United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
AND ENTRY SUSTAINING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OF
DEFENDANTS ANTHONY WENZLER AND THE CITY OF MORAINE (DOC.
#43); DISMISSING FEDERAL CLAIMS WITH PREJUDICE AND STATE
CLAIMS AND COUNTERCLAIMS WITHOUT PREJUDICE; OVERRULING AS
MOOT PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON
DEFENDANT TOMI HATFIELD'S COUNTERCLAIMS (DOC. #30),
DEFENDANT HATFIELD'S CROSS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
(DOC. #33) AND HATFIELD'S MOTION FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT
(DOC. #60); JUDGMENT TO ENTER IN FAVOR OF DEFENDANTS AND
AGAINST PLAINTIFFS; TERMINATION ENTRY
H. RICE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Donald and Mindy Claggett, filed suit against Anthony
Wenzler, the City of Moraine, Ohio, and their neighbor, Tomi
Hatfield, seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
alleged constitutional violations, and requesting declaratory
judgment and injunctive relief. They also assert state law
claims of invasion of privacy, nuisance and conspiracy. Doc.
#1. Defendant Tomi Hatfield filed Counterclaims of
intentional infliction of emotional distress, declaratory
judgment, invasion of privacy and trespass.
matter is currently before the Court on Plaintiffs'
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Defendant Tomi
Hatfield's Counterclaims, Doc. #30, Defendant
Hatfield's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. #33,
and on the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants Anthony
Wenzler and the City of Moraine, Doc. #43. Hatfield also
recently filed a Motion for Declaratory Judgment, Doc. #60.
Background and Procedural History
of 2016, Plaintiffs, Donald and Mindy Claggett, moved into a
house on Shorelands Road in Moraine, Ohio. Their back yard
abuts the back yard of Defendant Tomi Hatfield, who lives on
Cottage Road. Directly to the east, adjacent to both of the
properties, lies a vacant strip of land (the "Adjacent
Strip"), which includes the land labeled on the map
below as "Lease Area" and the lighter-colored
right-of-way between the "Lease Area" and the
properties owned by the Claggetts and Ms. Hatfield.
Adjacent Strip is owned by the City of Moraine. Nevertheless,
when Hatfield's parents bought the Cottage Road property
in 1970, they believed that the Adjacent Strip belonged to
them. They cut the grass, trimmed the bushes and trees, and
graded the land. At one point in the 1970s, the City sent
Hatfield's parents a letter instructing them to stop
taking care of the Adjacent Strip because it belonged to the
City. They complied with the City's demand. However, just
a few months later, the City sent them another letter
threatening them with fines if they did not clean up that
property. Thereafter, the Hatfields continuously maintained
the Adjacent Strip as if it were their own property, and
placed a fire pit, picnic table and playset there. Doc. #47,
2006, the fire department told Tomi Hatfield that she could
not have a fire pit on the Adjacent Strip because that land
belonged to the City. She protested, citing her family's
long history of caring for that property. It was her
understanding that the City then agreed to transfer ownership
of the Adjacent Strip to her. Unbeknownst to her, this never
happened. Doc. #47, PagelD#308. Nevertheless, the City acted
as if it were her property. In 2008, when a tree on the
Adjacent Strip fell over during a windstorm and damaged
another neighbor's property, the City demanded that she
pay the cleanup costs. Id.) Doc. #48, PagelD#411.
Accordingly, when the Claggetts moved to the neighborhood in
May of 2016, Hatfield was still taking care of the Adjacent
Strip, believing that it now belonged to her.
over property boundary lines began before the Claggetts ever
moved in. A survey conducted in connection with the sale of
the property showed that the existing fence, installed by the
sellers, encroached on the Adjacent Strip on the east side of
the house. The survey also showed that the south side of the
Claggetts' lot extended approximately eight feet beyond
the existing fence, toward Hatfield's property. Doc.
