Nowden v. City of Taylor et al
OPINION and ORDER Dismissing Plaintiff's State Law Claims without prejudice Signed by District Judge Robert H. Cleland. (LWag)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 17-10723
CITY OF TAYLOR, et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING WITHOUT PREJUDICE
PLAINTIFF’S STATE LAW CLAIMS
Plaintiff Robert Beal filed the instant complaint alleging the following counts:
Count I: a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Defendant Officer Brian Wojtowicz for
excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
Count II: a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Defendant Wojtowicz for false arrest
in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
Count III: a claim for false arrest/imprisonment under Michigan law;
Count IV: a malicious prosecution claim under Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.2907;
Count V: a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for malicious prosecution;
Count VI: a claim that Defendant City of Taylor violated Plaintiff’s Fourth
Amendment rights by failing to adequately train and/or supervise its police
officers, purportedly brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and
Count VII: a gross negligence claim under Mich. Comp. Laws § 691.1407(2).
(Dkt. # 1.)
Counts I, II, V, and VI allege federal claims over which the court has original
jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Counts III, IV, and VII are state-law claims. Because
Plaintiff’s state and federal law claims arise out of the same incident and share a
common nucleus of operative fact, the court could exercise its supplemental jurisdiction
over the state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367. However, because an exercise of
supplemental jurisdiction would not promote judicial economy, the convenience of the
parties, fairness, or comity, the court will dismiss the state law claims without prejudice.
Plaintiff’s complaint alleges the following facts. On March 11, 2015, Plaintiff was
pulled over by Defendant Officer Wojtowicz while she was driving into her apartment
complex. Plaintiff demanded to know why she had been pulled over, and an argument
between Plaintiff and Defendant Wojetowicz ensued.
Defendant Wojtowicz ordered Plaintiff out of the car, and Plaintiff complied.
Defendant then took her to the rear of his vehicle, out of sight of Plaintiff’s passenger
and Defendant’s dash cam, where Defendant handcuffed Plaintiff. Defendant then
“proceeded to slam Plaintiff . . . off of his vehicle” [sic] ad hit her, and “slammed
Plaintiff’s head off the trunk of his vehicle” all while Plaintiff remained handcuffed.
Defendant then arrested Plaintiff for resisting an officer, obstructing a criminal
investigation, driving with expired tags, and having open intoxicants in the vehicle.
Plaintiff was released on bond the following day, and all charges were subsequently
A federal court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over each claim in an
action that shares a common nucleus of operative facts with a claim that invokes the
court’s original jurisdiction. See United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715
(1966). However, supplemental jurisdiction “is a doctrine of discretion, not of plaintiff’s
right. Its justification lies in considerations of judicial economy, convenience and
fairness to litigants; if these are not present, a federal court should hesitate to exercise
jurisdiction over the state claims . . . .” 383 U.S. at 726. Supplemental jurisdiction may
be denied “if the federal claims are dismissed before trial,” if “it appears that the state
issues substantially predominate,” or “if the likelihood of jury confusion” would be strong
without separation of the claims. Id. at 726-27.
A federal court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367,
which recognizes a court’s discretion to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction if:
the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over
which the district court has original jurisdiction,
the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original
in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons
for declining jurisdiction.
§ 1367(c). Subsections two and four govern the present action. “In deciding whether to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction . . . a judge must take into account concerns of
comity, judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and the like.” Senra v. Smithfield, 715
F.3d 34, 41 (1st Cir. 2013).
A. Dismissal Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(4)
A district court may decline supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1367(c)(4) if, “in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for
declining jurisdiction.” “Congress’s use of the word ‘other’ to modify ‘compelling reasons’
indicates that what ought to qualify as ‘compelling reasons’ for declining jurisdiction
under subsection (c)(4) should be of the same nature as the reasons that gave rise to
the categories listed in subsections (c)(1)-(3).” Exec. Software N. Am., Inc. v. U.S. Dist.
