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Brown v. City of Bloomington

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 27, 2018

Tase Brown, Melonie Scott and Ashley Scott, Plaintiffs,
City of Bloomington, Matthew George, a Minnesota peace officer Bloomington sued in his personal capacity, Carolyn Kne, a Minnesota peace officer Bloomington sued in her personal capacity, and John and Jane Does 1-10, Defendants.

          A.L. Brown, Esq. and Capitol City Law Group, LLC, counsel for plaintiffs.

          Jason M. Hiveley, Esq. and Iverson Reuvers Condon, counsel for defendants.


          DAVID S. DOTY, JUDGE

         This matter is before the court upon the motion for summary judgment by defendants City of Bloomington; Matthew George and Carolyn Kne, acting in their individual capacities as officers of the Bloomington police department; and John and Jane Does 1-10. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion in part.


         This civil rights dispute arises out of defendants' response to a November 4, 2014, report that plaintiffs Melonie Scott and Ashley Scott were committing fraud at Bloomington Lincoln Mercury car dealership in Bloomington, Minnesota.

         On September 20, 2014, Melonie went to the dealership to purchase a new car and trade in her then-current vehicle, a 2008 Dodge Caliber. Melonie Dep. at 7:1-18. At the dealership, Melonie worked with Rocky Foster - the finance manager - and Renaldo Dennis. Id. at 36:1-4. Melonie decided to purchase a 2012 Chevrolet Captiva and entered into a "Retail Installment Contract and Security Agreement" with the dealership. Id. at 7:1-7; see Hiveley Aff. Ex. D. Under the terms of the agreement, Melonie agreed that the remainder of the loan outstanding on the Caliber would be added to the loan for the Captiva.[1] Hiveley Aff. Ex. D at 56-57. Melonie and the dealership also entered into a "Conditional Delivery Agreement, Addendum to Installment Sales Contract." Id. at 53. The addendum provides that the dealership would deliver the Caliber to Melonie conditioned on its ability to obtain financing from a lending institution. Id. In the event the dealership was unable to obtain financing, Melonie was obligated either to pay the full purchase price of the vehicle or immediately return it to the dealership.[2] Id.

         After signing the above paperwork, Melonie left the dealership with the Captiva. See Melonie Dep. at 47:3-23. Although she had not read all of the paperwork, Melonie believed that she had completed the requisite forms and was to begin making monthly payments of $403.67 to First Investors beginning November 4, 2014.[3]Id. at 25:1-26:5, 43:1-12. Within a week of leaving the dealership, Melonie received a welcome call from First Investors regarding the financing of her vehicle, but received no other information. Id. at 38:15-19.

         A week later, Melonie returned to the dealership to pickup license plates for the Captiva. Id. at 35:6-14. Rocky Foster informed her that the plates had not yet arrived, but would be in soon. Id. Foster also requested paycheck stubs for income verification purposes, which she provided. Id. at 35:6-14. Melonie left the dealership under the impression that the deal was complete. Id. at 36:17-23, 43:17-21.

         The dealership, however, later informed Melonie that it was unable to obtain financing, accused her of lying on the credit application in order to steal the vehicle, and asked her to return the Captiva. Id. at 28:8-29:15. After consulting with various attorneys, she decided not to return the vehicle. Id. at 29:15-21.

         On November 4, 2014, Melonie, accompanied by her sister plaintiff Ashley Scott, returned to the dealership in a rental car[4]to make her first loan payment and to pickup license plates for the Captiva.[5] Id. at 46:9-13; Compl. ¶ 43. At the dealership, Melonie complained to the finance director, Matthew Zarras, about not receiving her license plates sooner. Melonie Dep. at 54:13-19. Zarras informed her that they were working on the problem, asked her to wait, and left. Id. Zarras subsequently called the Bloomington police to report a fraud in progress. Id.; Incident Report, Hiveley Aff. Ex. E at 5.

