United States District Court, D. Minnesota
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motions to
Dismiss. For the following reasons, the Motions are granted.
March 27, 2016, Plaintiffs Charles Waters and his wife, Anita
Waters, went to the Coon Rapids store of Defendant Menard,
Inc., to exchange a saw that they had purchased. (Am. Compl.
(Docket No. 28) ¶ 31.) Mr. Waters returned his saw in
the store and was directed to pick up his new saw from the
Menard's lumberyard behind the store. (Id.
¶¶ 37-38.) Plaintiffs do not dispute the existence
of signs at the entrance and exit of the Menard's
lumberyard, informing patrons that vehicles are subject to
inspection when they leave the lumberyard. Rather, they
allege that they did not see any sign. (Id.
¶¶ 40, 49-50.)
Waters drove his vehicle into the lumberyard behind the
Menard's store with Mrs. Waters in the passenger seat.
(Id. ¶ 39.) A Menard's employee opened
their trunk and put the new saw inside, and they then
proceeded to the lumberyard exit gate. (Id.
¶¶ 41, 44, 49, 59.) Mr. Waters's video
recording clearly shows a sign at the exit gate
regarding vehicle inspections. (Id. Ex. A. at
exit gate, an attendant directed Mr. Waters to open his trunk
for inspection, citing the signs. (Id. ¶ 61,
Ex. A. at 30:58-31:02.) Mr. Waters refused because he
believed that he was “under no legal obligation”
to open his trunk. (Id. ¶ 62, Ex. A at
31:02-:40.) The gate attendant requested the presence of a
Menard's manager. (Id. Ex. A at 31:59-32:04.)
Mr. Waters called the police, claiming that Menard's was
unlawfully detaining him. (Id. ¶¶ 68,
70-72, Ex. A at 33:10-:16.)
Coon Rapids Police Officers Alyssa Smith and Emily
Kirchner responded to the call. (Id. ¶ 72.)
Officer Smith approached the Menard's manager first, who
told her that Menard's needed to verify the purchases in
Plaintiffs' trunk before they could leave and that Mr.
Waters believed he was being unlawfully detained.
(Id. Ex. A at 38:02-:14.) Officer Smith then
approached Mr. Waters and directed him to let the
Menard's employees verify the purchases in his trunk.
(Id. at 38:14-:37.) Mr. Waters refused again, and
Officer Smith then asked Mr. Waters for his identification,
which he refused to provide because he said he was “not
currently driving.” (Id. at 38:38-:59.)
Officer Smith directed Mr. Waters to exit his vehicle and
informed him that she had reasonable suspicion of criminal
activity because he would not open his trunk and “could
very well have stolen property.” (Id. ¶
79, Ex. A at 39:17-:30.)
point, Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Waters exited his vehicle,
Officers Smith and Kirchner pat-searched him, and he returned
to his vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 80-83.) They also
allege that the officers directed him to exit his vehicle a
second time, and after he exited the vehicle this time, the
officers handcuffed him and put him in a squad car without
pat-searching him. (Id. ¶¶ 88-89.) The
record before the Court belies Plaintiffs' allegations.
security footage and Officer Smith's dash cam video
clearly establish that Mr. Waters only exited his vehicle
once after Officers Smith and Kirchner directed him to do so.
(Am. Compl. Ex. A at 38:57-41:13; Stuart Decl. Ex. D at
11:35-15:15; Zipf Aff. Ex. 2 at 14:25:26-:26:00.) After Mr.
Waters exited his vehicle, Officer Kirchner searched him for
weapons, handcuffed him, and escorted him to a squad car.
(Stuart Decl. Ex. D at 13:52-15:15.)
Smith then returned to Plaintiffs' vehicle and asked Mrs.
Waters to identify Mr. Waters. (Am. Compl. Ex. A at
46:14-49:29.) Mrs. Waters identified Mr. Waters for Officer
Smith and informed the officers that her husband has a form
of autism. (Id. at 46:25, 47:57-49:27.) Officer
Smith requested that Mrs. Waters comply with the Menard's
policy by letting them verify the product that Mr. Waters
purchased. (Id. at 47:00-:08, 47:40-:55.) And while
Officer Smith was talking to Mrs. Waters, Sergeant B. Madson
arrived on scene. (Id. at 47:00.)
Smith spoke with Sergeant Madson, and when she returned to
Mrs. Waters, she renewed her request that Mrs. Waters comply
with the Menard's policy. (Id. at 50:46-51:28.)
Specifically, she stated, “Would you be willing to open
the trunk for these gentlemen because that's the only
issue holding us up here . . . .” (Id.) She
also stated, “It'd be doing us a huge favor if you
could just bring that invoice and step out with these guys
and pop the trunk for us, and we'll chalk it up to [Mr.
Waters] having a bad day.” (Id.) Mrs. Waters
complied; she exited the vehicle, gave the invoice to the
Menard's employees, and opened her trunk. (Id.
at 51:29-59.) The Menard's employees verified the
purchase and inspected Plaintiffs' trunk, and the police
officers released Mr. Waters. (Id.) Mr. Waters also
received a trespass warning, excluding him from the Coon
Rapids Menard's store for one year. (Id. ¶
Plaintiffs left the lumberyard, Mr. Waters requested the
names and badge numbers of all officers present.
