Seyler v. City of Fenton et al
OPINION and ORDER Granting in Part and Denying in Part 35 Motion for Summary Judgment; Finding as Moot 36 Motion for Summary Judgment; and Dismissing Remaining Claims. Signed by District Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III. (DPar)
49UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
KARL FREDERICK SEYLER,
Case No. 2:16-cv-13268
HONORABLE STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III
CITY OF FENTON, et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT RAUCH'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT  AND DISMISSING REMAINING CLAIMS
Plaintiff Karl Frederick Seyler filed suit against government officials and his former
employers after he was arrested and charged with embezzlement. Plaintiff's remaining
claims include the following counts: (I) unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment
against Detective Rauch in his individual capacity; (II) malicious prosecution under the
Fourth Amendment against Detective Rauch in his individual capacity; (III) malicious
prosecution under state law against Detective Rauch in his individual capacity and Martin;
(IV) false arrest under state law against Detective Rauch in his individual capacity; and (VI)
negligence against Martin, Tractor Supply Co., and Tractor Supply Company of Michigan
LLC. See ECF 3, 38, 40. The Court has reviewed the briefs, and finds that a hearing is
unnecessary. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant
Detective Rauch's Motion for Summary Judgment on Counts I and II and dismiss the
remaining claims for lack of jurisdiction.
Plaintiff worked as an assistant manager for Defendant Tractor Supply Company
("TSC") until he resigned in September 2014. ECF 3, PgID 38. After Plaintiff's resignation,
his former boss, Bonnie Martin, needed to reconcile Plaintiff's unfinished paperwork. ECF
35-2, PgID 216. The paperwork included price override reports, and those detailed
customer discounts. Id. The price override reports show that Plaintiff authorized several
significant discounts in his final weeks working for TSC. ECF 35-3. The transactions
alarmed Martin, so she contacted the police after consulting a district manager and a loss
prevention manager. ECF 35-2, PgID 217.
Officer Forbush was then dispatched to TSC to investigate potential employee fraud
or embezzlement. ECF 35-5, PgID 232. Officer Forbush talked to Martin and obtained
documentation about the suspicious transactions. Id. at 233. After reviewing the
documentation, Officer Forbush determined that the suspicious discounts were given to the
same customer. Id at 234. Officer Forbush then drafted an initial report summarizing his
findings, and referred the case to Detective Rauch. Id. at 235.
Detective Rauch proceeded to independently investigate the matter. He spoke with
Martin, who told him that Plaintiff's title authorized him to give a 15% discount—suggesting
that the suspicious discounts exceeded Plaintiff's authority. ECF 35-6, PgID 241; ECF 35-3.
Detective Rauch then interviewed the customer to whom Plaintiff gave the suspicious
discounts. ECF 35-6, PgID 242. Detective Rauch learned that the customer owned a
business near where Plaintiff lived. Id. at 244, 248. He also learned that the customer
worked a mile from a different TSC store, but chose to travel further to the location where
Plaintiff worked and looked for Plaintiff. Id. at 242, 248.
After his investigation, Detective Rauch sought direction from an assistant prosecutor.
Id. at 246–47. The assistant prosecutor advised that there was sufficient evidence to issue
a warrant for embezzlement, so Detective Rauch submitted a warrant request to the
prosecutor's office. Id. at 245–47. The prosecutor's office prepared a complaint, and a
warrant was issued. ECF 3, PgID 40. Plaintiff's charges were later dismissed after a
preliminary examination. ECF 36-7. He then brought the present suit.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court must 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). The moving party must identify specific portions of the record
"which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the
non-moving party may not simply rest on the pleadings, but must present "specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)) (emphasis omitted).
A fact is material if proof of that fact would establish or refute an essential element
of the cause of action or defense. Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir. 1984).
A dispute over material facts is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts
and draw all reasonable inferences" in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." 60
Ivy St. Corp. v. Alexander, 822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987).
The Federal Claims
Detective Rauch contends that he is entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiff's
Fourth Amendment claims of unreasonable seizure and malicious prosecution. ECF 35,
PgID 206. Qualified immunity shields officials from liability if their conduct does not violate
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights that a reasonable person would have
known. Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S. Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555
U.S. 223, 231 (2009)). The standard tasks the Court with answering whether: (1) the facts
alleged are sufficient to state a constitutional claim, and (2) the constitutional right which
the officer has purportedly violated was clearly established. Bible Believers v. Wayne Cty.,
805 F.3d 228, 257 (6th Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S. Ct. 2013 (2016). If the Court
answers either question in the negative, then a defendant is entitled to qualified immunity.
Devlin v. Kalm, 531 F. App'x 697, 703 (6th Cir. 2013).
The Court finds that the facts alleged are insufficient to state a constitutional claim,
therefore Detective Rauch is clearly entitled to qualified immunity. To prevail on the claims
of unreasonable seizure and malicious prosecution, Plaintiff must show that Detective
Rauch's actions were not supported by probable cause. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S.
386, 396 (1989); Sykes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 308–09 (6th Cir. 2010). Probable cause
exists when the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge are sufficient to
justify a prudent person in believing that the suspect has committed a crime. Michigan v.
DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 37 (1979). After making all appropriate inferences, the record
shows that Plaintiff provided substantial discounts to a single customer on multiple
occasions and that the customer worked near where Plaintiff lived, drove out of his way to
shop where Plaintiff worked, and sought out Plaintiff. That is certainly sufficient evidence
for a prudent person to believe that Plaintiff and the customer were engaged in a criminal
arrangement to deprive Plaintiff's employer of the money owed for the goods sold.
Plaintiff contends that Detective Rauch's investigation was inadequate because he
neither received a written policy regarding store discounts nor interviewed Plaintiff before
seeking the arrest warrant. But the Court finds that Detective Rauch's investigation was
sufficiently thorough—after reviewing Officer Forbush's initial report, Detective Rauch
independently interviewed witnesses, requested documentation, reviewed business
records, and tracked down the suspicious customer. And although the criminal action
against Plaintiff was ultimately dismissed, "[a] valid arrest based upon then-existing
probable cause is not vitiated if the suspect is later found innocent." Criss v. City of Kent,
867 F.2d 259, 262 (6th Cir. 1988).
In sum, the Court finds that there was probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest and
prosecution at the time Detective Rauch sought the arrest warrant. Plaintiff therefore
cannot state a constitutional claim, and Detective Rauch is entitled to qualified immunity.
The Remaining Claims
Because no federal claims remain, the Court may decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). In the interest of justice,
judicial economy, and comity to state courts, the Court will decline to exercise its
jurisdiction. See United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726–27 (1966).
WHEREFORE, it is hereby ORDERED that Detective Rauch's Motion for Summary
Judgment  is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. Detective Rauch is entitled
to judgment on Counts I and II.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's remaining Counts are DISMISSED
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Motion for Summary Judgment  by
Defendants Martin, Shires, Tractor Supply Company, and Tractor Supply Company of
Michigan, LLC is MOOT.
This is a final order that closes the case.
s/Stephen J. Murphy, III
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III
United States District Judge
Dated: November 29, 2017
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon the parties
and/or counsel of record on November 29, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
s/David P. Parker
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