#52-3, PagelD##513-23. Hatfield disagreed with this
assessment. Doc. #47, PagelD#303. Shortly after the Claggetts
moved in, Hatfield contacted Anthony Wenzler, the City's
Building and Zoning Administrator, about the property
boundary between the lots. He suggested that she have her own
survey done. Doc. #52-4, PagelD##521-22.
respect to the Adjacent Strip, it appears that, at that
point, there was still some confusion about whether it was
owned by the City or by Hatfield. On May 31, 2016, Wenzler
wrote to Donald Claggett that "[u]ntil I can prove
otherwise, the [Adjacent Strip] belongs to . . . Tomi
Hatfield." He instructed Claggett not to trespass on
that property. He stated that "[i]f it is decided the
city owns the lot it will ask Tomi Hatfield to remove her
items[;] until then as for the past 40 years she may use the
lot as she and her family has." Doc. #52-6, PagelD#526.
29, 2016, Hatfield reported to the Moraine Police Department
that Donald Claggett was repeatedly trespassing on her
property. She complained that Claggett had removed the
"No Trespassing" signs that Wenzler suggested that
she put up, and was cutting grass on her property. Doc.
#52-7, PagelD##527-28. In July of 2016, the Claggetts put up
a new fence to better demarcate the actual property
boundaries, as shown by the survey. On the east side of the
lot, they moved the fence in so that it no longer encroached
on the Adjacent Strip, On the south side of the lot, they
extended the fence back several feet toward Hatfield's
lot. They left two feet of grass behind the south side of the
fence so that they could maintain the fence. Doc. #47,
between Hatfield and the Claggetts continued, They often
called the police to complain about each other. Likewise, on
several occasions, the neighbors called the police about the
ongoing verbal confrontations. Claggett complained to Wenzler
that Hatfield was leaning stuff against the back of his
fence. Claggett posted "no trespassing" signs,
warning her to stay two feet off of the fence. Doc. #48,
PagelD#420. Hatfield and her sister, Ramona Dennison, who
lives next door to the Claggetts, complained that Claggett
installed video cameras that were pointed at their houses.
Id. at PagelD#405. At one point, Donald Claggett
filed for a temporary protection order against Hatfield and
Dennison. He later dismissed the case. Doc. #47,
when Donald Claggett was walking on the Adjacent Strip,
Hatfield confronted him about being on her property. He told
her to go ahead and call the police. He claimed that the
police could do nothing, given that the Adjacent Strip was
owned by the City. id. at PagelD#304. Because this
was contrary to what Hatfield believed, she confronted
Wenzler. She showed him all of the documents supporting her
belief that she owned the Adjacent Strip. She alleges that
the City also believed that she was the owner of that
property. Wenzler promised to research the issue. Doc. #47,
April of 2017, Wenzler determined that the City, in fact,
still owned the Adjacent Strip. In response to Claggetts'
complaints, he gave Hatfield seven days to remove her
personal property from the lot. Doc. #52-8, PagelD#529. It
does not appear that she complied with this order.
September 4, 2017, Hatfield again called the police because
Donald Claggett was walking on the Adjacent Strip. When the
police arrived, Hatfield told the officer that when she met
with Wenzler earlier that day, he had told her that the
property belonged to her; she was simply waiting on the deed.
Claggett told the officer, however, that Wenzler indicated
that the property belonged to him. Doc. #52-10,
PagelD##532-33. That evening, Donald Claggett emailed
Wenzler, complaining that Hatfield was preventing his son
from walking across the Adjacent Strip. He also complained
that Hatfield had not yet removed her belongings from the
Adjacent Strip. Doc. #52-9, PagelD#530. It appears that
Hatfield called the police again the following day. Doc.
Claggett confronted Wenzler in person and sent a follow-up
email, threatening to sue. On September 6, 2017, Wenzler
emailed Claggett that "the next time you come in my
office you will act as an adult and not raise your voice
telling me how to do my job[;] if you do that again you will
be asked to leave." Wenzler told Claggett that the city
was working on a resolution that would take about two weeks.