         Officer Robert George and other unidentified officers responded to the call.[6] Melonie Dep. at 55:12-22; Incident Report at 05. Once the officers arrived, an officer informed Melonie and Ashley that they were responding to a report of a stolen vehicle. Melonie Dep. at 55:12-22. Melonie protested that she did not steal a vehicle, and, in response, George told her and Ashley to "be quiet, have a seat ..., and don't move."[7] Id. Ashley testified that George told them that they were detained. Ashley Dep. at 24:13-17. George then went to speak with Zarras while an officer in plain clothes stood by the exit. Melonie Dep. at 55:12-22; Ashley Dep. at 23:23-24:3. Zarras informed George that Melonie had previously been at the dealership to buy a Captiva, but that the dealership was unable to secure financing through First Investors. Incident Report at 5. Zarras explained that First Investors had advised the dealership that they were unable to verify Melonie's employment because of inaccurate and false information provided on the application. Id. Zarras also told George that he had attempted to resolve the problem with Melonie and that she had provided additional contact information for an employer, but First Investors could not verify that information either.[8] Id. at 6. Finally, Zarras stated that he told Melonie that the loan was not approved and that she needed to return the car per the terms of the agreement, but she refused. Id. Zarras informed George that he did not want to press any charges if Melonie agreed to return the Captiva in exchange for her Caliber.[9] Id. at 7.

         After speaking with Zarras, George told Melonie that the dealership did not want to press charges. Brown Aff. Ex. 1 at 5:08-5:38. Melonie asked George what charges could be filed, and he responded that she lied on the credit application, which was a crime. Id.; Melonie Dep. at 58:4-17. She disputed that she provided false information on her application and told George that the dealership employees had filled out the incorrect credit application. Incident Report at 8. She also informed him that she had consulted with several attorneys about the car and that one attorney advised her to keep the car. Id.; Brown Aff. Ex. 1 at 4:30-50. Melonie and Ashley testified that George was not interested in hearing their side of the story and refused to look at paperwork that Melonie claimed supported her position. Melonie Dep. at 60:15-61:13; Ashley Dep. at 37:4-9. George then gave Melonie a choice between exchanging vehicles or being arrested for theft by swindle. Brown Aff. Ex. 1 at 5:50-6:10; Melonie Dep. at 58:10-17; Ashley Dep. at 25:8-10.

         George proceeded to ask Melonie where the Captiva was located, and Melonie informed him that it was at her mother's home.[10]Melonie Dep. at 70:8-20. Although Melonie did not remember her mother's address, she knew how to get there. Id. Melonie called her mother on her cell phone so that George could speak with her, but Brown was uncooperative and did not provide her address. Id. at 71:14-17; Incident Report at 8.

         Because she did not want to be arrested, Melonie agreed to lead the police to her mother's house in Richfield, Minnesota. Melonie Dep. at 79:8-15; Incident Report at 8. Before leaving the dealership, George seized Melonie's identification and cell phone. Melonie Dep. at 81:10-13; Brown Aff. Ex. 1 at 11:00-15. Ashley asked George whether she could get a copy of the report that was going to be filed. Brown Aff. Ex. 1 at 11:30-35. George responded that there was not going to be any report because this was a "civil matter." Id. at 11:35-50. Melonie and Ashley got into the rental car driven by Sayeed Omar, Melonie's friend, [11] and proceeded to drive to Brown's house, followed by three or four squad cars.[12]Melonie Dep. at 17:6-24, 109:9-10.

         En route to Brown's home, Melonie called her mother on Ashley's cell phone and told her that she was leading the police to her home. Id. at 82:4-10; Ashley Dep. at 40:4-14. Brown told Melonie that she did not want the police at her home. Melonie Dep. at 81:22-25; Ashley Dep. at 40:4-22. Omar then stopped the rental car, and Melonie told the police that her mother did not want them at her house. Melonie Dep. at 82:22-83:3; Incident Report at 8. According to Melonie, the police told her that she would be arrested if she did not continue to her mother's house. Melonie Dep. at 82:22-83:3. Brown heard this over the phone and decided to allow Melonie to lead the police to her home. Id.

