LIVINGSTONE v. U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC. et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE JOEL H. SLOMSKY ON 6/4/21. 6/4/21 ENTERED & E-MAILED.(fdc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
MICHAEL O. LIVINGSTONE,
U-HAUL INTERNATIONAL, INC.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 21-CV-0250
JUNE 4, 2021
This matter comes before the Court by way of a Complaint (ECF No. 2), brought by
Plaintiff Michael O. Livingstone, proceeding pro se. Also before the Court is Livingstone’s
“Expedited Motion to Compel this Court to Process the Delayed Complaint this Week[.]” (ECF
No. 7). By Order dated April 1, 2021, the Court previously determined that Livingstone was not
able to afford to pay the filing fee in this action and granted him leave to proceed in forma
pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (ECF No. 6.) At that time, the Court noted that the
Complaint would be screened in due course pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court
has now conducted the required screening and, for the following reasons, Livingstone’s federal
claims will be dismissed failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and his
state law claims will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction without prejudice to Livingstone’s right
to proceed in the appropriate state court.
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS 1
Livingstone, a “graduate student and a candidate for Master of Business Administration
(MBA) degree at DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management[,]” asserts
claims arising from his rental of a storage unit at a U-Haul storage facility located at 7750
Roosevelt Boulevard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania beginning in October of 2019. (ECF No. 2 at
2, 4.) 2 Livingstone names the following Defendants: (1) U-Haul International, Inc.; (2) U-Haul
Company of Pennsylvania, Inc.; (3) Repwest Insurance Company, the “insurance company for
[D]efendant U-Haul”; (4) Mohammed Mohiuddin, the General Manager of the U-Haul storage
facility on Roosevelt Boulevard; and (5) Joshua Buzi, a claims adjuster at Repwest Insurance
Company. (Id. at 2-3.)
Livingstone alleges he first rented a storage unit at the U-Haul storage facility on
Roosevelt Boulevard (hereinafter, “the Roosevelt U-Haul facility” or “RUHF”) from July 2018
through December 2018. (Id. at 4.) It appears that this initial rental occurred without incident.
Approximately a year later, in October of 2019, Livingstone alleges that he “returned to rent
another storage unit” at RUHF. (Id.) The storage unit that Livingstone rented the second time
was 10’ x 15’ x 10’ in size and the rent was $204.95 per month. (Id.) At the time the rental
commenced, Livingstone could access his storage unit during normal business hours from 8:00
am to 7:00 pm. (Id.) Livingstone alleges that as part of “the contracting” for the storage unit
lease, “U-Haul [further] agreed to make the storage [unit] accessible to [Livingstone] with” after-
The facts set forth in this Memorandum are taken from Livingstone’s Complaint (ECF No. 2).
The Court uses the pagination assigned to the Complaint by the CM/ECF docketing system.
hours access from 5:00 am to 7:00 am and from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm such that Livingstone
could access his unit between 5:00 am and 10:00 pm. (Id.)
Livingstone alleges that on January 11, 2020, without any evidence, Defendant
Mohiuddin “accused” him of “sleeping in the storage unit[.]” (Id.) Livingstone denied
Mohiuddin’s allegations regarding sleeping in the storage unit, and demanded that Mohiuddin
“should produce the camera evidence” from a series of cameras and video surveillance that
monitored the external portion of the storage unit. (Id. at 4-5.) After Mohiuddin failed to
produce any such evidence, Livingstone requested that Mohiuddin preserve that evidence and
announced his intention to sue in court. (Id.) Mohiuddin thereafter revoked Livingstone’s afterhours access leaving Livingstone with access to his storage unit only during normal business
hours. 3 (Id. at 5.) Livingstone also alleges that Mohiuddin “asked the local facility cleaners to
stalk [Livingstone] by pretending as if they [were] cleaning the external area of [Livingstone’s]
storage unit area whenever [Livingstone] opened his storage unit.” (Id.) Livingstone further
claims that the following day, on January 12, 2020, he observed a “secret camera” in his storage
unit which he alleges was installed “without his permission” and “without [his] knowledge” by
“Mohiuddin and U-Haul[.]” (Id.)