Doc. #52-13, PagelD##536-37.
testified that the City Manager had suggested that, to
resolve the dispute, the City could lease the Adjacent Strip
to Hatfield, Wenzler did not share this information with the
Claggetts or with Hatfield. Doc. #48, PagelD#410. He further
testified that he had no input in the City's decision to
lease the property to Hatfield. Id.
September 14, 2017, the City of Moraine agreed to lease the
Adjacent Strip to Tomi Hatfield for fifteen years for ten
dollars per year "in consideration for her prior efforts
and expenditures associated with maintenance of said property
and to ensure ongoing maintenance and care of the
property." Doc. #1-2. The lease was signed by Moraine
City Manager, David Hicks. According to Hicks, the lease
merely reduced to writing the long-standing belief of both
the City and Hatfield that she was maintaining and using the
Adjacent Strip. Doc. #49, PagelD#445. The ordinance was
passed in executive session, without any advance notice to
the Claggetts or to the public. The Claggetts learned of the
lease two days later. Doc. #52-1, PagelD#508. Although the
property description attached to the lease defines the
northern, southern and eastern boundaries of the Adjacent
Strip, it fails to define the western boundary, the one that
runs along the Claggetts' and Hatfield's property.
Doc. #1-2, PagelD#27.
between Hatfield and the Claggetts intensified after the
lease was signed. Doc. #47, PagelD#340. They continued to
call the police about alleged trespassing on each other's
property. The police, who did not know where the property
lines were, said that this was a zoning issue. Doc. #48,
PagelD#413. Claggett installed an additional two-foot section
of fence to block Hatfield and her sister, Ramona Dennison,
from cutting across his property to each other's yards.
Id. at PagelD#417; Doc. #52-1, PagelD#509.
September of 2017, twelve days after the lease was executed,
Donald and Mindy Claggett filed suit against Tomi Hatfield
and Ramona Dennison in the Municipal Court of Kettering. The
Claggetts sought approximately $6000 in damages to cover the
cost of surveillance cameras, the fence and attorney's
fees. In a Counterclaim, Hatfield and Dennison sought a
similar amount in attorney's fees and damages for
harassment, Doc. #30-1.
October 9, 2017, Wenzler tied yellow caution tape to stakes
along the Claggetts' driveway to delineate the property
boundary between the Claggetts' property and the Adjacent
Strip. Doc. #48, PagelD#413. He explained that, because the
fence was right on the property line, he gave the Claggetts
an extra foot so that they could get around it. The Claggetts
then had the lot surveyed again. Id.
Wenzler returned on October 27, 2017, to make the necessary
adjustments to the caution tape, Donald Claggett secretly
recorded the conversation. Doc. #52-1, PagelD#509. According
to the Verified Complaint, Wenzler told Claggett that he was
leaving the tape up "because I want everybody to know
what the property lines [are]. Just like you have your no
trespassing signs on the back of your fence. Stay two feet
off the fence ... If you're going to be that damn petty,
I am being that damn petty." He told Donald Claggett
that he was tired of him, and instructed him not to cross
over the line to cut his grass. He said "[i]f you want
to cut your grass, you go through that little stupid fence
you put up to block people through there and you walk your
mower down your side and cut that little strip." Doc.
Claggett removed the tape for a short period of time, Wenzler
put it up again in December of 2017, after Claggett called
the police to report an unknown prowler wandering around his
front yard. Doc. #52-1, PagelD#509. The police department
notified Wenzler that Claggett had complained about people
walking across his yard and had threatened to shoot anyone on
his property. Doc. #48, PagelD#413. Claggett maintains that
the presence of the tape "has prompted embarrassing
questions to my wife and me from curious neighbors and is a
source of daily annoyance and humiliation to me and my
January of 2018, Donald Claggett again secretly recorded a
meeting with Wenzler and Moraine's Chief of Police.
