United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
HOWARD T. LINDEN, as personal representative of the estate of Omarion Humphrey, Plaintiff,
BRADLEY DIXON, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING STATE DEFENDANTS'
MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS 
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
3, 2018, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that Defendants
Kristen Field, Susan Hull, Ebony Jeffries, Alisia Johnson,
Lonia Perry, Christine Rehagan, Linda Tansil, Janice Trible,
and Alisia Wiggins ("State Defendants")
demonstrated unconstitutional deliberate indifference towards
Omarion Humphrey ("Decedent")- whose estate Linden
represents. ECF 22.
31, 2019, State Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the
pleadings and argued that res judicata bars Plaintiff's
claims against them. ECF 50. The Court reviewed the briefs
and finds that a hearing is unnecessary. E.D. Mich. LR
7.1(f)(2). For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny
State Defendants' motion.
was a nine-year old who suffered from non-verbal autism that
required special services and supervision. ECF 22, PgID 291.
State Defendants all worked for the State of Michigan
Department of Health and Human Services ("MDHHS").
Id. at 289-91. Prior to Humphrey's death,
Defendant Field petitioned the Oakland County Circuit Court
and requested that Decedent be removed from his family's
home. Id. at 291. The state court granted
Field's petition, but the Court nonetheless made
Defendants Field, Johnson, and Jeffries responsible for
Decedent's custody, care, and supervision. Id.
at 292. Defendants Fields, Johnson, and Jeffries were unable
to find an appropriate foster home for Decedent in Oakland
County, so they searched Genesee County for a foster parent
and home. Id. at 292-93. They found Defendant
Richardson and decided to place Decedent in her care.
Id. at 293. Humphrey was placed in Richardson's
care even though Richardson was not licensed to care for him;
she asked to surrender her foster parent license and to stop
providing foster services, but Decedent remained in her
custody. Id. at 293-95. While in Richardson's
custody Decedent attended a Fourth of July party at Lake
Callis in Davison, Michigan, he wandered away from
Richardson, drowned in the lake, and was found dead six days
later. Id. at 295.
December 2015, Plaintiff filed a state-court action against
Defendants Alternatives for Children & Families, Inc.
("Alternatives") and Richardson. ECF 14, PgID
114-15. Alternatives moved for summary disposition; the state
court granted the motion and dismissed Alternatives with
prejudice. ECF 14-4, PgID 150. On December 26, 2017,
Plaintiff filed his complaint against Alternatives and
Richardson in federal court. ECF 1. On July 3, 2018,
Plaintiff filed a complaint against State Defendants. ECF 22.
On November 15, 2018, the Court granted Alternatives'
motion for summary judgement. ECF 34. And on July 31, 2019,
State Defendants filed the present motion for judgment on the
pleadings. ECF 50.
Court must analyze a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the
pleadings with the same standard it would employ for a
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Tucker v. Middleburg-Legacy
Place, LLC, 539 F.3d 545, 549 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation
omitted). The Court accepts as true all well-pleaded material
allegations and draws reasonable factual inferences in favor
of the non-moving party, but it "need not accept as true
legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences."
JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget, 510 F.3d 577,
581-82 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Mixon v. Ohio, 193
F.3d 389, 400 (6th Cir. 1999)). The complaint must not only
"give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and
the grounds upon which it rests," Nader v.
Blackwell, 545 F.3d 459, 470 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)), but
also must "'raise a right to relief above the
speculative level,' and . . . 'state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Hensley, 579 F.3d at 609 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555, 570). It is not enough to merely offer
"'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action[.]'"
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). When deciding a 12(c)
motion, the Court may also refer to a document that "is
referred to in the pleadings and is integral to the
claims" or "consider matters of public
record." Commercial Money Center, Inc. v. Ill. Union
Ins. Co., 508 F.3d 327, 335-36 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing
Lynch v. Leis, 382 F.3d 642, 648 n.5 (6th Cir.
2004); Kostrzewa v. City of Troy, 247 F.3d 633, 644
(6th Cir. 2001)).
Defendants argue that res judicata bars Plaintiff's
claims. ECF 50, PgID 519. The Court "must give the same
preclusive effect, under the doctrine of res judicata . . .
to state court judgments that those judgments would receive
in the courts of the rendering state." Ingram v.
City of Columbus, 185 F.3d 579, 593 (6th Cir. 1999)
(citing Migra v. Warren City Sch. Bd. of Educ., 465
U.S. 75, 85 (1984)). Here, Michigan law on res judicata.
doctrine of res judicata "bars a second, subsequent
action when (1) the prior action was decided on the merits,
(2) both actions involve the same parties or their privies,
and (3) the matter in the second case was, or could have
been, resolved in the first." Adair v. State,
470 Mich. 105, 121 (2004) (citing Sewell v. Clean Cut
Mgt., Inc., 463 Mich. 569, 575 (2001)). Res judicata is
broadly construed in Michigan. It "bars not only claims
already litigated, but also every claim arising from the same
transaction that the parties, exercising reasonable
diligence, could have raised but did not." Id.
(citing Dart v. Dart, 460 Mich. 573, 586 (1999)).
The Prior Action
Defendants allege that Plaintiff's complaint is barred by
the Genesee County Circuit Court's grant of summary
disposition in favor of Alternatives with prejudice. ECF 50,
PgID 522. "A dismissal with prejudice amounts to an
adjudication on the merits and bars a further action based on
the same facts." Grimmer v. Lee, 310 Mich.App.
95, 102 (2015). The Court already found that "[t]he
state court's resolution of Alternatives' motion for
summary disposition-alongside its denial of Plaintiff's
motion for reconsideration-is a final decision on the
merits." ECF 34, PgID 339 (citing Restatement (Second)
of Judgment § 13, comm. b (Am. Law. Inst. 1982)
("noting 'a judgment will ordinarily be considered
final in respect to a claim . . . if it is not tentative,
provisional, or contingent and represents the completion of
all steps in the adjudication of the claim by the
court"); Catlin v. United States, 324 U.S. 229,
233 (1945) ("A 'final decision; generally is one
which ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing
for the court to do but execute the judgment")).
the prior action was decided on the merits because the state
court's decision was the "the 'last word' of
the rendering court." Kosiel v. Arrow Liquors