United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on motions to dismiss filed by two
of the defendants in this case. Defendant Bill Gibbons
(“Gibbons”) filed a motion to dismiss the
complaint, [Doc. 7]. The plaintiff filed a response, [Doc.
10], opposing the dismissal. Defendant Auto-Owners Insurance
Company (“Auto-Owners”) filed a motion to dismiss
the complaint [Doc. 19]. The plaintiff has responded, [Doc.
38], and Auto-Owners has replied. [Doc. 41]. Defendant
Auto-Owners filed a motion for summary judgment, [Doc. 43].
In response, the plaintiff filed a motion to defer ruling on
the motion for summary judgment, [Doc. 47], to which
defendant Auto-Owners responded. [Doc. 48]. The matters are
ripe for review.
suit was originally brought in the Middle District of
Tennessee. However, the District Court in the Middle District
found that the plaintiff (“Patterson”) failed to
sufficiently allege venue and transferred the case to this
district. According to the complaint, Patterson owns a 1994
Ford truck. [Id. ¶ 46]. On July 15, 2015,
defendant Marshall Hicks, a Bradley County sheriff's
deputy asked the plaintiff for the keys to his truck.
[Id. ¶ 50]. Patterson gave Hicks the keys and
Hicks informed Patterson that the truck was being seized for
allegedly using the vehicle in conjunction with the transport
and sale of illegal narcotics. [Id. ¶¶
51-52]. According to the complaint, “it is alleged that
on July 29, 2014, Plaintiff and another person drove to a
house in Plaintiff's truck and while the other person was
in the house the other person sold a pill in the presence of
a confidential informant for $20.00.” [Id.
¶ 47]. Hicks provided Patterson a Notice of Seizure.
[Id. ¶ 56]. On August 17, 2017, 32 days after
the truck was seized, Hicks obtained a forfeiture warrant
after presenting an affidavit to a state judge. [Id.
was notified on September 17, 2015, that the forfeiture
warrant had been issued. [Id. ¶ 61]. An
administrative forfeiture hearing was
“established” on November 13, 2015 and the
hearing was set for December 14, 2015. [Id. ¶
62]. On December 14, 2015, Patterson appeared for the
forfeiture hearing but the hearing was continued, allegedly
over Patterson's objection. [Id. ¶ 67].
Patterson alleges that at the time the complaint was filed,
no new hearing date had been set. [Id. ¶ 67].
first claim is that the defendants “seized and are
continuing to seize Plaintiff's vehicle without a
warrant” in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments. Patterson requests the return of his vehicle,
attorney fees, and “an injunction prohibiting Tennessee
law enforcement officers from seizing non-contraband property
from private property without a warrant or where there is a
‘specifically established and well delineated
exception' to the warrant requirement.”
[Id. ¶ 94-95]. Patterson's second claim
alleges that Tennessee's criminal forfeiture statute,
Tennessee Code Annotated § 53-11-541(B)(4) is facially
unconstitutional and unconstitutional as applied. Patterson
also alleges the defendants have violated the defendant's
civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and §
1988. Patterson seeks a declaratory judgment regarding the
unconstitutionality of the forfeiture statute.
to the plaintiff's complaint, plaintiff Thomas Patterson
(“Patterson”) brings this action in his
individual capacity, [Complaint ¶ 18], and on
behalf of the “State of Tennessee on Relationship of
Thomas Patterson, ” [Id. ¶ 14]. Patterson
has brought suit against Bill Gibbons, the Tennessee
Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security, in his
individual capacity. [Id. ¶ 25]. Patterson also
sues “John and Jane Doe State Officers and Employees
Covered by Tennessee's blanket security bond” as
officers, directors, managers, and employees of the State of
Tennessee. [Id. ¶ 30]. “Defendant
Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland is sued as the
surety for Defendants Gibbons and each John and Jane Doe
covered by Tennessee's blanket surety bond.”
[Id. ¶ 31]. Defendant Marshall Hicks is a
Bradley County, Tennessee sheriff's deputy. [Id.
¶ 43]. Defendant Auto-Owners Insurance is sued “as
the surety for Marshall Hicks on his bond for the violations
of the obligations of the bond.” [Id. ¶
STANDARD OF REVIEW
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
eliminates a pleading or portion thereof that fails to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). Moreover, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2)
requires the complaint to contain a “short plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6) requires the Court to construe the
allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff and accept all the complaint's factual
allegations as true. Meador v. Cabinet for Human
Res., 902 F.2d 474, 475 (6th Cir. 1990). The Court may
not grant a motion to dismiss based upon a disbelief of a
complaint's factual allegations. Lawler v.
Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1199 (6th Cir. 1990). The Court
must liberally construe the complaint in favor of the party
opposing the motion. Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373,
377 (6th Cir. 1995). However, the plaintiff must allege facts
that, if accepted as true, are sufficient “to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level, ” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), and
to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Id. at 570; see also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). “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.”
Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. Moreover, this Court need
not “‘accept as true a legal conclusion couched
as a factual allegation.'” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S.
265, 286 (1986)); see also Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at
678. Lastly, this Court may consider documents central to the
plaintiff's claims to which the complaint refers and
incorporates as exhibits. Amini v. Oberlin College,
259 F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir. 2001).
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of
jurisdiction may be either an attack on the face of the
complaint or on the factual basis of jurisdiction. Golden
v. Gorno Bros., Inc., 410 F.3d 879, 881 (6th Cir. 2005).
A factual attack challenges the existence of jurisdiction,
apart from the pleadings. RMI Titanium Co. v.
Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1334 (citing
Mortensen v. First Federal Savings and Loan
Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 890 (3d Cir. 1977)). When a
factual issue exists in a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the district
court is “free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself
as the existence of its power to hear the case.”
Id. (citing Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 890-91).
The court is “empowered to resolve factual
disputes” arising out of a Rule 12(b)(1) challenge to
subject matter jurisdiction. Id. (citing Rogers
v. Stratton Industries, Inc., 798 F.2d 913, 915 (6th
Bill Gibbons and State of Tennessee's Motion to
State of Tennessee through the Attorney General, filed the
motion on behalf of Gibbons to dismiss the complaint for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a
claim for which relief may be granted. Gibbons argues the
complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Younger
abstention, because the plaintiff lacks standing to initiate
a quo warranto suit without authorization, and
finally because the plaintiff has failed to allege that
Gibbons was personally involved in the alleged § 1983
submits that the plaintiff's claims should be dismissed
pursuant to the Younger abstention doctrine because,
at the time the complaint was filed, the plaintiff was
litigating the state court administrative forfeiture
proceeding at the heart of the issues in this case. In
response, the plaintiff argues that he does not seek to
enjoin the state court administrative forfeiture proceeding
nor does he currently have any state court ...