(Id. ¶ 129.) Mr. Waters approached Sergeant
Madson in order to obtain his badge number. (Zipf Aff. Ex. 2
at 14:40:43.) The dash cam video shows Mr. Waters was within
reaching distance of Sergeant Madson. (Id.) Sergeant
Madson placed his hands on Mr. Waters, turned Mr. Waters away
from him, and pushed Mr. Waters in the direction of Mr.
Waters's car. (Id. at 14:40:43-:45.) Plaintiffs
left the Menard's lumberyard in their vehicle.
(Id. at 14:41:26.) The entire encounter with law
enforcement lasted about 20 minutes.
Waters filed a written complaint with the Coon Rapids Police
Department on March 30, 2016. (Id. ¶ 132.) The
Amended Complaint alleges that Captain Thomas Hawley refused
Mr. Waters's request to accept the written complaint by
email. (Id. ¶¶ 137-38.) Nevertheless,
attached to the Amended Complaint is a letter from the Coon
Rapids Chief of Police Brad Wise, informing Mr. Waters that
the formal complaint was reviewed and that he believed the
police officers acted lawfully. (Id. Ex. F.) The
formal complaint was closed. (Id.)
filed a 19-claim Amended Complaint on July 16, 2017. Claims
I, II, III, IV, VI, IX, XVI, and XVII allege that Defendants
violated Plaintiffs' First and Fourth Amendment rights.
(Id. ¶¶ 160-63, 165, 169, 179-80.) Claim
VII alleges that the City violated Plaintiffs' First,
Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. ¶¶
166-67). Claims V and VIII allege that Defendants
discriminated against Mr. Waters based on his perceived
political beliefs and based on his disabilities.
(Id. ¶¶ 164, 168.) Claims X, XI, and XVIII
are false imprisonment claims. (Id. ¶¶
170-74, 184.) Claim XII is for battery, Claim XIII is for
defamation, Claim XIV is for common-law trespass, Claim XV is
for invasion of privacy, and Claim XIX is for negligence.
(Id. ¶¶ 175-78, 185-86.) Defendants move
for dismissal or summary judgment on all claims, arguing that
Plaintiffs have failed to state any claim on which relief can
evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court
assumes the allegations in the Amended Complaint to be true
and construes all reasonable inferences from those facts in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Morton
v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986). The Court
need not accept as true wholly conclusory allegations,
Hanten v. Sch. Dist. of Riverview Gardens, 183 F.3d
799, 805 (8th Cir. 1999), or legal conclusions that the
plaintiff draws from the facts pled. Westcott v. City of
Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990).
complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face” to survive a
motion to dismiss. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although a complaint need not contain
“detailed factual allegations, ” it must contain
facts with enough specificity “to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Id. at
555. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” will
not pass muster under Twombly. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This standard
“calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the
claim].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.
Fourth Amendment Claims
argue that the City seized Mr. Waters (Claim III) and Mrs.
Waters (Claim VI), and searched Plaintiffs' vehicle
(Claim XVI) in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They also
contend that Menard's unlawfully seized them and searched
their vehicle under color of state law (Claim XVII). The City
argues that it is entitled to immunity against
Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claims, and Menard's
contends that it is not a state actor subject to a §
1983 claim under the Fourth Amendment.
immunity shields a police officer from a lawsuit if a
reasonable officer could have believed that the police
officer's conduct was “lawful, in light of clearly
established law and the information the [police] officers
possessed.” Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224,
227 (1991) (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S.
635, 641 (1987)). In other words, the plaintiff must first
“make out a violation of a constitutional right.”
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009)
(citations omitted). A government official is then entitled
to qualified immunity only if “the right at issue was
‘clearly established' at the time of
defendant's alleged misconduct.” Id.
Clearly established law “turns on the ‘objective
legal reasonableness of the action, assessed in light of the
legal rules that were clearly established at the time it was
taken.'” Id. at 244 (quoting Wilson v.
Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 614 (1999)). “[T]he clearly
established law must be ‘particularized' to the
facts of the case.” White v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct.
548, 552 (2017) (quoting Anderson, 483 U.S. at 640).
Claims III and VI: Seizure
police officer may “conduct a brief, investigatory stop
when the officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion that
criminal activity is afoot.” Illinois v.
Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 123 (2000) (citing Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968)). “Reasonable
suspicion is a lower threshold than probable cause, and it
requires considerably less than proof of wrongdoing by a
preponderance of the evidence.” United States v.
Carpenter, 462 F.3d 981, 986 (8th Cir. 2006) (citations
omitted). Put into the context of qualified immunity, the
City need only show, under the totality of the circumstances,
that “a reasonable officer could have believed that he
had a reasonable suspicion; in other words, if he had
arguable reasonable suspicion.” De La Rosa v.
White, 852 F.3d 740, 745-46 (8th Cir. 2017). Police