United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. Bunning, United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court upon a Motion to Dismiss, wherein
Defendants City of Grayson; George Steele, individually and
as Mayor of City of Grayson; Jack Harper, individually and as
a Grayson City Council Member; Pam Nash, individually and as
a Grayson City Council Member; and Terry Stamper,
individually and as a Grayson City Council Member
(collectively “Defendants”), seek dismissal of
Plaintiff 4th Leaf, LLC's claims for violations of its
constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. #
17). The Motion is fully briefed and ripe for review. (Docs.
# 19 and 20). For the reasons stated herein, the Motion to
Dismiss is granted in part and
denied in part.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
February 3, 1999, Plaintiff 4th Leaf, LLC purchased a piece
of property in Grayson, Kentucky. (Doc. # 1 at ¶ 16).
Plaintiff eventually sold most of the property, but it
retained a portion of the property to use as a private
roadway (“the Roadway”). (Doc. # 19-4 at 1). The
Roadway is the subject of this dispute. In 2012, Defendant
City of Grayson introduced Ordinance No. 2-2012 (“the
Ordinance”) which proposed opening the Roadway to the
public and incorporating it into the city road system. (Doc.
# 1 at ¶¶ 23- 24). City of Grayson claimed it had
authority to enact the Ordinance under Ky. Rev. Stat. §
82.400(3). Id. The City of Grayson held the
first public reading of the Ordinance on March 22, 2012 and a
second public reading on March 27, 2012. Id. at
¶ 24. The Ordinance was adopted at both readings.
Id. Grayson City Council Members Defendants Jack
Harper, Pam Nash, and Terry Stamper voted in favor of the
Ordinance, and Defendant Mayor George Steele signed it into
law. See (Doc. # 19-4 at 7-8).
April 19, 2012, Plaintiff filed suit in Carter Circuit Court
(the “state court action”) against Defendants and
other individuals who were involved in the adoption of the
Ordinance. (Doc. # 19-3). The state court action includes two
counts: Count 1 requests that the court declare the Ordinance
“illegal, void, unconstitutional, invalid, and of no
force and effect, ” and Count 2 requests damages for
inverse condemnation and constitutional violations stemming
from the adoption of the Ordinance. Id. at 9-11. On
April 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings, asking the Carter Circuit Court to enter an order
“in conformity with the relief requested in . . . Count
1 . . . and for all other relief to which it may appear to be
entitled.” (Doc. # 20-1 at 10). On July 23, 2014, the
Carter Circuit Court entered an Order granting
Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and
invalidating the Ordinance. (Doc. # 19-4). The Order did not
address Plaintiff's inverse-condemnation claim or order
any form of relief beyond invalidating the Ordinance.
Id. at 23. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed
the Carter Circuit Court's Order and then denied
Defendant's petition for rehearing. (Docs. # 19-5 and
19-6). The Supreme Court of Kentucky denied discretionary
review. (Doc. # 19-7). Count 1 having been resolved, the case
is still pending in Carter Circuit Court on Count 2.
the Kentucky Supreme Court denied discretionary review of the
Carter Circuit Court Order, Plaintiff filed this action on
February 12, 2019. (Doc. # 1). Plaintiff brings three claims
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at
¶¶ 31-62. First, Plaintiff claims that the
Ordinance was an unlawful taking of its property without just
compensation. Id. at ¶¶ 31-43. Second,
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants engaged in an unlawful
custom and practice to deprive Plaintiff of its property when
Defendants passed the Ordinance. Id. at ¶¶
44-50. Finally, Plaintiff claims that Defendants
violated its due-process rights by passing the
Ordinance. Id. at ¶¶ 51-60. The
Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this matter
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
March 14, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing
that the Complaint should be dismissed because the Court
lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and also because the
Complaint fails to state a claim upon relief may be granted.
(Doc. # 17). Initial briefing was complete on April 18, 2019.
(Docs. # 19 and 20). In light of the Supreme Court's
ruling in Knick v. Township of Scott, 139 S.Ct. 2162
(2019), on September 17, 2019, the Court ordered the parties
to file contemporaneous supplemental briefs addressing the
applicability of Knick to the Motion to Dismiss.
