Kan. Motorcycle Works USA, LLC v. McCloud, Case No. 20-cv-01180-TC-JPO

CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
Writing for the CourtToby Crouse, United States District Judge
Citation569 F.Supp.3d 1112
Parties KANSAS MOTORCYCLE WORKS USA, LLC, Plaintiff v. Hal Derek MCCLOUD, et al., Defendants
Docket NumberCase No. 20-cv-01180-TC-JPO
Decision Date27 October 2021

569 F.Supp.3d 1112

KANSAS MOTORCYCLE WORKS USA, LLC, Plaintiff
v.
Hal Derek MCCLOUD, et al., Defendants

Case No. 20-cv-01180-TC-JPO

United States District Court, D. Kansas.

Signed October 27, 2021


569 F.Supp.3d 1116

Sean M. McGivern, Graybill & Hazlewood LLC, Wichita, KS, for Plaintiff.

Edward L. Keeley, McDonald Tinker, PA, Wichita, KS, for Defendants Bryant Evans, Rice County, Kansas, Board of Commissioners, Casey Schrag.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Toby Crouse, United States District Judge

Plaintiff Kansas Motorcycle Works USA, LLC, has asserted several constitutional claims against Defendants Bryant Evans, Casey Schrag, and the Board of County Commissioners of Rice County, Kansas. Doc. 25. Defendants have moved to dismiss, Docs. 37–38, and Plaintiff has requested oral argument. Doc. 52. For the following reasons, Defendants’ motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff's motion for oral argument is denied.

I

Defendants have moved for dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). They assert that the Second Amended Complaint, Doc. 25, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.

569 F.Supp.3d 1117

A

Defendants move to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Rule 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" from each named defendant. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) ; Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).

The Tenth Circuit has summarized two "working principles" that underlie this standard. Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins , 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011) ; see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678–79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). First, the Court ignores legal conclusions, labels, and any formulaic recitation of the elements. Kan. Penn Gaming , 656 F.3d at 1214. Second, the Court accepts as true all remaining allegations and logical inferences and asks whether the claimant has alleged facts that make his or her claim plausible. Id.

A claim need not be probable to be considered plausible. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937. But the facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the claimant, must move the claim from merely conceivable to actually plausible. Id. at 678–80, 129 S.Ct. 1937. The "mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims." Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider , 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007).

Plausibility is context specific. The requisite showing depends on the claims alleged, and the inquiry usually starts with determining what the plaintiff must prove at trial. See Comcast Corp. v. Nat'l Assoc. of African Am.-Owned Media , ––– U.S. ––––, 140 S. Ct. 1009, 1014, 206 L.Ed.2d 356 (2020). The nature and complexity of the claim(s) define what plaintiffs must plead. Cf. Robbins v. Oklahoma , 519 F.3d 1242, 1248–49 (10th Cir. 2008) (comparing the factual allegations required to show a plausible personal injury claim versus a plausible constitutional violation).

B

1. This case stems from a civil property dispute between Plaintiff Kansas Motorcycle Works USA, LLC, and Hal McCloud, a Rice County Commissioner conducting business in his private capacity. Doc. 25 at ¶¶ 1–2, 12. Based on a verbal agreement with McCloud, Kansas Motorcycle invested money into improving certain tooling equipment. The agreement contemplated Kansas Motorcycle and McCloud sharing the equipment, which they sent to a third-party business in Gove County, Formation Plastics, for additional work. Doc. 25 at ¶¶ 11–16.