         On arriving at Brown's home, the police pulled up to the side of the rental car and told Melonie and Ashley to stay in the vehicle while they waited for the Richfield police to arrive. Ashley Dep. at 43:21-44:9. Soon thereafter, three Richfield officers arrived, and Ashley and Melonie exited the rental car and walked towards Brown's home.[13] Ashley Dep. at 45:1-10; Incident Report at 8. Brown then exited her home and, while in the middle of the street, yelled at the police to leave her property. Melonie Dep. at 83:25-84:14; Incident Report at 8.

         Brown, Melonie, and Ashley went into the house, and several police officers approached the front and back door and were also on other areas of the property. Melonie Dep. at 84:5-14; Ashley Dep. at 47:11-15; Brown Dep. at 31:23-32:3. Brown again told the officers to leave her property. Brown Dep. at 33:12-14. Melonie told the officers that she was not going to give up the vehicle and, approximately twenty minutes after arriving at Brown's home, the officers departed. Melonie Dep. at 87:6-20; Incident Report at 0008.

         George returned to the dealership to inform Zarras that Melonie was not going to return the vehicle, and the dealership decided to press criminal charges. Incident Report at 9. On November 6, 2014, defendant Officer Kne executed a search warrant and, pursuant to the warrant, seized the Captiva located in Brown's garage. Brown Dep. at 41:2-43:5; Incident Report at 16. Kne arrested Brown for aiding and abetting a theft by swindle, and the Captiva was returned to the dealership. Incident Report at 13, 16.

         On the same day, Melonie learned about her mother's arrest and turned herself into police. Melonie Dep. at 89:11-91:17. Brown and Melonie were released the same day, and both were acquitted after separate trials. Melonie Dep. at 92:14-15, 101:22-102:5; Brown Dep. at 59:10-60:2.

         On January 5, 2015, plaintiffs filed suit alleging that George and John and Jane Does unreasonably seized Melonie and Ashley at the dealership (Count I), unreasonably seized Melonie and Ashley in the escort to Brown's home (Count II), and unreasonably searched and seized Brown's home (Count IV) all in violation of the Fourth Amendment; that George unreasonably seized Melonie's cell phone in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Count III); and that Kne and John and Jane Does violated the Fourteenth Amendment (Count VI) and committed conversion (Count VII) by transferring the Captiva to the dealership without due process.[14] Defendants now move for summary judgment.


         I. Standard of Review

         "The court shall grant summary judgment 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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A fact is material only when its resolution affects the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) . A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. See id. at 252 ("The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient ....").

         On a motion for summary judgment, the court views all evidence and inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 255. The nonmoving party, however, may not rest upon mere denials or allegations in the pleadings but must set forth specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. A party asserting that a genuine dispute exists - or cannot exist - about a material fact must cite "particular parts of materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) (1) (A) . If a plaintiff cannot support each essential element of a claim, the court must grant summary judgment because a complete failure of proof regarding an essential element necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.

         II. John and Jane Doe Defendants

         As a preliminary matter, defendants argue that the unidentified defendants must be dismissed from the action as a matter of law. It is improper for a court to dismiss unnamed defendants early in litigation where it is likely that discovery may lead to the defendant's identification. Munz v. Parr, 758 F.2d 1254, 1257 (8th Cir. 1985) . But a court may dismiss unnamed defendants "when it appears that the true identity of the defendant[s] cannot be learned through discovery or the court's intervention." Id.

         Here, discovery has been completed, the deadline for amendments has passed, and plaintiffs do not seek additional discovery or ask for the court's intervention in identifying the unnamed defendants. Indeed, plaintiffs do not state any opposition to the defendant's argument that these defendants should be dismissed. Accordingly, the court dismisses the John and Jane Doe defendants from this action with prejudice.

         III. ...

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