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Marvaso v. Adams

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

July 10, 2019

GEORGE MARVASO, MARY MARVASO, and GEORGE F. MARVASO, Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHN ADAMS, MICHAEL J. REDDY JR. and MICHAEL J. REDDY SR., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          LINDA V. PARKER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This civil rights action, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arises from a May 8, 2013 fire at a restaurant and pool hall in Westland, Michigan. In a First Amended Complaint filed February 6, 2019, Plaintiffs assert that Defendants conspired to violate their Fourth Amendment rights. The matter is presently before the Court on the following motions: (a) Defendants Michael J. Reddy, Jr. and John Adams' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) (ECF No. 24); and, (b) Defendant Michael Reddy Sr.'s motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or for summary judgment under Rule 56. (ECF No. 25.) The motions have been fully briefed. 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 Defendants' motions.

         I. Applicable Standard of Review

         As an initial matter, Defendant Michael Reddy Sr. (“Mr. Reddy”) seeks dismissal of Plaintiffs' claim against him pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or, alternatively, Rule 56. Mr. Reddy attaches a single document to his motion that is a matter outside the Complaint: an affidavit from Michigan State Police Lieutenant Richard Sanchez dated October 30, 2018. The Court does not find it necessary to consider this document to decide Mr. Reddy's motion and, in any event, finds his request for summary judgment premature. See 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)) (noting that courts in this Circuit generally find motions for summary judgment filed before the close of discovery premature); see also 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”). The Court is therefore reviewing Mr. Reddy's motion solely under Rule 12(b)(6)'s standard.

         A 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). A Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is subject to the same standard of review as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.[1] Grindstaff v. Green, 133 F.3d 416, 421 (6th Cir. 1998).

         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).

         As the 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.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. At 678 (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.

         In 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). Ordinarily, 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)).

         II. Factual Background

         The following facts are derived from Plaintiffs' Complaint.

         On May 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. Their son, Plaintiff George F. Marvaso, was an employee of 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.

         Officials 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. The Wayne-Westland Fire Marshal, Plaintiff John Adams (“Fire Marshal Adams”), conducted an on-scene investigation which revealed no accelerants. Investigators who investigated the fire for the companies that insured the buildings' landlord and the tenant businesses classified the cause of the fire as “undetermined.”

         Between May 8, 2013 and June 30, 2013, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“MIOSHA”) investigated Woelke's death, conducting its “closing conference” with Wayne-Westland Fire Department officials on the latter date. The Fire Chief for the Wayne-Westland Fire Department at the time was Defendant Michael J. Reddy Jr. (“Fire Chief Reddy”).[2] During the meeting between MIOSHA and the city's fire department officials, MIOSHA indicated that it would be issuing citations to the fire department for safety violations resulting in Woelke's death. On August 30, 2013, MIOSHA issued a citation to the City of Westland for a “serious” violation of health and safety regulations. The City subsequently acknowledged the citation and agreed to pay the $3, 500 penalty assessed against it.

         During the Summer of 2013, Mr. Reddy invited Sunday Gains to lunch. Mr. Reddy is the father of Fire Chief Reddy and was previously the Fire Chief for the Westland Fire Department. According to the initial complaint Plaintiffs filed in this case, Sunday Gains is the daughter of George and Mary Marvaso and was an employee of Electric Stick.[3] During their meeting, Mr. Reddy “leaned over and ...


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