbor passed an ordinance requiring some citizens to connect their drainage systems to Ann Arbor's storm-sewer system instead of the sanitary-sewer system. Id. In some cases, this change required installation of sump pits, sump pumps, and related equipment. Id. Plaintiffs believed the ordinance violated their rights, so they filed lawsuits in Michigan courts alleging violations of Michigan's Takings Clause. ECF 6-5, 6-6, 6-7. Ann Arbor removed one of the cases to federal court. Yu v. City of Ann Arbor, Case No. 2:14-cv-11129, ECF 1. But the plaintiffs filed a motion to remand, which the Court granted. Id., ECF 7, 12. After the remand, the Michigan trial courts dismissed the lawsuits with prejudice; Plaintiffs then appealed. ECF 6-2. The Michigan Court of Appeals consolidated the appeals, heard the case, and affirmed the dismissals. Id. Plaintiffs then filed the present suit in federal court seeking relief under the federal Takings Clause.


         The Court may grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss if the complaint fails to allege facts "sufficient 'to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ' and to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Hensley Mfg. v. ProPride, Inc., 579 F.3d 603, 609 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). The Court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, presumes the truth of all well-pled factual assertions, and draws every reasonable inference in favor of the non-moving party. Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008). If "a cause of action fails as a matter of law, regardless of whether the plaintiff's factual allegations are true or not, " then the Court must dismiss. Winnett v. Caterpillar, Inc., 553 F.3d 1000, 1005 (6th Cir. 2009).


         Plaintiffs allege five "causes of action": (1) violations of the Fifth Amendment; (2) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims for violations of the Fifth Amendment and the "right to be free from mandatory work"; (3) injunctive relief; (4) declaratory relief; and (5) attorney's fees. ECF 1. The complaint confuses the important differences between substantive rights, causes of action, and remedies. Even forgiving that technical imprecision, however, Plaintiffs fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because their action is barred by res judicata. The Court will therefore dismiss the case.

         I. Res Judicata

         Generally, res judicata principles govern the relationship between separate lawsuits about the same subject matter. 18 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 4401 (3d ed. 2017). The concept governs two subtly different scenarios: (1) the litigation of matters that have been previously litigated and decided; and (2) the litigation of matters that have not been previously litigated but should have been raised in an earlier lawsuit. The first scenario is known as issue preclusion, the second is known as claim preclusion.[1] Id. at § 4402. Under the doctrines, if certain conditions are met, then a plaintiff is barred from litigating particular issues or claims. The principles serve the dual purpose of protecting litigants from the burden of relitigating issues and promoting judicial economy. Parklane Hosiery Co., Inc. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 326 (1979). For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the decision in Yu v. City of Ann Arbor bars litigation of the issues presented here. No. 331501, 2017 WL 1927846, at *1 (Mich. Ct. App. May 9, 2017).

         A. Applicability of Res Judicata

         As a preliminary matter, the Court finds that res judicata applies. Plaintiffs contend that, pursuant to Williamson Cty. Reg'l Planning Comm'n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985), they were required to litigate their Takings Clause claims in state court before proceeding in federal court. And because of that "requirement, " Plaintiffs contend that they properly proceeded in state court while preserving their federal claims in accord with England v. Louisiana State Bd. of Med. Examiners, 375 U.S. 411 (1964). Plaintiffs' argument is unpersuasive for several reasons.

         First, Plaintiffs overstate the exhaustion requirement. Exhaustion of Takings-Clause claims is not a mandatory jurisdictional requirement but rather a waivable defense. Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Dep't of Envtl. Prot., 560 U.S. 702, 729 (2010); Lilly Investments v. City of Rochester, 674 Fed.Appx. 523, 531 (6th Cir. 2017). So when Ann Arbor removed the original state case to federal court, Plaintiffs did not need to litigate in state court to exhaust their Takings Clause remedies.

         Second, Plaintiffs' "reservations of rights" is inoperative. Congress has ordered that state judicial proceedings shall have "full faith and credit in every court within the United States[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1738. And the Supreme Court has made clear that federal courts "are not free to disregard 28 U.S.C. § 1738 simply to guarantee that all takings plaintiffs can have their day in federal court." San Remo Hotel, L.P. v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, Cal., 545 U.S. 323, 338 (2005). Consequently, an England reservation does not grant a plaintiff a "second bite at the apple" when, as here, a plaintiff already sought state review of the same substantive issue. Id. 346. As Justice Thomas later clarified, San Remo Hotel "dooms" a plaintiff's ability to seek review of federal claims in ...

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