(Doc. # 21). The parties having submitted their supplemental
briefs, (Docs. # 22 and 23), this matter is ripe for the
Standard of Review
Dismissal for Lack of Subject-Matter
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows parties to move for
dismissal of a complaint when the court lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The court lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction if the action is not ripe for
review. Bigelow v. Mich. Dep't of Nat. Res., 970
F.2d 154, 157 (6th Cir.1992). In a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the
plaintiff has the burden of proving that the Court has
subject-matter jurisdiction. RMI Titanium Co. v.
Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1135 (6th Cir.
1996). A court considers 12(b)(1) arguments before any
additional 12(b) motions because any remaining arguments
would be moot if subject-matter jurisdiction is lacking.
Moir v. Greater Cleveland Reg'l Transit Auth.,
895 F.2d 266, 269 (6th Cir. 1990). A “motion to dismiss
for failure to state a cause of action may be decided only
after establishing subject matter jurisdiction, since
determination of the validity of the claim is, in itself, an
exercise of jurisdiction.” Id. (citing
Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682 (1946)).
Dismissal for Failure to State a Claim
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows parties to move for
dismissal of a complaint when it “fail[s] to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss,
“a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, ‘to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Allegations are plausible “when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. A complaint
need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ”
but must contain more than mere “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action.” Id. Put
another way, the “[f]actual allegations must be enough
to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007). When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the
Court must “construe the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff [and] accept all well-pleaded
factual allegations as true.” Hill v. Synder,
878 F.3d 193, 203 (6th Cir. 2017).
reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court “may
consider the complaint and any exhibits attached thereto,
public records, items appearing in the record of the case,
and exhibits attached to the defendant's motion to
dismiss, so long as they are referred to in the complaint and
are central to the claims contained therein.”
DeJohn v. Lerner, Sampson & Rothfuss, No.
1:12CV1705, 2012 WL 6154800, at *2 (N.D. Ohio Dec. 11, 2012)
(citing Amini v. Oberlin Coll., 259 F.3d 493, 502
(6th Cir. 2001)).
initial matter, the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction
over this action because Plaintiff's claims are ripe for
review. The ripeness doctrine is meant “to prevent the
courts, through premature adjudication, from entangling
themselves in abstract disagreements.” Kentucky
Press Ass'n, Inc. v. Kentucky, 454 F.3d 505, 508
(6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Thomas v. Union Carbide Agric.
Prods. Co., 473 U.S. 568 (1985)). Relying on
Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v.
Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985),
Defendants originally argued that Plaintiff's claims were
not ripe because Plaintiff had not exhausted its state
remedies, which was a prerequisite to bringing a takings
claim pursuant to § 1983 under Williamson
County. (Doc. # 17-1 at 5- 7) (citing Williamson
Cty., 473 U.S. at 194). The United States Supreme Court,
however, overturned Williamson County during the
pendency of this Motion in Knick v. Township of
Scott, 139 S.Ct. 2162 (2019). Under Knick, a
takings claim pursuant to § 1983 is now ripe “upon
the taking of [plaintiff's] property without just
compensation by a local government.” Knick,
139 S.Ct. at 2179. In their Supplemental Brief,
Defendants concede that Plaintiff's claims are ripe under
the new standard articulated in Knick. (Doc. # 23 at
2). Accordingly, Defendants Motion to Dismiss pursuant to
12(b)(1) is denied as moot.
Failure to State a Claim
established subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court turns to
Defendants' arguments that the Complaint should be
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted. See generally (Doc. # 17-1 at 9-15).
Defendants make five arguments to support dismissal under
12(b)(6). Id. First, Defendants claim that
Plaintiff's due-process claims are barred by the statute of
limitations. (Doc. # 17-1 at 10-11). Second, Defendants argue
that if Plaintiff's due-process claims are not barred by
the statute of limitations, then they are barred by res
judicata. Id. at 11-13. Third, Defendants assert
that all claims against Defendants Steele, Harper, Nash, and
Stamper (collectively, the “Individual
Defendants”) in their official capacities should be
dismissed because the City of Grayson is also a Defendant.
