United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
Richard William Plate, Administrator of the Estate of Scott Allyn Plate, Plaintiff
Charles Johnson, et al., Defendants
G. CARR SR. U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arises from the death of
Scott Allyn Plate (Scott), a detainee at the Lucas County,
Ohio, Jail who died while in custody.
August, 2013, officers from the Toledo Police Department
arrested Scott twice within a seven-hour span. After the
second arrest, officers booked Scott into the county jail
pending his arraignment. There, according to the complaint,
Scott told jail officials that he suffered from a seizure
disorder. He also told defendant Charles Johnson, a Deputy
Sheriff, that he felt a seizure coming on, but Johnson failed
to secure medical treatment. Scott died in his cell.
years later, Scott's father Richard Plate (Richard)
applied to the Probate Court of Sandusky County, Ohio, for
authority to administer his son's estate.
Ohio law, only the probate court of the county in which a
decedent resided at the time of death may appoint an
administrator. O.R.C. § 2113.01; State ex rel. Lee
v. Trumbull Cnty. Probate Court, 83 Ohio St.3d 369,
372-73 (1998). Richard's application stated that his son
resided at Richard's home in Sandusky County, and the
probate court appointed Richard as the administrator.
then filed this § 1983 suit in his capacity as the
estate administrator. He alleges that Johnson was
deliberately indifferent to Scott's medical needs, and
that Lucas County and its Sheriff are liable for the
constitutional violation under the rule of Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978).
is the defendants' motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 59).
gravamen of the motion is that Scott did not, in fact, reside
in Sandusky County at the time of his death. Defendants argue
that the Sandusky County Probate Court therefore had no power
to appoint Richard to administer the estate, that the estate
is “void ab initio, and in turn this Court has
no subject matter jurisdiction over the pending
action.” (Doc. 60 at 24).
the validity of the appointment order affects only
Richard's capacity to sue, and not my subject-matter
jurisdiction, I deny the motion to dismiss. I also order
further briefing as described below.
Plate was born in Adrian, Michigan. (Doc. 63 at 93).
attending college in Iowa, Scott returned to Michigan and, in
1995, married Kathleen Jiles. (Id. at 96). They
lived together in Jackson County, Michigan, until early 2009,
when their divorce proceedings concluded. (Id. at
38). (Before the divorce decree issued, Scott also lived for
a period of time with his mother, Susan Plate, in Brooklyn,
Michigan. (Doc. 73-6 at 24)). A significant factor in the
couple's divorce was Scott's alcoholism. (Doc. 73-6
in 2010, Scott moved into his father's home in Bellevue,
a city in Sandusky County, Ohio. (Doc. 73-6 at 24). Scott had
his own apartment in the house. (Id.). According to
Richard, Scott kept important documents - tax returns, court
orders relating to his child-support obligations, his college
diploma - at the Bellevue residence. (Id. at 15).
2010 and 2012, Scott lived at different times: 1) with his
mother in Brooklyn, Michigan; 2) with his father in Bellevue,
Ohio; 3) in various places in Port Clinton, Ohio and
Sandusky, Ohio (which is the seat of Erie County, Ohio); and
4) at homeless shelters in Ohio and Michigan. (Doc. 73-6 at
35, 36). Scott also spent time at a number of rehabilitation
facilities, receiving treatment for his drinking problem.
appears that, in early 2012, Scott was living in Jackson
County, Michigan. In January, for example, he spent time in
the Jackson County jail after an arrest for not paying child
support. (Doc. 63 at 65). The next month, Scott was badly
injured in a fight in Jackson, Michigan. He spent three weeks
at the University of Michigan Hospital, in Ann Arbor, after
undergoing a hemicraniectomy. (Id. at 71-72).
February, 2012, Scott moved into the Arbors of Waterville, a
rehabilitation facility in Waterville, Lucas County, Ohio.
When he checked in, he gave his “last permanent
address” as his mother's home in Brooklyn,
Michigan. (Id. at 77). Scott remained at the Arbors
until April 4, 2013, when he moved back to his father's
home in Bellevue. He lived with Richard for only two weeks.
He left Bellevue, took a job in Michigan, and moved into his
mother's home in Brooklyn. (Doc. 63 at 16-17).
the move, Scott returned to the Bellevue house only twice
before his death: once to show his father his new car, and
once to visit with his new boss. (Id. at 17).
