United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Dkt. 47)
AND DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (Dkt. 48)
A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the parties' competing
motions for summary judgment. The motions have been fully
briefed. Because oral argument will not aid in the decisional
process, the motions will be decided based on the
parties' briefing. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Vito
Manzella's actions in executing an order to seize the
personal property of Plaintiff Labeed Nouri, M.D., were
unreasonable and exceeded the scope of that order. As a
result of Manzella's alleged actions, Plaintiffs assert
claims for violations of the Fourth Amendment, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983; trespass; and tortious interference with
a business relationship. For the reasons stated below, the Court
grants in part and denies in part Manzella's motion for
summary judgment (Dkt. 47) and denies Plaintiffs' motion
for partial summary judgment (Dkt. 48).
is an orthopedic surgeon, who owns and operates three
businesses from a commercial building located in Sterling
Heights, Michigan. Compl. ¶ 8 (Dkt. 1). These businesses
include Plaintiff Health O Rama Urgent Care PLLC
(“Healthorama”), Plaintiff St. Peter Medical
Center, P.C. (“Medical Center”), and a physical
therapy clinic. Id. ¶¶ 9-12. In January
2015, Nouri purchased an x-ray machine from Unitech Imaging,
Inc. (“Unitech”), and a dispute arose between
Nouri and Unitech regarding payment for the machine.
Id. ¶¶ 16-17. Unitech obtained a default
judgment in state court against Nouri, see Judgment,
Ex. C to Def. Mot. (Dkt. 47-3), and on December 22, 2016, the
court issued an order to seize property in the amount of $7,
200.93, see Request and Order to Seize Property, Ex.
C to Def. Mot. (Dkt. 47-3). The order authorized seizure of
personal property belonging to Nouri, the sole defendant in
that action; it also listed the Sterling Heights office as
his address. Id.
morning of February 10, 2017, Manzella, a court officer,
appeared with four other men at the Sterling Heights office
to execute the order to seize. Compl. ¶ 26. The parties
agree that Manzella demanded payment in the form of a
certified check and refused to accept either a corporate
check or an x-ray machine in satisfaction of the order to
seize. 11/13/18 Nouri Dep. at 7-9, Ex. F to Def.
Mot. (Dkt 47-6). When Nouri failed to provide a certified
check, Manzella called a locksmith to secure the office.
Manzella Dep. at 27-28, Ex. D to Def. Resp. to Pls. Mot.
to Nouri, Manzella ordered all patients and medical staff to
leave the office immediately, thereby disrupting business
operations and resulting in the cancellation of many
patients' appointments. Compl. ¶¶ 38, 48,
53-60. Although Nouri called the police, the responding
officers determined that the dispute was a civil matter and
consequently took no action. Id. ¶ 43. Shortly
after Manzella secured the office, Nouri obtained and
tendered a certified check in satisfaction of the order to
seize. Report of Collection Activity, Ex. 8 to Pls. Resp. to
Def. Mot. (Dkt. 54-9). Manzella, in turn, provided the keys
to the new locks installed at the office. 11/13/18 Nouri Dep.
Manzella's seizure of their property, Plaintiffs filed
the present action. At this stage of the litigation, three of
Plaintiffs' claims remain: violation of the Fourth
Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; trespass; and
tortious interference with a business relationship.
Plaintiffs have filed a motion for partial summary judgment
as to liability, arguing that the order to seize was invalid
and that Manzella did not act within the scope of that order.
Manzella, in turn, has filed a competing motion for summary
judgment, arguing that he acted in accordance with a valid
court order, that he is immune from liability, and that
Plaintiffs have failed to establish concrete damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56 shall be granted “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists
when there are “disputes over facts that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). “[F]acts must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a
‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.”
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).
“Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a
rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there
is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
the movant satisfies its initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the burden
shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts
showing a triable issue of material fact. Scott, 550
U.S. at 380; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323 (1986). The nonmoving party “must do more than
simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts, ” Scott, 550 U.S. at 380
(quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586), as the
“mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment, ”
id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-248)
(emphasis in original); see also Babcock & Wilcox Co.
v. Cormetech, Inc., 848 F.3d 754, 758 (6th Cir. 2017)
(“A mere scintilla of evidence or some metaphysical
doubt as to a material fact is insufficient to forestall
42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Violation of the Fourth
argue that Manzella violated their Fourth Amendment rights
when he seized Plaintiffs' property and effectively
terminated the business operations of non-debtors Medical
Center and Healthorama. In opposition, Manzella primarily
contends that his actions were reasonable as a matter of law
because he was acting within his authority to execute a valid
court order. In reply, Plaintiffs maintain that (1) the order
to seize was invalid because it was not
“endorsed” and (2) Manzella exceeded the scope of
his authority under the order.
