United States District Court, D. Arizona
Douglas L. Rayes, United States District Judge.
issue are three motions for summary judgment: two filed on
behalf of Plaintiff John Thompson and one on behalf of
Defendants the City of Lake Havasu City (“City”)
and Lake Havasu City Police Department Officers Michael
Fuller and Jonathan Gray. (Docs. 29, 38, 57.) Thompson seeks
summary judgment on all of his claims; Defendants seek
summary judgment on Thompson's 42 U.S.C. § 1983
claim only. The motions are fully briefed and the Court heard
oral argument on January 11, 2018. For the following reasons,
the Court grants summary judgment for Officer Fuller on
Thompson's § 1983 claim, but denies the remainder of
all three the motions.
2015, non-party Dennis Kropp consigned a boat to non-party
Offshore Custom Marine (“OCM”), a boat dealership
in Lake Havasu City owned by non-party Tim McDonald. Thompson
purchased the boat from OCM for $40, 600. The boat then was
hauled to South Carolina, where Thompson lives. Upon its
arrival, Thompson noted that the boat had been damaged during
transport. Accordingly, OCM hired non-party Douglas Parks to
haul the boat to California for repairs, and then to
transport it back to Thompson in South Carolina.
en route from California to his home in Lake Havasu City,
Parks received a phone call from Kropp, who claimed to be the
owner of the boat. Kropp asked Parks to turn the boat over to
him, but Parks refused both because he did not know who Kropp
was and because he had instructions to deliver the boat to
Thompson in South Carolina. Unbeknownst to Parks, Kropp had
not been paid his share of the purchase price from OCM and
McDonald. Kropp had reported this fact to Officer Fuller, who
already was familiar with issues surrounding OCM and
McDonald's business practices. In fact, Fuller began
investigating McDonald earlier that year after a number of
individuals similarly reported that they had sold boats on
consignment through OCM but had not been paid.
eventually arrived at his home in Lake Havasu City, where he
was met by Kropp and some other individuals who had
accompanied him. Kropp showed Parks paperwork that indicated
he owned the boat and again asked Parks to give the boat to
him. Parks responded that he was not willing to give Kropp
the boat unless someone of authority confirmed the
information in the paperwork and told him to release it.
point, Parks' spouse and Kropp separately called the Lake
Havasu City Police Department. Officer Gray responded to the
civil standby call after dispatch informed him that (1) Kropp
wanted to retrieve a boat he believed was his, (2) Officer
Fuller had advised Kropp to call for assistance if he located
the boat, and (3) Kropp wanted the police present to ensure
that the exchange occurred without incident.
the scene, Officer Gray spoke with Kropp and Parks, both of
whom informed him that the boat had been sold by OCM to
someone in South Carolina. Kropp also gave Officer Gray the
paperwork he previously had presented to Parks as proof of
ownership. Officer Gray inspected the paperwork and ran a
registration check through dispatch, which confirmed that
Arizona records showed Kropp was the owner of the boat.
Officer Gray conveyed this information to Parks and said
“[w]e're going to allow [Kropp] to take possession
of the boat.” (Doc. 39-2 at 17.) Parks gave
Thompson's contact information to Officer Gray and then
returned the boat to Kropp.
result, Thompson had to take legal action in Arizona to
recover the boat. Thompson subsequently filed this action
against the City and Officers Fuller and Gray, claiming that
the officers deprived him of his property without due process
of law in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to
the United States Constitution, and Defendants negligently
handled the civil standby call.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and, viewing those facts in a light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary
judgment may also be entered “against a party who fails
to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the
case, and a dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could
find for the nonmoving party based on the competing evidence.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-movant to
establish the existence of material factual issues that
“can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they
may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. When parties submit
cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court reviews
“each motion on its own merits” and
“consider[s] each party's evidentiary showing,
regardless of which motion the evidence was tendered
under.” Oakley, Inc. v. Nike, Inc., 988
F.Supp.2d 1130, 1134 (C.D. Cal. 2013) (citing Fair Hous.
Council of Riverside Cty., Inc. v. Riverside Two, 249
F.3d 1132, 1136 (9th Cir. 2001)).
most part, the pertinent facts are not genuinely disputed.
Although the parties each identify some facts as disputed in
their separate and controverting statements of facts, these
disputes either involve immaterial matters, are semantic
squabbles over the opposing party's characterization of
deposition testimony, or reflect disagreements over the
inferences that reasonably may be drawn from ...