Wenzler said that, given that the Claggetts claimed that
their security cameras had recently captured nineteen people
cutting across their front yard, there must still be
confusion about where the boundary lines are. Therefore, the
tape would remain. Doc. #1, PagelD##8-9.
March 9, 2018, the Claggetts filed suit against Anthony
Wenzler, the City of Moraine, and Tomi
Hatfield. Seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, the Claggetts alleged violations of several
constitutional rights. In addition to monetary damages, they
also seek a declaratory judgment to the effect that the
City's purported lease of the Adjacent Strip to Tomi
Hatfield is null and void. In addition, they seek
injunctions: (1) prohibiting Defendants from barring the
Claggetts from the Adjacent Strip; (2) prohibiting Defendants
from amending or revising the purported lease or entering
into a new lease to cure any defects; (3) prohibiting
Defendants from maintaining the caution tape; and (4)
prohibiting the City from using its enforcement discretion to
bully and harass the Claggetts or to aid further such conduct
by Ms. Hatfield.
filed several state law Counterclaims against the Claggetts:
(1) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (2)
declaratory judgment concerning the property rights in
question; (3) invasion of privacy; and (4) trespass. Doc.
of 2018, after this lawsuit was filed, the parties reached an
agreement whereby the Claggetts would notify Hatfield when
they needed to access the Adjacent Strip either to mow their
grass or maintain their fence, and Hatfield would temporarily
remove the caution tape to allow them to do so. Doc. #22. At
his deposition, Donald Claggett indicated on a map where his
fence is and why he is unable to access this narrow sliver of
his property without stepping onto the Adjacent Strip. Doc.
#45, PagelD##278-81. That map is attached to this Decision
and Entry as Exhibit A.
have filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the
Counterclaims of intentional infliction of emotional
distress, invasion of privacy and trespass. Doc. #30.
Defendant Hatfield then filed a Cross Motion for Summary
Judgment on Plaintiffs' request for a declaratory
judgment concerning the validity of the lease. Doc. #33.
Defendants Wenzler and the City of Moraine have filed a
Motion for Summary Judgment on all claims asserted against
them. Doc. #43. Those motions are now fully briefed and ripe
Summary Judgment Standard
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."
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
The moving party always bears the initial responsibility of
informing the court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of the record which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Id. at 323; see also Boretti v. Wiscomb,
930 F.2d 1150, 1156 (6th Cir. 1991).
the moving party has met its initial burden, the nonmoving
party must present evidence that creates a genuine issue of
material fact making it necessary to resolve the difference
at trial." Talley v. Bravo Pitino Rest., Ltd.,
61 F.3d 1241, 1245 (6th Cir. 1995); see also Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). Once the
burden of production has so shifted, the party opposing
summary judgment cannot rest on its pleadings or merely
reassert its previous allegations. It is not sufficient to
"simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to
the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rule 56
"requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the
[unverified] pleadings" and present some type of
evidentiary material in support of its position.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. "The plaintiff must
present more than a scintilla of evidence in support of his
position; the evidence must be such that a jury could
reasonably find for the plaintiff." Michigan Prot.
& Advocacy Serv., Inc. v. Babin, 18 F.3d 337, 341
(6th Cir. 1994).
judgment 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). "Summary judgment will not lie if
the dispute about a material fact is 'genuine,' that
is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson,
4-11 U, S. at 248. In determining whether a genuine
dispute of material fact exists, a court must assume as true
the evidence of the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of that party. Id. at 255. If
the parties present conflicting evidence, a court may not
decide which evidence to believe. Credibility determinations
must be left to the fact-finder. 10A Wright, Miller &
Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure Civil 3d §
determining whether a genuine dispute of material fact
exists, a court need only consider the materials cited by the
parties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). "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), cert,
denied,494 U.S. 1091 (1990). If ...