42 U.S.C. § 1983, civil liability may be imposed against
state actors who have deprived a citizen of his or her
constitutional rights. Baynes v. Cleland, 799 F.3d
600, 607 (6th Cir. 2015). To prevail on a claim brought
pursuant to § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate
“(1) he defendant was a person acting under the color
of state law, and (2) the defendant deprived the plaintiff of
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
or laws of the United States.” Fridley v.
Horrighs, 291 F.3d 867, 871-872 (6th Cir. 2002). There
is no dispute that Manzella, a court officer, was acting
under the color of state law. Rather, the parties contest
whether the factual record supports Plaintiffs'
contention that they were deprived of their Fourth Amendment
Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S.
Const. amend. IV. These protections apply in both the civil
and criminal contexts. Soldal v. Cook Cty., 506 U.S.
56, 67 (1992). A seizure of property occurs when
“‘there is some meaningful interference with an
individual's possessory interests in that
property.'” Id. at 61 (quoting United
States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113 (1984)). A seizure
of property is unconstitutional if the seizure is
“objectively unreasonable, a determination that entails
a careful balancing of governmental and private
interests.” Hensley v. Gassman, 693 F.3d 681,
688 (6th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted) (internal quotation
first to the validity of the order to seize, Mich. Comp Laws
§ 600.6002(1) provides that officers receiving an
execution to enforce judgment must first
“endorse” the order by designating thereon the
date and hour of receipt. Failure to comply with this
endorsement requirement, however, does not necessarily
invalidate an order if the surrounding circumstances do not
warrant such a remedy. In Korda v. Oakland Cty.
Sheriff, No. 290920, 2010 WL 3184519, at *1 (Mich. Ct.
App. Aug. 12, 2010), the Michigan Court of Appeals confronted
a case in which the trial court declined to hold that
unendorsed executions of judgment were invalid. The appellate
court upheld the trial court's reasoning that the purpose
of the endorsement requirement was to ensure compliance with
Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.6002(2), which provides that
“‘[e]xecutions shall be made returnable not less
than 20, nor more than 90 days, from that date [of
endorsement].'” Id. The appellate court
affirmed the trial court's conclusion that, in the
absence of any dispute regarding either the timing of
execution or any prejudice resulting from the lack of
endorsement, invalidating the executions of judgment was not
an appropriate remedy. Id. at *1-2.
present case, there are three different versions of the order
to seize within the record. Two versions are unendorsed.
Order to Seize, Ex. 6 to Pls. Resp. to Def. Mot. (Dkt. 54-7);
Order to Seize, Ex. E to Compl. (Dkt. 1-6). The third version
is endorsed by Manzella. Order to Seize, Ex. C to Def. Mot.
(Dkt. 47-3). It cannot be determined from the record whether
the order to seize was endorsed at the time Manzella executed
it. Nevertheless, Plaintiffs have not advanced any argument
that the order was stale or that the timing of the execution
was otherwise defective under Mich. Comp. Laws §
600.6002(2). Nor have they alleged any prejudice stemming
from the lack of endorsement. Consistent with Korda,
a declaration that the order to seize is invalid is not
warranted based on the present record.
Court must next consider whether Manzella's execution of
the order was objectively unreasonable. The parties offer
differing accounts regarding Manzella's actions in
executing the order. According to Nouri, he was contacted by
his receptionist on the morning of February 10, 2017, when
Manzella arrived at the office demanding payment of the
default judgment. 11/13/18 Nouri Dep. at 5. Nouri directed
his receptionist to provide Manzella a corporate check, which
Manzella refused. Id. at 7. Although Nouri assured
Manzella that he was on his way to the office, Nouri alleges
that Manzella obtrusively occupied and disrupted the office
by entering an interior door leading to patient exam rooms,
ordering the patients and medical staff to leave, seizing
personal cash from staff, and rifling through and
photographing Medical Center's sensitive business
information. Compl. ¶¶ 35-40. When Nouri arrived at
the office, he called his attorney, who informed Manzella
that he could not enforce a judgment entered against Nouri
personally against Medical Center and Healthorama. 11/13/18
Nouri Dep. at 8-9. Nouri then called the police, who arrived
at the office but determined that they could take no action.
Id. Nouri offered to permit Manzella to secure the
room housing the x-ray machine - however, Manzella ...