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Greenlee v. Sandy's Towing and Recovery Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

January 9, 2017

KIEL GREENLEE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SANDY'S TOWING AND RECOVERY, INC., et al., Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFFS' CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MICHAEL R. MERZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs Kiel Greenlee and his mother Gloria Greenlee brought this action pro se to recover damages in connection with the asserted wrongful towing and storage of an automobile by Defendants, a black 1991 Nissan 330ZX 2 Twin Turbo Vehicle Identification Number JN I RZ26H9MX501135) (the “Car”) . The case is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 67) and Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 72).

         The parties consented to plenary magistrate judge jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and District Judge Rice referred the case on that basis (ECF No. 22).

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. On a motion for summary judgment, the movant has the burden of showing that there exists no genuine issue of material fact, and the evidence, together with all inferences that can reasonably be drawn therefrom, must be read in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157-59 (1970). Nevertheless, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986) (emphasis in original). Summary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to "secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986).

         Read together, Liberty Lobby and Celotex stand for the proposition that a party may move for summary judgment asserting that the opposing party will not be able to produce sufficient evidence at trial to withstand a directed verdict motion (now known as a motion for judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50). Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1478 (6th Cir. 1989). If, after sufficient time for discovery, the opposing party is unable to demonstrate that he or she can do so under the Liberty Lobby criteria, summary judgment is appropriate. Id. The opposing party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). "The mere possibility of a factual dispute is not enough." Mitchell v. Toledo Hosp., 964 F.2d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 1992)(quoting Gregg v. Allen-Bradley Co., 801 F.2d 859, 863 (6th Cir. 1986). Therefore a court must make a preliminary assessment of the evidence, in order to decide whether the plaintiff's evidence concerns a material issue and is more than de minimis. Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795 (6th Cir. 1996). "On summary judgment, " moreover, "the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts ... must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). Thus, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249.

The moving party
[A]lways bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, " which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; see also, Boretti v. Wiscomb, 930 F.2d 1150, 1156 (6th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). If the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587; Martin v. Ohio Turnpike Comm'n., 968 F.2d 606, (6th Cir. 1992). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment (in other words, determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact), "[a] district court is not ... obligated to wade through and search the entire record for some specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's claim." Interroyal Corp. v. Sponseller, 889 F.2d 108, 111 (6th Cir. 1989). Thus, in determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists on a particular issue, a court is entitled to rely only upon those portions of the verified pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any affidavits submitted, specifically called to its attention by the parties.

         Unlike the more common cross-motion situation, the parties here do not concede the facts are truly undisputed from the opposing party's perspective as well as their own. Compare Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 3d § 2720 (1998).

         Analysis

         Plaintiffs purport to state claims for relief under 18 U.S.C. § 241 and 242; and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 1985(3), and 1986 (Complaint, ECF No. 1, PageID 15-16) within the original jurisdiction of this Court for deprivation of their property interests in the Car without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. They also plead claims under Ohio Revised Code §§ 4513.61, 2913.02, 2913.51, 2307.61, 2906.06, 2909.07, 2905.11, 2903.21, 2921.45 2903.21, 2901.23, 2901.24, and 2307.60. Id. at PageID 16-22. The federal claims give rise to jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1343; the supplemental Ohio claims which purport to arise out of the same case or controversy, are within the supplemental jurisdiction of this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Plaintiffs claim entitlement to damages for all claims for relief in the amount of $570, 000, 000. Id. at PageID 83.

         The facts about the incident underlying this suit are set out in the Court's Decision and Order Denying Motion for Pre-Judgment Replevin

From the testimony presented, the Court finds that Kiel Greenlee was at the residence of Ms. [Angela] Stape, his girlfriend, on East Stroop Road in Montgomery County and left that location after 4:00 A.M. on the morning of November 13, 2013, driving the vehicle. At approximately 4:50 A.M., the vehicle left the roadway (Interstate 75), allegedly as a result of “black ice, and crashed. Mr. Greenlees [sic] testified he remained in the car after the crash for thirty to forty-five minutes, then alighted and walked to the State Route 725 exit from Interstate 75. From there he called his mother who picked him up and they drove ...

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