Approximately a month later, in February of 2020, Livingstone separately claims that a
“mice infestation at the storage unit destroyed” some of his personal items “including expensive
textbooks worth over $1,800.” (Id.) Livingstone filed an insurance “claim to defendant Repwest
Insurance Company,” that was processed by Defendant Buzi, seeking reimbursement for the
damaged textbooks. (Id.) Defendant Buzi informed Livingstone that, based on his purchase of
Related to the revocation of his after-hours access, Livingstone also seeks to recoup half of the
money he paid in rent on the storage unit as a result of the limited hours he could access the unit.
(Id. at 9.)
“Safestor 1k on the [storage] unit[,]” the damages he could recoup were limited to $1,000. (Id.)
Livingstone claims that “$1000 is not enough because he also got sick from the mice infestation”
and Defendants did not compensate him for that. Livingstone seeks $20 million in damages,
restoration of his right to access the unit after hours, and repayment of rental fee increases from
August 2020 onward.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court previously granted Livingstone leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it
appeared that he was incapable of paying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly,
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires the Court to dismiss the Complaint if, among other things,
it fails to state a claim. Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is
governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which
requires the Court to determine whether the complaint contains “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) (quotations omitted). Conclusory allegations do not suffice. Id. As
Livingstone is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att’y
Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
Federal Question Claims
Livingstone’s Complaint does not site a specific statute under which he seeks relief.
Rather, Count I of the Complaint purportedly asserts a claim for “Invasion of Privacy” brought
pursuant to “Federal Law” allegedly based on the installation of a “secret camera” inside
Livingstone’s “private rented storage unit without [his] knowledge.” (ECF No. 2 at 6.)
Livingstone contends that “[b]y accessing [his] rented storage unit in [his] absence and without
[his] permission, . . . defendants . . . invaded into his private rented space and for that matter, . . .
[his] private life.” (Id.) Livingstone’s Complaint asserts this claim only as to Defendants UHaul International, Inc., U-Haul Company of Pennsylvania, Inc., and Mohammed Mohiuddin.
Construing his Complaint liberally, Livingstone’s claim for invasion of privacy under
federal law is best understood as a constitutional claim against the Defendants. 4 Specifically, it
appears that Livingstone seeks to challenge Defendants’ entry into his rented storage unit and
installation of a secret camera without his permission or knowledge. The vehicle by which such
claims may be brought in federal court is 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “To state a claim under § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United
States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color
of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Whether a defendant is acting under color
of state law — i.e., whether the defendant is a state actor — depends on whether there is “such a
‘close nexus between the State and the challenged action’ that seemingly private behavior ‘may
be fairly treated as that of the State itself.’” Leshko v. Servis, 423 F.3d 337, 339 (3d Cir. 2005)
(internal quotations omitted).
Based on the allegations of the Complaint, it appears that these Defendants – a private
self-storage corporation and its employee – are not subject to liability under § 1983. Pursuant to
§ 1983, action under color of state law requires that the one liable under that statute have
Generally, the Fourth Amendment guarantees “[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. “To search a person’s home and belongings, police officers ordinarily must first seek
a warrant based on probable cause supported by oath or affirmation. Warrantless searches are
presumptively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.” Parkhurst v. Trapp, 77 F.3d 707,
711 (3d Cir. 1996).
exercised power possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer
is clothed with the authority of state law. Harvey v. Plains Twp. Police Dep’t, 635 F.3d 606, 609
(3d Cir. 2011)); see also United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113 (1984) (noting that the
protection afforded by the Fourth Amendment proscribes “only governmental action; it is wholly
inapplicable ‘to a search or seizure, even an unreasonable one, effected by a private individual
not acting as an agent of the Government or with the participation or knowledge of any
Livingstone’s Complaint does not allege sufficient facts to support an inference that there
is a “close nexus” between the private behavior of these Defendants and the state such that the
challenged action here can fairly be treated as that of the state. Leshko, 423 F.3d at 339.