Evidently a dispute arose between Kansas Motorcycle and McCloud over the ownership or disposition of the jointly owned equipment. See Doc. 25 at ¶¶ 11–17. The complaint is silent as to the source or specifics of the dispute, but eventually, McCloud convinced Rice County Sheriff's Deputy Casey Schrag to assist. Schrag traveled in his Rice County Sheriff's Office patrol vehicle to Formation Plastics, located in Gove County, and arrived at the business wearing his Sheriff's Office uniform. Id. at ¶ 18. Schrag took possession of the equipment, returned with the equipment to Rice County, and then delivered it to McCloud despite Kansas Motorcycle's ownership interests. Id. at ¶¶ 20–23. Schrag did not seek or obtain a warrant for the equipment's seizure. Id. at ¶ 28. Although the complaint's exhibits suggest McCloud had reported the equipment as stolen, Docs. 25-4–25-5, no criminal charges were filed, and Kansas Motorcycle alleges there was never any criminal investigation. Id. at 25.

569 F.Supp.3d 1118

At all relevant times, Defendant Bryant Evans was the Rice County Sheriff. Doc. 25 at ¶ 3. The complaint broadly alleges that Evans "conspired with" McCloud and Schrag "to seize the Equipment and bring it to McCloud's warehouse" and that he "expressly approved and permitted the unlawful seizure." Doc. 25 at ¶¶ 17 & 24. Kansas Motorcycle also alleges that the Board of County Commissioners and Evans failed to implement any policies "prohibiting their employees from seizing property without a warrant" and failed to require employees to adhere to the Constitution. Doc. 25 at ¶¶ 30–31.

2. Kansas Motorcycle originally sued McCloud, Evans, Schrag, and the Board of County Commissioners. Doc. 25. Subsequently, the parties stipulated to McCloud's dismissal with prejudice, rendering moot his motion to dismiss. Docs. 53–54.

Seeking redress under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the remaining Defendants, Kansas Motorcycle alleges that they "violated the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution." Doc. 25 at ¶¶ 32–35.1 Defendants seek dismissal of all claims. Doc. 37.

II

The motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, the complaint plausibly alleges that Schrag violated Kansas Motorcycle's clearly established constitutional rights. But Kansas Motorcycle has failed to allege facts showing Evans or the Board were engaged in a conspiracy, officially ratified Schrag's conduct, or were deliberately indifferent. Thus, the claims against Evans and the Board of County Commissioners are dismissed.

A

Kansas Motorcycle alleges that Schrag—and all Defendants—violated its constitutional rights, and it asserts several claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. That statute provides that "[e]very person who, under color of [state law,] subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen ... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured." Id. It creates no substantive rights in and of itself, but merely provides a mechanism for enforcing a right conferred by the Constitution or federal statute. Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe , 536 U.S. 273, 285, 122 S.Ct. 2268, 153 L.Ed.2d 309 (2002). Thus, to state a viable Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must establish that (i) a person (ii) acting under color of state law (iii) caused him or her to be (iv) deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See Hall v. Witteman , 584 F.3d 859, 864 (10th Cir. 2009) (citing West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 101 L.Ed.2d 40 (1988) ); Lippoldt v. Cole , 468 F.3d 1204, 1219 (10th Cir. 2006).

Schrag makes two arguments in favor of his motion to dismiss. First, he alleges that his conduct did not constitute a violation of Kansas Motorcycle's constitutional rights. Second, he argues that, even if it did, he is entitled to qualified immunity because those rights were not clearly established.

1. Contrary to Schrag's arguments, the complaint asserts a plausible violation of Kansas Motorcycle's constitutional rights.2 Specifically, Kansas Motorcycle alleges

569 F.Supp.3d 1119

that, despite the ongoing dispute with McCloud over the equipment, Schrag used his power as a law enforcement officer to seize personal property in favor of McCloud without any legal process. This alleged conduct gives rise to viable Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims. But the conspiracy claim fails as a matter of law.

a. The Fourth Amendment protects "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend. IV. The Supreme Court has made clear that personal property seizures are "per se unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment unless ... accomplished pursuant to a judicial warrant issued upon probable cause and particularly describing the items to be seized." United States v. Place , 462 U.S. 696, 701, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983). Still, the Supreme Court has recognized a few limited exceptions to the warrant requirement—circumstances in which a warrantless seizure is still constitutionally reasonable. Brigham City v. Stuart , 547 U.S. 398,...

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