Court, 24 F.3d 1545, 1557 (9th Cir. 1994), overruled on other grounds by Cal. Dep’t of
Water Res v. Powerex Corp., 533 F.3d 1087 (9th Cir. 2008).
1. There are “Compelling Reasons” for Dismissing
Plaintiff’s State Law Claims
“Compelling reasons” for the purposes of [§ 1367](c)(4) . . . should be those that
lead a court to conclude that declining jurisdiction best accommodates the values of
economy, convenience, fairness and comity.” Id. at 1557 (internal citations
omitted); see also Palmer v. Hosp. Auth. of Randolph Cnty, 22 F.3d 1559, 1569 (11th
Cir. 1994). The circumstances of the particular case, the nature of the state law claims,
the character of the governing state law, and the relationship between the state and
federal claims (including the possibility of jury confusion) inform a decision to exercise
or decline supplemental jurisdiction. Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 726-727.
Mixing federal-law claims with supplemental state-law claims, in cases alleging
excessive force, can cause procedural and substantive problems; in the interest of
judicial economy and convenience, these problems should be avoided. See Palmer, 22
F.3d at 1569. Even where, as in the present case, the federal and state claims arise out
of the same factual background, the simultaneous litigation of such claims may prolong
pre-trial practice; complicate the trial; lengthen and make more complex the jury
instructions, potentially confusing the jury; result in inconsistent verdicts; and cause
post-trial problems with respect to judgment interest and the availability of prevailing-
party attorney fees. Consequently, the apparent judicial economy and convenience to
the parties of a court exercising supplemental jurisdiction over a state claim may be
substantially offset by problems simultaneously created.
State and federal law apply different standards of immunity, which if used
together could lead to jury confusion. Federal qualified immunity does not apply if an
officer violates a clearly established statutory or constitutional right of which a
reasonable person would have known. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009).
Under Michigan law, a governmental employee must raise governmental immunity as
an affirmative defense, as has been done herein, and establish three factors: “(1) the
employee’s challenged acts were undertaken during the course of employment and that
the employee was acting, or reasonably believed he was acting, within the scope of his
authority, (2) the acts were undertaken in good faith, and (3) the acts were
discretionary, rather than ministerial, in nature.” Odom v. Wayne Cnty., 482 Mich. 459,
760 N.W.2d 217, 218 (Mich. 2008).
Applying these various standards of qualified immunity could lead to jury
confusion, inconvenience to the parties, and other trial complications. A jury would,
while considering a single event, have to switch from one type of analysis to another to
decide whether a defendant enjoys federal or state qualified immunity. Switching
between standards could increase the danger that a jury will apply the wrong legal
standard to a claim.
b. Recoverable Damages
A plaintiff may recover punitive damages from an individual (in his individual
capacity) under § 1983. Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc., 453 U.S. 247, 267, 271 (1981).
A plaintiff may recover exemplary damages, but not punitive damages, for a tort under
state law. Kewin v. Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 295 N.W.2d 50, 55 (Mich. 1980).
“Punitive” and “exemplary” damages differ:
Exemplary damages are compensation for injury to feelings and are
awardable where the defendant commits a voluntary act which inspires
feelings of humiliation, outrage, and indignity. . . . [A] plaintiff must
establish that the act giving rise to the damages was voluntary, that the
voluntary act inspired feelings of humiliation outrage and indignity, and
that the conduct was malicious or so willful and wanton as to demonstrate
a reckless disregard of plaintiffs’ rights
Punitive damages, unlike exemplary damages, are not intended to
compensate the injured party but, rather, to punish the wrongdoer and to
deter him or her, and others, from similar extreme conduct.
7 Mich. Civ. Jur. Damages § 161 (2013) (footnotes omitted); see also Newport, 453
U.S. at 266-67; Ass’n Research & Dev. Corp., 333 N.W.2d 206, 211 (Mich. Ct. App.