Id. at 13. Fourth, Defendants claim that all claims
against Defendants Steele, Harper, Nash, and Stamper in their
individual capacities are barred by legislative immunity.
Id. at 13-14. Fifth, Defendants argue that all
claims against Defendant City of Grayson should be dismissed
because Plaintiff's claims against the municipality fail
as a matter of law. Id. at 14-15. The Court will
address each argument in turn.
Statute of Limitations
Defendants argue that Plaintiff's due-process claims are
barred by the statute of limitations. Both parties agree that
the statute of limitations for Plaintiff's due-process
claims is one year, and the Court agrees. See Collard
v. Ky. Bd. of Nursing, 896 F.2d 179, 182 (6th Cir.
1990); (Doc. # 17-1 at 10); (Doc. # 19-1 at 14). The parties
disagree, however, on when the statute of limitations started
to run. Defendants argue that the due-process claims accrued
in 2012 when the Ordinance was adopted. (Doc. # 17-1 at
10-11). In contrast, Plaintiff contends the claims
did not accrue until August 2018, when the Kentucky Supreme
Court denied discretionary review of the Carter Circuit Court
order. (Doc. # 19-1 at 15). Alternatively, if the claims did
accrue in 2012, then Plaintiff argues that the statute of
limitations should be tolled while Plaintiff pursues
litigation in state court. Id. at 14-15. The Court
finds both arguments to be misguided; rather, Plaintiff's
claims are not barred by the statute of limitations because
the statute of limitations was tolled until the Supreme Court
decided Knick v. Township of Scott on June 21, 2019.
motion to dismiss “is generally an inappropriate
vehicle for dismissing a claim based upon the statute of
limitations.” Jodway v. Orlans, PC, 759
Fed.Appx. 374, 379 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting Cataldo v.
United States Steel Corp., 676 F.3d 542, 547 (6th Cir.
2012)). A motion to dismiss upon on statute of limitations
should be granted, however, “if the allegations in the
complaint affirmatively show that the claim is
time-barred.” Id. (quoting Lutz v.
Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 717 F.3d 459, 464 (6th
Cir. 2013)). As statute of limitations “is an
affirmative defense, the burden is on the defendant to show
that the statute of limitations has run.” Id.
state law determines the length of the statute of
limitations, federal law determines when the statute of
limitations begins to run on claims pursuant to § 1983.
Wallace, 549 U.S. at 388. Generally, “accrual
occurs when the plaintiff has a complete and present cause of
action” and “can file suit and obtain
relief.” Id. (internal citations and quotation
marks omitted). Put another way, “the limitations
period starts to run ‘when the plaintiff knows or has
reason to know of the injury which is the basis of his
action.'” Kuhnle Bros., Inc. v. Cty. of
Geauga, 103 F.3d 516, 520 (6th Cir. 1997) (quoting
Sevier v. Turner, 742 F.2d 262, 272 (6th Cir.
1984)). A plaintiff has reason to know of the injury which is
the basis of his action when an event occurs that
“should have alerted the typical lay person to protect
his or her rights.” Id. (citing Dixon v.
Anderson, 928 F.2d 212, 215 (6th Cir. 1991)).
claim accrues for statute of limitation purposes is closely
tied to when a claim ripens for standing purposes. If accrual
occurs when a plaintiff “can file suit and obtain
relief, ” then it logically follows that a claim may
ripen and accrue at the same time. Wallace, 549 U.S.
at 388. While several courts have expressly linked accrual
and ripeness, other courts have stopped short of conflating
the two. Compare Am. Premier Underwriters, Inc. v.
Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 839 F.3d 458, 461 (6th
Cir. 2016) (citing Wallace for the proposition that
“the Supreme Court has held that a claim accrues for
statute-of-limitations purposes at the same time that it
ripens”), and Hensley v. City of Columbus, 557
F.3d 693, 696 (6th Cir. 2009) (finding that the
plaintiffs' takings claim ripened “when the statute
of limitations began to ...