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Cratty v. City of Wyandotte

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

February 21, 2018

Charles Patrick Cratty, Plaintiff,
City of Wyandotte, Defendant.


          Gershwin A. Drain, United States District Court Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. No. 20. Defendant alleges that Plaintiff has failed to show any policy or custom of malicious prosecution by the City of Wyandotte. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion.

         II. Factual Background

         This case arises from the stop and arrest of Plaintiff Charles Cratty by Wyandotte police officers. On January 1, 2008, officers Kenneth Groat, Daniel 0Torolski, Todd Scheitz, Michael Sadowski, and Detective Joseph Carr pulled Plaintiff over on his way home from the grocery store. Dkt. No. 28-5, pg. 28 (Pg. ID 669). Plaintiff alleges that the police officers told him “[w]e don't know what you're getting a ticket for, but you will be getting one.” Id. Plaintiff alleges another officer told him “[y]ou are going to jail. We're not sure for what yet, but you are going to jail.” Id. at pg. 36 (Pg. ID 670). At one point, the officers told Plaintiff that they stopped him for failure to signal before turning. Id. at pg. 28 (Pg. ID 669). During the stop, the officers searched Plaintiff's vehicle. Id. at pg. 29 (Pg. ID 670). The officers then confiscated Plaintiff's cell phone, his oscillating lights, and an invaluable prayer cloth. Id. at pg. 30 (Pg. ID 671). Then, the officers arrested Plaintiff and took him into custody. Id. They told Plaintiff that they were taking him into custody for failure to signal and for having oscillating lights. Id. At the police station, the officers charged Plaintiff with a violation of the safety belt law, failure to signal/observe, no proof of insurance, and driving while license suspended. Dkt No. 20-6, pg. 1, 4, 7, 10 (Pg. ID 251, 254, 25, 2607).

         Defendant dismissed the driving while license suspended charge on December 21, 2010. Id. at pg. 13 (Pg. ID 263). Defendant dismissed the remaining three charges against Plaintiff on February 11, 2014. Id. at pg. 3, 6, 9 (Pg. ID 253, 256, 259). Plaintiff claims that Defendant never returned his cell phone, oscillating lights, or prayer cloth to him.

         On February 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed the present action in this Court. Dkt. No. 2. Plaintiff brings a federal malicious prosecution claim, state and federal abuse of process claims, and three state law claims of conspiracy, conversion, and unjust enrichment. Dkt. No. 2, pg. 2-17 (Pg. ID 20-35). Plaintiff only brings suit regarding the three January 1, 2008 charges that Defendant dismissed on February 11, 2014. Dkt. No. 28, pg. 2 (Pg. ID 594). On October 9, 2017, Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. No. 20. Plaintiff opposed the Motion on October 27, 2017. Dkt. No. 28. In his response, Plaintiff noted that he had not gotten the opportunity to depose Wyandotte's Mayor. Id. at pg. 5 (Pg. ID 597). Plaintiff argued that deposition of the Mayor would support a finding of a policy or custom of constitutional rights violations. See Id. Defendant replied to Plaintiff's response on November 10, 2017. Dkt. No. 32. On January 3, 2018, this Court extended the discovery deadline to allow Plaintiff to depose the City of Wyandotte's Mayor, Joseph Peterson. Dkt. No. 34. This Court also allowed supplemental briefing by both parties regarding Mayor Peterson's deposition. Id. On January 10, 2018, Plaintiff deposed Mayor Peterson. Dkt. No. 38-3. Plaintiff filed his supplemental brief on February 1, 2018. Dkt. No. 38. Defendant filed its supplemental brief on February 8, 2018. Dkt. No. 39. Defendant argued that Plaintiff still failed to show a policy or custom of constitutional rights violations by Defendant. Id.

         III. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) governs summary judgment. The Rule states, “summary judgment shall be granted if ‘there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'” Cehrs v. Ne. Ohio Alzheimer's Research Ctr., 155 F.3d 775, 779 (6th Cir. 1998). “All factual inferences ‘must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.'” Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus., Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). There is a genuine issue of material fact “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Ultimately, the court evaluates “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         IV. Discussion

         Federal Claims

         Malicious Prosecution

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges a federal malicious prosecution claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against a municipality. Dkt. No. 2, pg 2 (Pg. ID 20).

         To prevail in a § 1983 claim against a municipality, one must demonstrate: (1) the deprivation of a constitutional right; and (2) that the defendant (municipality) is liable for the violation. Ellis ex rel. Pendergrass v. Cleveland Mun. Sch. Dist., 455 F.3d 690, 700 (6th Cir. 2006).

         1. Deprivation of a Constitutional Right

         A federal malicious prosecution claim requires a plaintiff to prove four elements. Plaintiff must show that: (1) “a criminal prosecution was initiated against the plaintiff and that the defendant ma[d]e, influence[d], or participate[d] in the decision to prosecute;” (2) “a lack of probable cause for the criminal prosecution”; (3) “as a consequence of a legal proceeding, the plaintiff suffered a deprivation of liberty”; and (4) “the criminal proceeding must have been resolved in the plaintiff's favor.” Skyes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 308-09 (6th Cir. 2010).

         Here, the police officers that arrested Plaintiff on January 1, 2008, initiated a criminal prosecution against Plaintiff. However, the record does not show that there was a lack of probable cause. Plaintiff contends that there was no probable cause. However, a magistrate Judge issued an arrest warrant for Plaintiff on January 3, 2008, stating that there was probable cause. Dkt. No. 20-8, pg. 1 (Pg. ID 266). Plaintiff suffered a deprivation of liberty because he was arrested and spent time in jail. Dkt. No. 28-5, pg. 31 (Pg. ID 672). The criminal proceeding was resolved in Plaintiff's favor because Defendant dismissed all of the January 1, 2008 charges against Plaintiff. Most of the elements of a malicious prosecution claim are met in this case. However, the record does not support a lack of probable cause. In fact, the record supports a finding that there was probable cause. Therefore, the first prong of a § 1983 claim, showing a constitutional deprivation, has not been met in this case.

         2. Defendant's Liability for the Violation

         Even if Plaintiff can meet the above requirements of prong one, Plaintiff does not meet the requirements of the second prong of a § 1983 claim against a municipality. Therefore, Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim still fails. The second prong of a § 1983 claim requires the plaintiff to show that Defendant is liable for the constitutional violation. To do this, Plaintiff “must demonstrate that the alleged federal violation occurred because of a municipal policy or custom.” Burgess v. Fischer, 735 F.3d 462, 478 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). Plaintiff must show one of the following to prove this claim:

(1) the existence of an illegal official policy or legislative enactment;
(2) that an official with final decision making authority ratified illegal actions;
(3) the existence of a policy of inadequate training or supervision; or
(4) the existence of a custom of tolerance or acquiescence of federal rights violations.

Burgess, 735 F.3d at 478 (citing Thomas v. City of Chattanooga, 398 F.3d 426, 429 (6th Cir. 2005) (emphasis added)). “A municipality ‘may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents.'” Id. (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 694).

         Plaintiff does not specify which element of the Burgess test he believes precludes summary judgment. Rather, Plaintiff states that his “[c]omplaint illustrates the Defendant's illegal municipal policy, practice and/or custom.” Dkt. No. 28, pg. 2 (Pg. ID 594). Therefore, the Court will consider each element.

         A. Element One

         Element one requires proof of an illegal official policy or legislative enactment. Nowhere in the record does Plaintiff specifically allege or provide documentation of an official illegal policy. Nor do any documents in the record show that Defendant had an official illegal policy or legislative ...

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