United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
DISMISS OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
civil rights actions, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, arises from a May 8, 2013 fire at a restaurant and pool
hall in Westland, Michigan, and the subsequent investigation
of the fire by Defendant Richard Sanchez, a Michigan State
Police Department employee (“Lieutenant
Sanchez”). In their Complaint, filed July 13, 2018,
Plaintiffs assert that Lieutenant Sanchez made material
misstatements and omissions in an affidavit he submitted in
support of search warrants for their homes. Plaintiffs claim
that this violated their Fourth Amendment rights.
matter is presently before the Court on Lieutenant
Sanchez's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary
judgment under Rule 56. (ECF No. 7.) The motion has been
fully briefed. (ECF Nos. 13, 17.) Finding the facts and legal
issues sufficiently presented in the parties' briefs, the
Court is dispensing with oral argument pursuant to Eastern
District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f). For the following
reasons, the Court is denying Lieutenant Sanchez's
Applicable Standard of Review
indicated, Lieutenant Sanchez seeks dismissal of
Plaintiffs' claim against him pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)
or, alternatively, Rule 56. Lieutenant Sanchez attaches
matters outside the Complaint to his motion, including an
affidavit he made in support of the motion, his affidavit in
support of the search warrants, and the search warrants.
Plaintiffs argue in response that Defendant's request for
summary judgment is premature as no discovery has been taken.
In fact, the Court has yet to conduct an initial scheduling
conference in this case and no scheduling order has been
entered. Plaintiff's counsel has submitted an affidavit
in compliance with Rule 56(d) detailing the evidence he
expects to uncover during discovery, which he believes is
needed to properly respond to a Rule 56 motion.
for summary judgment filed before the close of discovery are
often denied as premature in this Circuit. CLT Logistics
v. River West Brands, 777 F.Supp.2d 1052, 1076 (E.D.
Mich. 2011) (quoting Wells v. Corporate Accounts
Receivable, 683 F.Supp.2d 600, 602 (W.D. Mich. 2010)).
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has found that summary
judgment motions, as a matter of discretion, may be found
premature where discovery has not commenced. McKinley v.
City of Mansfield, 404 F.3d 418, 443 (6th Cir. 2005)
(holding that summary judgment was premature and “the
district court abused its discretion because at the time of
its highly restrictive discovery order, no discovery
had occurred and the court offered no explanation for
limiting discovery”); Vance By & Through
Hammons v. United States, 90 F.3d 1145, 1149 (6th Cir.
1995) (reversing summary judgment because “no discovery
was conducted before the motion for summary judgment was
filed and decided”). This Court finds Lieutenant
Sanchez's request for summary judgment to be premature,
as well, and therefore is reviewing Plaintiffs' §
1983 claim against him solely under Rule 12(b)(6)'s
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal
sufficiency of the complaint. 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 complaint
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 complaint
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
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570). “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.” 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 556.
deciding whether the plaintiff has set forth a
“plausible” claim, the court must accept the
factual allegations in the complaint as true. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). This presumption is not
applicable to legal conclusions, however. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 668. Therefore, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
the court may not consider matters outside the pleadings when
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Weiner v.
Klais & Co., Inc., 108 F.3d 86, 88 (6th Cir. 1997)
(citing Hammond v. Baldwin, 866 F.2d 172, 175 (6th
Cir. 1989)). A court that considers such matters must first
convert the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment.
See Fed. R. Civ. P 12(d). However, “[w]hen a
court is presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, it may
consider the [c]omplaint and any exhibits attached thereto,
public records, items appearing in the record of the case and
exhibits attached to [the] defendant's motion to dismiss,
so long as they are referred to in the [c]omplaint and are
central to the claims contained therein.” Bassett
v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d
426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008). As Plaintiffs' claim against
Lieutenant Sanchez is premised on the affidavit he submitted
in support of the search warrants for their homes, the Court
concludes that it is proper to consider those documents in
reviewing the pending motion.
following facts are derived from Plaintiffs' Complaint,
except where noted.
8, 2013, shortly before 8:15 a.m., a fire broke out in the
kitchen of Marvaso's Italian Grille
(“Marvaso's”), a restaurant located on Wayne
Road in Westland, Michigan. Plaintiffs George and Mary
Marvaso leased and operated Marvaso's, as well as an
adjacent pool hall and charity poker facility called Electric
Stick. No. one was inside Marvaso's or Electric Stick
when the fire broke out. Wayne-Westland Fire Department
Firefighter Brian Woehlke died from smoke and soot inhalation
while fighting the fire.
from the Wayne-Westland Fire Department initially
investigated the fire, refusing the Michigan State Police
Department's offer to conduct the fire origin and cause
investigation. Wayne-Westland Fire Marshal John Adams
conducted an on-scene investigation which revealed no
accelerants. Investigators who investigated the fire for the
insurance companies that insured the ...