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Koenigs L.L.C. v. City of Savannah

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

July 19, 2019

KOENIGS, L.L.C., Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SAVANNAH; GARRY WELCH, individually and in his official capacity; RICKY BRATTON, individually only; CURTIS MANSFIELD JR., individually only; and JOHN ALBERTSON III, individually only, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING CITY DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          S. THOMAS ANDERSON CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Unfortunately, a driver sometimes finds himself in need of a tow and unable to call for such service. In these instances, first responders contact a reputable towing company on the driver's behalf. To accommodate this need, the City of Savannah maintains a list of reputable, reliable towing companies. The list is for the benefit of drivers within the city, as the list is utilized only in cases where the driver has no company preference or is unable to choose a towing company.

         Plaintiff is a towing company located in Savannah, Tennessee, that answers these calls from the Savannah Police Department. Plaintiff held a place on the City of Savannah's list until August 26, 2016, when the City of Savannah removed Plaintiff. That removal is the crux of the claims against the City and City Manager Garry Welch.

         Plaintiff commenced this action on June 9, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for various alleged civil rights violations. (ECF No. 1.) The Court previously dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims against the City Defendants, with the exception of its procedural due process claim. (ECF No. 38.)

         Now before the Court is the City of Savannah's and Garry Welch's Motion for Summary Judgment on the issue of procedural due process, which was filed on March 18, 2019. (ECF No. 50.) Plaintiff filed its consolidated Response in opposition to the City Defendants' and the State Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment on April 26, 2019. (ECF No. 58.) For the reasons stated below, the Defendants'[1] Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND[2]

         The City of Savannah, Tennessee, maintains a list of the only wrecker companies that the Savannah Police Department may utilize. (ECF No. 50-4 at 6.) The stated purpose of maintaining such a list is to ensure “the safe and efficient removal, storage and safekeeping of [any] and all vehicles being towed and placed into the custody of such wrecker service.” (Id.) In furtherance of this purpose, the City established policies, procedures, and regulations regarding wrecker companies' equipment, drivers, procedures, and services. (Id.) These provisions are located in the City's Wrecker Service Standards Manual (“Manual”). (Id.)

         Any company wishing to be included on the City's list, and therefore be subject to the provisions outlined in the Manual, must simply submit an application to the Chief of Police. (Id.) Plaintiff applied for inclusion on the City's list in 2014. (ECF No. 51-3 at 2-3.) One requirement for applicants is that they “meet THP [(Tennessee Highway Patrol)] Requirements and State Certification on equipment, insurance and drivers.” Plaintiff was a member of the THP's list[3]- thus evidencing Plaintiff's compliance with the THP's requirements-beginning in August of 2013. (ECF No. 51-3 at 2). Plaintiff was suspended from the THP's list on August 23, 2016, pursuant to Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (“DOSHS”) Captain Mansfield's Final Determination that Plaintiff violated THP policy. (ECF No. 50-4 at 21-22.)

         Upon learning of Plaintiff's suspension, Defendant City Manager Garry Welch sent Plaintiff a letter notifying it of its removal from the City's list. (ECF No. 24-1; ECF No. 50-4 at 2.) In the letter, Defendant Welch stated that Plaintiff was being removed from the City's list “due to [Plaintiff's] firm currently not being on the T.H.P. list of approved towing operations, ” pursuant to the city's Manual.[4] (ECF No. 24-1.)

         Plaintiff would have been eligible for reinstatement (within thirty days) or reconsideration (after thirty days), upon a showing of THP compliance. (ECF No. 50-4 at 2-3.) Yet, Plaintiff never requested reinstatement or reapplied. (Id.) Regardless of Plaintiff's removal, Plaintiff still “frequently” receives and answers calls from the City of Savannah. (ECF No. 51-3 at 4.)

         Contesting its removal from both the THP's list and the City's list, Plaintiff filed this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on June 9, 2017. (ECF No. 1.) The Court has since dismissed Plaintiff's claims, with the exception of its allegation that Defendants deprived Plaintiff of procedural due process when Defendant Welch eliminated Plaintiff from the City's list. (ECF No. 38.) That issue is now before the Court on summary judgment. (ECF No. 50.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the Court determines 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). A “genuine issue of material fact” is a fact which, if proven at trial, could lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In considering whether summary judgment is appropriate, the Court must “look beyond the pleadings and assess the proof to determine whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Sowards v. Loudon Cnty., 203 F.3d 426, 431 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 875 (2000).

         The Court must view the evidence and all inferences drawn from underlying facts “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., Ltd., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Gribcheck v. Runyon, 245 F.3d 547, 550 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 896 (2001). The moving party must demonstrate “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to at least one essential element on Plaintiff's claim, ” at which point the non-moving party “must present sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably find for him.” Jones v. Muskegon Cty., 625 F.3d 935, 940 (6th Cir. 2010).

         ANALYSIS

         In their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants assert that the undisputed facts entitle them to judgment as a matter of law. (ECF No. 50.) In support of this assertion, Defendants state that Plaintiffs have no constitutionally protected property interest in remaining on the list. (ECF No. 50-1 at 4-10.) Further, Defendants contend that Defendant Garry Welch is entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 50-1 at 10-12.) Plaintiff responded in opposition (ECF No. 58), to which Defendants replied (ECF No. 59). For reasons that follow, the Court finds that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment in their favor.

         I. Plaintiff's Response neither raises a genuine issue of material fact nor responds tothe merits of ...


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