Allowing punitive damages for some claims but not others may result in jury
confusion and an unfair verdict. The jury would be instructed that they may “punish” for
an egregious § 1983 violation, but that they may not “punish” for even the most obvious
violation of state law. This difference could lead a jury to award more for a proven
§ 1983 claim merely to “compensate” for the jury’s inability to award punitive damages
for the state law claims. It could also lead a jury to reduce an award if it concluded,
incorrectly, that because Michigan law does not permit punitive damages, a plaintiff
does not deserve punitive damages for his federal claims, either. The availability of
punitive damages for the federal claims, but not for the state claims, may cause an
c. Compelling Reasons Exist to Dismiss
Plaintiff’s State Claims
Given the disparity between the state and federal claims as a result of their
differences concerning potential immunity and recoverable damages, exercising
supplemental jurisdiction over these claims would result in confusion, inconvenience,
and potentially unfair results.
2. There are “Exceptional Circumstances” for Dismissing
Plaintiff’s State Law Claims
The phrase “exceptional circumstances” in 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(4) limits the
broad discretion that district courts once had under Gibbs to deny supplemental
jurisdiction in any case. See, e.g., Itar-Tass Russian News Agency v. Russian Kurier,
Inc., 140 F.3d 442, 448 (2d Cir. 1998); Exec. Software, 24 F.3d at 1558. However,
Congress did not restrict a district court’s ability to dismiss claims to cases that were
“ridiculous” or “impractical.” Exec. Software, 24 F.3d at 1558, 1560 (citing Hays Cnty.
Guardian v. Supple, 969 F.2d 111 (5th Cir. 1992) (holding that exceptional
circumstances were present when parallel state proceedings were underway and
therefore the adjudication of state claims would be a “waste of judicial resources”)).
Exceptional circumstances are present in this case because of the likelihood of
jury confusion, judicial inefficiency, substantial inconvenience to the parties, and
potential unfairness in outcome that could result if Plaintiff’s state law claims and federal
law claims are tried together. Though there will be some duplication of effort required by
Plaintiff and Defendants if Plaintiff decides to pursue the state claims in state court, any
advantages to be gained by trying all claims together are outweighed by the potential for
confusion about the issues, legal theories, defenses, and possible relief.
Thus, the court will not exercise supplemental jurisdiction and will dismiss the
state-law claims without prejudice.
B. Dismissal Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(2)
Separately, a district court may decline the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction
pursuant to § 1367(c)(2) if “the [state] claim substantially predominates over the claim or
claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(2). The
state claims presented here raise problems, including the need to introduce evidence
inapplicable to—indeed, inconsistent with—the evidence relevant to the federal claims,
the presence of disparate legal theories on both claims and defenses, and the need to
create expanded and contradictory jury instructions. The state claims presented in this
case would, for these reasons, predominate over the § 1983 federal claims over which
the court has original jurisdiction. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(2), the court will not
exercise supplemental jurisdiction and will dismiss without prejudice all state law claims.
The inclusion of Plaintiff’s state claims for gross negligence, malicious
prosecution, and false arrest with Plaintiff’s federal law claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
could lead to jury confusion, judicial inefficiency, inconvenience to the parties, and an
unfair outcome. Additionally, these claims would predominate over Plaintiff’s federal
claims. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1367(c)(2) and (4), the court exercises its discretion to
decline supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state-law claims. Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff’s state-law claims for false arrest (Count III),
malicious prosecution (Count IV), and gross negligence (Count VII) are DISMISSED
s/Robert H. Cleland
ROBERT H. CLELAND
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: April 10, 2017
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was mailed to counsel of record
on this date, April 10, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
Case Manager and Deputy Clerk
S:\Cleland\JUDGE'S DESK\C1 ORDERS\17-10723.NOWDEN.dismiss.state.law.claims.TLH.RHC.docx
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