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LLC v. City of Southfield

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

June 17, 2019

ORON 2015 LLC, Plaintiff,


          Hon. Mark A. Goldsmith, Judge

         In this action, Plaintiff Oron 2015, LLC challenges the Defendant City of Southfield's (the “City”) inspection requirements for residential real property in Southfield, which it says permit warrantless searches and penalize any property owner who refuses inspection.[1] The City has filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) (Dkt. 19), and Oron 2015 has filed a motion to certify a class (Dkt. 17). The motions have been fully briefed. Because oral argument will not aid the decisional process, the motions will be decided based on the parties' briefing. See E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(2); Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants in part and denies in part the City's motion to dismiss and denies Oron 2015's motion to certify a class.

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the complaint, the City of Southfield has adopted the International Property Maintenance Code (“IPMC”), which authorizes the City's code official to enter any premises without a warrant, upon reasonable cause to perform an inspection of the property. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 7; IPMC, Section 104.3. Further, Section 8.509 of the Code of the City of Southfield (the “City Code”) provides that city inspectors may enter property without a warrant:

The owner shall schedule with the department the date and time of the inspection; and the department shall notify the owner of the fees that must be paid before the inspection. The owner shall be responsible for notifying each tenant or occupant of the rental dwelling of the date and time of the inspection. The owner or agent is required to provide the code official with access to the rental dwelling and accompany the code official during the performance of all inspections and in the event that the tenant or occupant is not present, the owner or agent must provide access to the inspector by unlocking the door of the tenant or occupant's dwelling unit, verifying that no occupant is present and securing the dwelling unit after the inspection is completed.

Id. ¶ 8.

         Oron 2015 alleges that Section 8.509 of the City Code and Section 104.3 of the IPMC (together, the “Inspection Ordinances”) make inspections of rental and commercial property in Southfield mandatory and make refusing these inspections a punishable offense. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10, 12. An owner of real property who does not permit the City to inspect the property is denied a certificate of compliance and cannot lawfully rent or occupy their property. Id. ¶ 14. Oron 2015 further alleges that the owner may also face civil infractions or have liens placed upon the property. Id. ¶¶ 15-16.

         Oron 2015 owned property in Southfield and was forced to pay the City $340 on August 11, 2016, pursuant to the Inspection Ordinances. Id. ¶¶ 20-22. Had Oron 2015 refused to pay and allow the warrantless search, it claims that it would have been denied the right to rent, use, or occupy its property. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. Oron 2015 argues that the Inspection Ordinances are unconstitutional and asserts the following claims against the City: (i) violation of due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; (ii) violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches; and (iii) a state-law claim for unjust enrichment/assumpsit.[2] It seeks injunctive, declaratory, and monetary relief on behalf of a class of persons who paid registration or inspection fees to the City under the Inspection Ordinances.

         The City seeks to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Oron 2015 lacks standing to bring this suit and has failed to state a claim for unjust enrichment/assumpsit. Oron 2015 seeks to certify a class.


         A. Standard of Review

          The City moved under Federal Rule 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings. Any party may move for the entry of a judgment after the pleadings are closed, but early enough not to delay trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Courts apply the same analysis to motions for a judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) as is applied to applications for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Warrior Sports, Inc. v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 623 F.3d 281, 284 (6th Cir. 2010). “For purposes of a motion for judgment on the pleadings, all well-pleaded material allegations of the pleadings of the opposing party must be taken as true, and the motion may be granted only if the moving party is nevertheless clearly entitled to judgment.” JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget, 510 F.3d 577, 581 (6th Cir. 2007). However, a court need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. Id. at 581-582.

         When evaluating a motion for a judgment on the pleadings, a court considers the complaint, the answer, and any written instrument attached as exhibits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A court should also consider any undisputed facts. Stafford v. Jewelers Mut. Ins. Co., 554 Fed.Appx. 360, 369-370 (6th Cir. 2014) (taking judicial notice of undisputed facts in documents considered by district court on ruling on 12(c) motion); see also Knutson v. City of Fargo, 600 F.3d 992, 999-1000 (8th Cir. 2010) (holding, on review of 12(c) dismissal, that district court could take judicial notice of a publicly available state-court argument, which involved a concession by the appellant).

         The City also challenges Oron 2015's standing to bring the case. “[A] Rule 12(b)(1) motion is the proper vehicle for considering whether subject matter jurisdiction exists in a particular case[.]” Ogle v. Church of God, 153 Fed.Appx. 371, 374-375 (6th Cir. 2005) (finding that the district court “erred by converting the motion to a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings because the Rule 12(c) motion is a decision on the merits that cannot be decided without first determining whether subject matter jurisdiction is proper, regardless of whether the court used the factual record to resolve that threshold inquiry”) (citing Ohio v. Nat'l Life Ins. Co. v. United States, 922 F.2d 320, 325 (6th Cir. 1990)). “When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion attacks the factual basis for jurisdiction . . . the district court has broad discretion over what evidence to consider and may look outside the pleadings to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists.” Adkisson v. Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., 790 F.3d 641, 647 (6th Cir. 2015).

         B. ...

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