United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF Nos. 27, 28]
PAGE HOOD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
filed this action on June 18, 2018, alleging that
Defendants' conduct violated his rights, including: (1)
unlawfully detaining and seizing Plaintiff and his vehicle,
in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (2) false imprisonment;
(3) false arrest; (4) malicious prosecution; and (5) civil
conspiracy. On April 22, 2019, after being granted leave to
amend, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint, to which
Defendants filed an Answer on April 30, 2019. ECF Nos. 24,
26. On May 14, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint for Failure to State
a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted and Motion for
Summary Judgment, with an Errata Sheet filed the same day
(collectively, the “Motion”). ECF Nos. 27, 28.
For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Motion.
April 12, 2016, Defendants Matthew Wayne Minard
(“Minard”) and Paul James O'Conner
(“O'Conner”) were in The Parks at the
Villages of Taylor (“The Parks”) in Defendant
City of Taylor, Michigan (the “City”), on a
patrol detail for the owner McKinley & McKinley
Properties Management (“McKinley”). ECF No. 30,
PgID 480-81 (Ex. 5). The City had an agreement with McKinley
to patrol The Parks (the “Agreement”).
Id. at 483-84. Patrol detail means patrolling the
complex for any and all enforcement actions available,
including running stop signs. Id. at PgID 482. Prior
to April 12, 2016, Minard had patrolled, and been on other
details, at the Parks. Id.
and O'Conner were in uniform, in a two-person police
vehicle working overtime for the City under the Agreement.
Id. at 483. They stopped Plaintiff for disobeying a
stop sign. Id. at 489. When the officers were
talking to the vehicle occupants, Minard smelled marijuana
coming from inside the vehicle. Id. at 493. Backup
arrived, but Minard could not identify who smelled of
marijuana. Id. at 493-94. The street upon which
Plaintiff was driving, Park Village Boulevard, is on private
property open to the public, and the traffic laws enforceable
there are any agreed upon by the owner and the enforcing
entity. Id. at 495. Minard did not know how many
other cars he had stopped for disobeying a stop sign in The
Parks or whether he ever issued a ticket for that offense.
Id. at 496, 497.
or 2003, Minard received in-service traffic enforcement
training from the City but that did not include training
regarding the requirements of the Michigan Manual of Uniform
Traffic Control Devices (“MMUTCD”). O'Conner
was trained on the requirements of the MMUTCD, and he was
aware traffic signs had to satisfy certain standards to be
enforceable, including traffic signs on private property open
to the public. Neither Minard nor O'Conner was aware: (a)
of the height of the stop sign at issue; or (b) that the stop
sign at issue did not meet the requirements of the MMUTCD.
APPLICABLE LAW & ANALYSIS
motion to dismiss is premised on the failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted, and they cite Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). As discussed below, although the
Rule 12(b)(6) standard is the appropriate standard to be
used, the motion to dismiss should have been filed as a
motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c)
because Defendants filed their Answer to the First Amended
Complaint before filing the Motion. See Rule 12(b)
(“A motion asserting any of these defenses [under Rule
12(b)] must be made before pleading if a responsive pleading
is allowed.”); Rule 12(b)(c) (“After the
pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a
party may move for judgment on the pleadings.”). In
deciding a motion brought pursuant to Rule 12(c), the
standard is the same as that used in evaluating a motion
brought under Fed.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See, e.g., Stein v
U.S. Bancorp, et. al, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18357, at *9
(E.D. Mich. February 24, 2011).
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of the
plaintiff's complaint. The Court must accept all
well-pleaded factual allegations as true and review the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Eidson v. Tennessee Dep't of Children's
Servs., 510 F.3d 631, 634 (6th Cir. 2007); Kottmyer
v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684, 688 (6th Cir. 2006). As a general
rule, to survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must
state sufficient “facts to state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The complaint must
demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that the
defendant's conduct was unlawful. Id. at 556.
Claims comprised of “labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Id. at 555. Rather, “[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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
56(a) of the Rules of Civil Procedures provides that the
court “shall grant summary judgment 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). The presence of factual disputes will
preclude granting of summary judgment only if the disputes
are genuine and concern material facts. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute
about a material fact is “genuine” only if
“the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
Although the Court must view the motion in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, where “the moving
party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent
must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita
Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.
574, 586 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323-24 (1986). Summary judgment must be entered against
a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party's
case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof
at trial. In such a situation, there can be “no genuine
issue as to any material fact, ” since a complete
failure of proof concerning an essential element of the
nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other
facts immaterial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23.
A court must look to the substantive law to identify which
facts are material. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
Reasonableness of the Traffic Stop
Counts One and Two, Plaintiff alleges that Minard and
O'Conner violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment
rights. Defendants argue that the traffic stop of Plaintiff
was reasonable because the officers witnessed Plaintiff: (a)
fail to stop at a posted stop sign; and (b) drive through the
intersection without stopping to look for oncoming traffic.
Minard and O'Conner state that they made the traffic stop
because Plaintiff disobeyed the posted stop sign. Defendants
also argue that the officers could have stopped Plaintiff for
careless driving. For these reasons, Defendants contend that
the officers had a reasonable basis for making a Fourth
Amendment traffic stop.
counters that the officers did not have statutory authority
to stop Plaintiff because the stop sign was not posted
properly, as it was not in compliance with the Michigan
Vehicle Code (“MVC”). Specifically, Plaintiff
argues that the MMUTCD requires that the bottom of a posted
stop sign be seven (7) feet above the ground. Plaintiff
asserts that the stop sign he allegedly disobeyed had a
bottom height of less than four (4) feet above the ground.
Plaintiff contends that a key (material) issue - whether it
was objectively reasonable ...