Nothing in the Complaint alleges that the Defendants are state actors. Beyond alleging their
titles and the nature of the employee’s conduct, Livingstone does not allege these Defendants
had any connection to a state, county, or local governmental entity. None of Livingstone’s
allegations suggest that the Defendants are anything other than a privately run self-storage
corporation and its employee. In sum, none of his allegations support the notion that their
conduct constitutes state action under § 1983. Accordingly, the Complaint fails to allege
sufficient facts to state a plausible claim of state action on the part of these Defendants. There is
also no other suggestion of a source for federal question jurisdiction over any of Livingston’s
claims. Accordingly, Livingstone’s federal law claims against the Defendants will be dismissed
pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim. Since any attempt to amend would be
futile, no leave will be granted to file an amended complaint. See, e.g., Sobayo v. Pub. Storage,
Civ. A. No. 13-01804, 2013 WL 3889987, at *2 (N.D. Cal. July 26, 2013) (concluding that the
plaintiff failed to state a Fourth Amendment claim against Public Storage because there were “no
allegations . . . that Public Storage [was] a government agency, or acting at the direction of one”
and denying amendment as futile finding that “it [was] entirely implausible that a private selfstorage company was acting under the control of any governmental agency when it apparently
refused to allow plaintiff to access his property because of unpaid rent.”).
State Law Claims
Liberally construing the Complaint, it is also possible that Livingstone intended to bring
several tort claims under Pennsylvania state law related to these incidents. The Court declines to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 over such claims, having
dismissed Livingstone’s federal claim. Accordingly, the only independent basis for jurisdiction
over such claims is 28 U.S.C. § 1332, which states that a district court can exercise subjectmatter jurisdiction over a case a case in which “the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or
value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different States.”
28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Section 1332(a) requires “‘complete diversity between all plaintiffs and all
defendants,’ even though only minimal diversity is constitutionally required. This means that,
unless there is some other basis for jurisdiction, ‘no plaintiff [may] be a citizen of the same state
as any defendant.’” Lincoln Ben. Life Co. v. AEI Life, LLC, 800 F.3d 99, 104 (3d Cir. 2015)
(quoting Lincoln Prop. Co. v. Roche, 546 U.S. 81, 89 (2005) and Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co. v.
Wood, 592 F.3d 412, 419 (3d Cir. 2010) (internal footnotes omitted)). An individual is a citizen
of the state where he is domiciled, meaning the state where he is physically present and intends
to remain. See Washington v. Hovensa LLC, 652 F.3d 340, 344 (3d Cir. 2011). “A corporation
is a citizen both of the state where it is incorporated and of the state where it has its principal
place of business. . . . And a partnership, as an unincorporated entity, takes on the citizenship of
each of its partners.” Zambelli, 592 F.3d at 419 (citations omitted). “The burden of establishing
federal jurisdiction rests with the party asserting its existence.” Lincoln Ben. Life Co., 800 F.3d
at 105 (citing DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 342 n.3 (2006)).
Livingstone does not adequately allege the citizenship of any of the parties here.
Initially, he fails to allege his own citizenship, noting only that he is a citizen of the United States
with a physical address in New Jersey and mailing address in Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 2 at 2.)
Livingstone alleges that U-Haul International, Inc. is a corporation that “was created and exists
under the Laws of Nevada and maintains its corporate headquarters” in Arizona. (Id.) He
further alleges that U-Haul of Pennsylvania, Inc. is a corporation which “was created and exists
under the Laws of Delaware and maintains an office” in Pennsylvania. (Id.) With respect to
Repwest Insurance Company and Defendant Buzi, Livingstone pleads only that these Defendants
“maintain an address” in Phoenix, Arizona. (Id. at 3.) As to Defendant Mohiuddin,
Livingstone alleges that this Defendant is sued in his “official capacity” as the General Manager
of the RUHF and “maintains an address” at the U-Haul facility on Roosevelt Boulevard in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Id.)
None of these allegations are sufficient to plead the citizenship of the parties.
Accordingly, Livingstone has not sufficiently alleged diversity for purposes of establishing the
Court’s jurisdiction over the state law claims he intends to pursue. Thus, all state law claims will
be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction without prejudice to Livingstone’s right to
assert these claims in an appropriate state court.
For the foregoing reasons, Livingstone’s federal claim will be dismissed pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) with no leave granted to amend because amendment of those claims
would be futile. The state claims will be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The
dismissal of the state law claims is without prejudice to Livingstone seeking to raise those claims
in an appropriate state court. Livingstone’s “Expedited Motion to Compel this Court to Process
the Delayed Complaint this Week” (ECF No. 7) will be denied as moot in light of this
Memorandum screening the Complaint. An appropriate Order follows.
BY THE COURT:
/s/Joel H. Slomsky, J.
JOEL H. SLOMSKY, J.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?