Michigan, meanwhile, Scott received mail at his mother's
house, opened a bank account at a Bank of America branch in
Brooklyn (Doc. 63 at 121, 123), and bought and registered a
car in Brooklyn (id. at 136, 138, 144). All of the
paperwork associated with these events indicates that Scott
considered his then-current address to be his mother's
home in Brooklyn. Then, in early June, 2013, sheriff's
deputies arrested Scott in Jackson, Michigan, for operating a
vehicle while intoxicated. (Id. at 84).
that date until Scott's death in late August, Scott's
dwelling place becomes harder to pin down.
June and August, 2013, Scott was hospitalized several times
in Toledo and Port Clinton for issues relating to his
alcoholism. (Id. at 116) (June 18, 2013
hospitalization in Toledo); (id. at 168) (August 4,
2013 hospitalization in Port Clinton); (id. at
157-60) (emergency medical assistance provided in Toledo on
August 11, 2013). Associated medical records indicated that
Scott was either “homeless” (id. at
169), did not have a “local residence”
(id. at 168), or had “mov[ed] out of
state” - i.e., moved out of Ohio (id. at 116).
Documentary evidence also establishes that he spent the
nights of July 31, August 1, and August 2 at a motel in Port
Clinton. (Id. at 172-73).
on August 24, 2013, Toledo police officers twice arrested and
twice brought Scott to the Lucas County Jail, Scott told the
jail's intake officer that he lived in Brooklyn,
Michigan. (Doc. 60 at 10; see also Doc. 60, Exh. N).
same time, Scott also told the officer that his name was
“Eric Plate, ” which is his brother's name.
(Doc. 91 at 12). It also appears that Scott was intoxicated
at the time of his first arrest. As defendants concede,
“he spent 4 hours in the detox cell” after that
arrest, which involved charges of public intoxication. (Doc.
60 at 6-7).
August 18, 2015, Richard, acting through counsel - and
apparently believing that Scott was a Sandusky County
resident when he died - applied to the Sandusky County
Probate Court for authority to administer his son's
estate. (Doc. 63 at 28-30).
application, which stated that Scott resided at Richard's
home in Bellevue, advised the probate court that:
This estate is being opened solely to pursue a potential
wrongful death claim. The estate has no assets or liabilities
to be probated. The case is rapidly approaching the statute
of limitations and counsel needs to file the case no later
than August 25, 2015. This case was just brought to counsel
last week on Friday, August 7.
(Id. at 29).
application represented that the beneficiaries of Scott's
estate knew about the probate proceeding and the anticipated
wrongful-death claim. (Id.). Likewise, Scott's
mother and his three children (acting through their mother,
Scott's ex-wife Kathleen) waived their rights to
administer the estate. (Id. at 30).
order filed on August 20, the Probate Court appointed Richard
the administrator of Scott's estate and issued him
letters of authority. (Doc. 91-2 at 2). Richard then brought
this suit on August 24, one day before the two-year
limitations period for the § 1983 claims expired.
See Ferrito v. Cuyahoga Cnty., 2018 WL 1757410, *3
(N.D. Ohio 2018) (Boyko, J.).
as the Probate Court's online docket indicates, that
court is unaware of the dispute that has arisen in this case
about the validity of the appointment order.
purport to bring a factual attack on my subject-matter
jurisdiction to adjudicate this case. (Doc. 60 at 10-13).
factual attack . . . raises a factual controversy requiring
the district court to weigh the conflicting evidence to
arrive at the factual predicate that subject-matter
[jurisdiction] does or does not exist.” Wayside
Church v. Van Buren Cnty., 847 F.3d 812, 817 (6th Cir.
2017) (internal quotation marks omitted). In such a case,
“the district court has wide discretion to allow
affidavits, documents, and even a limited evidentiary hearing
to resolve jurisdictional facts.” Gentek Bldg.
Prods, Inc. v. Sherwin-Williams, Co., 491 F.3d 320, 330
(6th Cir. 2007).
“factual controversy” that supposedly affects my
subject-matter jurisdiction here is Scott's residence at
the time of his death.
State ex rel. Lee, supra, 83 Ohio St.3d at
372-73, the Ohio Supreme Court characterized O.R.C. §
2113.01, which governs the appointment of administrators for
an intestate decedent's estate, as a grant of
subject-matter jurisdiction to the probate court to
administer the ...