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Chkrs, LLC v. City of Dublin

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 22, 2019

CHKRS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF DUBLIN, OHIO, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KIMBERLY A. JOLSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10), Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc. 13), and Plaintiff's Second Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc. 24). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Second Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc. 24) is GRANTED conditioned on the terms set forth in this Opinion and Order. Further, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10) and Plaintiff's First Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc. 13) are DENIED as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case concerns construction work performed by Defendants on Plaintiff's driveway. Plaintiff is the current owner and prior tenant of 6310 Riverside Drive in Dublin, Ohio. (Doc. 24, Proposed Am. Compl., ¶ 2). Defendants are the City of Dublin, Ohio and Dana McDaniel, Dublin's City Manager. (Id. at 1).

         In July 2015, Plaintiff entered into a three-year lease (the “Lease”) with an option to purchase the property at 6310 Riverside Drive (the “Property”). (Id., ¶ 15). Riverside Drive is a major road connecting Defendant Dublin to downtown Columbus, Ohio. In relevant part, it runs North-South along the Scioto River. The Property abuts Riverside Drive on the east side and is just south of the intersection of Riverside Drive and State Route 161. The Property's driveway runs East-West to provide ingress and egress to Riverside Drive.

         (Image Omitted)

         (Id., ¶ 44).

         Several months later in September 2015, Defendant Dublin "sued to appropriate a permanent bike path easement and a temporary construction easement" on the Property. (Id., ¶ 17). The parties-along with the then current owner of the Property, Karen Friedman-litigated the appropriation in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals, and Ohio Supreme Court (the "State Court Action"). (Id., ¶¶ 17-22, 34, 37-39).

         While the State Court Action was pending, in November 2015, Defendant Dublin began construction on the Property and "over several months, cleared and regraded the property; constructed a wall separating the property from the bike path and the street that obstructed visibility of pedestrians and bicycles on the bike path, and vehicles on Riverside Drive; and removed the existing driveway access to Riverside Drive." (Id., ¶ 11). According to Plaintiff, the driveway was not part of the appropriation litigated in the State Court Action. (Id., ¶ 12).

         Relevant here is the portion of Plaintiff's driveway and related improvements in between Riverside Drive to the west and the bike path to the east (the “Driveway”). (See id., ¶ 2 (“The section of driveway, at issue, is in the right of way granted for a highway easement.”)). A highway easement on the Property encompasses the Driveway. (Id.). In removing the Driveway, Defendant Dublin “relocated the driveway without notice or an opportunity to be heard” and “failed to comply with its Codified Ordinances regarding driveway improvements and Ohio Department of Transportation requirements regarding driveway access on State highways.” (Id., ¶ 12). Defendant Dublin subsequently altered the Driveway on two additional occasions in 2016, changing the grade of the land and moving the Driveway itself. (Id., ¶¶ 42-44).

         As a result of Defendant Dublin's actions, Plaintiff alleges, the Driveway “is unsafe.” (Id., ¶ 48). And “[a] vehicle entering from Riverside Drive and ascending to the bike path cannot see anyone approaching the driveway from the south.” (Id.). Plaintiff further alleges that the Driveway's slope does not meet ODOT's maximum recommended driveway slope or recommended maximum intersection angle. (Id., ¶ 49).

         Plaintiff filed a four-count Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on November 2, 2018. (Doc. 2). It alleged violations of its Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights based on Defendants' alleged seizure and removal of the Driveway. (See generally id.). Defendants subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 10), and Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc. 13).

         After the Supreme Court issued its decision in Knick v. Twp. of Scott, Pennsylvania, 139 S.Ct. 2162 (2019), Plaintiff filed its Second Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc. 24). That Motion seeks to add a takings claims consistent with Knick in addition to its procedural and substantive due process claims under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. 24, ¶¶ 68-76). It also drops two claims included in the original Complaint (Doc. 2) and the initial proposed Amended Complaint (Doc. 13): a Fourth Amendment claim for illegal seizure of property and a Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim. The Motions are fully briefed and ripe for resolution.

         II. SECOND MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT (Doc. 24)

         A. Standard of Review

         Trial courts enjoy broad discretion in deciding motions for leave to amend. See Gen. Elec. Co. v. Sargent & Lundy, 916 F.2d 1119, 1130 (6th Cir. 1990). When a party seeks leave of court to amend a pleading, “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). This rule “reinforce[s] the principle that cases ‘should be tried on their merits rather than the technicalities of pleadings.'” Inge v. Rock Finan. Corp., 388 F.3d 930, 936 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting Moore v. City of Paducah, 790 F.2d 557, 559 (6th Cir. 1986)). In interpreting this Rule, “[i]t should be emphasized that the case law in this Circuit manifests liberality in allowing amendments to a complaint.” Parchman v. SLM Corp., 896 F.3d 728, 736 (6th Cir. 2018) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

In the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.-the leave sought should, as the rules require, be “freely given.” Pittman v. Experian Info. Sols., Inc., 901 F.3d 619, 640-41 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting Foman v.

Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).

         However, “[o]nce a pleading deadline has passed, litigants must meet the higher threshold for modifying a scheduling order found in Rule 16(b).” Shane v. Bunzl Distribution USA, Inc., 275 Fed.Appx. 535, 536 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 906-07 (6th Cir. 2003)). “[T]he touchstone of the good cause inquiry under Rule 16(b) is whether the moving party acted diligently in attempting to meet the deadline set forth in the pretrial order.” Permasteelisa CS Corp. v. Airolite Co., LLC, No. 2:06-cv-0569, 2007 WL 1683668, at *2 (S.D. Ohio June 8, 2007). The Court must also consider “the potential prejudice to the nonmovant.” Leary, 349 F.3d at 909. Because the deadline for amending the pleadings has passed (see Doc. 18), the Court considers both Rules 15 and 16 in ruling on Plaintiff's Second Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (Doc. 24).

         B. Discussion

         Plaintiff requests leave to file its proposed Amended Complaint. (See Doc. 24). Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Motion should be denied because: (1) Plaintiff's proposed amendments are futile; (2) Plaintiff has acted in bad faith; (3) Plaintiff has repeatedly failed to cure deficiencies in the Complaint; and (4) Defendants will suffer undue prejudice if Plaintiff's amendments are permitted. The Court addresses each of these arguments in turn.

         1. Good Cause

         Although neither party addresses the Rule 16(b) good cause standard, (see generally Docs. 24-26), the Court finds that Plaintiff has satisfied it here. The deadline for motions to amend was June 3, 2019. But on June 21, 2019, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania, 139 S.Ct. 2162 (2019), authorizing property owners to bring takings claims in federal court without first exhausting their state remedies. Two weeks later, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion seeking to file the proposed Amended Complaint, which adds a takings claim in light of Knick. Because Knick was not issued prior to the deadline for amendments, Plaintiff demonstrated the necessary diligence to establish good cause by promptly filing the proposed Amended Complaint within weeks of Knick's issuance. The Court, therefore, turns to the Rule 15 analysis.

         2. Futility

         Although Rule 15 encourages leave to amend be freely granted, a court “need not give leave to amend when doing so would be futile.” SFS Check, LLC v. First Bank of Del., 774 F.3d 351, 355 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Rose v. Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 417, 420 (6th Cir. 2000)). “Amending would be futile if a proposed amendment would not survive a motion to dismiss.” SFS Check, 774 F.3d at 355 (citing Riverview Health Inst. LLC v. Med. Mut. of Ohio, 601 F.3d 505, 512 (6th Cir. 2010)).

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” to survive a motion to dismiss. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663-64, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In reviewing the complaint, a court must construe it in favor of the plaintiff and accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (emphasis added) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         On the other hand, a complaint that consists of “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (noting that a plaintiff must give specific, well-pleaded facts, not just conclusory allegations). In other words, while “detailed factual allegations” are not required under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)'s “short and plain statement” rule, the law “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-78 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         a. Preclusion

         Defendants contend that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata. (See Doc. 10 at 4-5; Doc. 16 at 8; Doc. 22 at 2-3; Doc. 25 at 7-8). Specifically, they argue that issue preclusion prevents Plaintiff from relitigating the exact same facts and legal issues that were raised in the State Court action. (See, e.g., Doc. 10 at 4-5).

         Under the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause, and the Full Faith and Credit Statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, “a federal court must give to a state-court judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment under the law of the State in which the judgment was rendered.” Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984). When a party relies on a prior state court action as the basis for its res judicata argument, courts “look to the state's law to assess the preclusive effect it would attach to that judgment.” Ohio ex rel. Boggs v. City of Cleveland, 655 F.3d 516, 519 (6th Cir. 2011) (citation and internal quotations omitted).

         In Ohio, “[t]he doctrine of res judicata encompasses the two related concepts of claim preclusion, also known as res judicata or estoppel by judgment, and issue preclusion, also known as collateral estoppel.” O'Nesti v. DeBartolo Realty Corp., 862 N.E.2d 803, 806 (Ohio 2007) (citing Grava v. Parkman Twp., 653 N.E.2d 226, 228 (Ohio 1995)). “Issue preclusion … serves to prevent relitigation of any fact or point that was determined by a court of competent jurisdiction in a previous action between the same parties or their privies.” O'Nesti, 862 N.E.2d at 806 (citing Fort Frye Teachers Assn., OEA/NEA v. State Emp. Relations Bd., 692 N.E.2d 140, 144 (Ohio 1998)). It “applies even if the causes of action differ.” O'Nesti, 862 N.E.2d at 806 (citing Fort Frye Teachers Assn., 692 N.E.2d at 144).

         Issue preclusion has four elements under Ohio law:

(1) The party against whom estoppel is sought was a party or in privity with a party to the prior action;
(2) There was a final judgment on the merits in the previous case after a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue;
(3) The issue must have been admitted or actually tried and decided and must be necessary to ...

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