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Warren v. Lindsey

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 10, 2015

STEPHEN WARREN, Plaintiff,
v.
AUSTIN EUGENE LINDSEY et al., Defendants.

ORDER

ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.

This case arises out of an allegedly false report of theft. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 110). For the reasons given herein, the Court grants the motion.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In October 2010, [1] Plaintiff Stephen Warren made a verbal agreement with Defendants Austin and Deborah Lindsey to rent, and later purchase, a fifth wheel trailer (the "Trailer") from the Lindseys. (Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3-4, 8, ECF No. 85). Plaintiff and his daughter, on whose behalf Plaintiff also brings the present suit, took possession of the trailer, put their personal property into it, and began living in it in the City of Carlin, Nevada (the "City"), paying the Lindseys $400 per month, pursuant to the agreement, for ten months. ( Id. ¶¶ 9-10).

On June 13, 2011, Plaintiff, with Lindsey's knowledge (Plaintiff does not allege which Lindsey), took the Trailer to California to secure financing for the purchase. ( Id. ¶ 11). On June 15, 2011, Lindsey (Plaintiff does not allege which Lindsey) reported to the Sheriff of Elko County that Plaintiff had stolen the Trailer. ( Id. ¶ 12). Plaintiff was current on his rent payments at the time. ( Id. ¶ 12.1). In the police report, Lindsey (Plaintiff does not allege which Lindsey), stated that he had loaned the Trailer to a friend but did not disclose his agreement with Plaintiff or that he knew why Plaintiff had taken the Trailer to California. ( Id. ¶ 12.2).

On June 23, 2011, Warren was arrested by the Monterey County Sheriff in California due to the police report filed in Nevada. ( Id. ¶ 13). The sheriff released Plaintiff later that day. ( Id. ¶ 13.1). Defendant William Bauer, the Chief of Police of the City caused a "hold" to be placed against the Trailer through NCIC, a national crime reporting and registration network. ( Id. ¶¶ 6, 13.2). The "hold" caused the Monterey County Sheriff's Department to seize the Trailer, as well as Plaintiff's possessions therein, without a warrant. ( Id. ¶ 13.3-13.4). Bauer told the Monterey County Sheriff that he was processing a criminal complaint against Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 14.1). The Elko County District Attorney expedited a criminal arrest warrant, and on January 19, 2012, Plaintiff was arrested in California based on a warrant for felony theft issued in Nevada. ( Id. ¶¶ 14.2, 15). As a result, Plaintiff was incarcerated for twenty-one days and extradited to Elko County, Nevada, when he was granted bail. ( Id. ¶ 15.2). On July 3, 2011, Bauer instructed the Monterey County Sheriff's Department to release the Trailer to Defendant Foremost Insurance Co. Grand Rapids Michigan ("Foremost"). ( Id. ¶ 16).

Once the Elko County authorities confirmed, on or about November 26, 2012, that Plaintiff had a verbal agreement with Lindsey to rent and purchase the Trailer, they dropped the charges against him. ( Id. ¶ 17). Plaintiff believes that the Lindseys submitted a claim to Foremost based on the alleged theft of the Trailer, that Foremost paid the Lindseys for the alleged loss, and that Foremost then took possession of the Trailer from the Monterey County Sheriff's Department because it believed itself to be subrogated to the Trailer. ( Id. ¶¶ 18-19). At some unknown time thereafter, Foremost caused the Trailer, and Plaintiff's possessions therein, to be sold by unknown means to unknown persons for an unknown price. ( Id. ¶ 20).

The Third Amended Complaint ("TAC") lists eight claims: (1) malicious prosecution (Lindsey); (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") (Lindsey); (3) conversion (Lindsey and Foremost); (4) abuse of process (Lindsey); (5) defamation (Lindsey); (6) breach of contract (Lindsey); (7) violation of the Fourth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Bauer and the City); and (8) violation of Nevada Revised Statutes section ("NRS") 179.105 (Bauer and the City).[2] The Lindseys and Bauer have separately filed counterclaims for equitable indemnity and contribution, arguing that Plaintiff in fact stole the Trailer. Bauer and the City have now moved for summary judgment.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A court must grant summary judgment when "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). Material facts are those which may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See id. A principal purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). In determining summary judgment, a court uses a burden-shifting scheme:

When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case.

C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970).

If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987). In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations unsupported by facts. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.

At the summary judgment stage, a court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The evidence of the nonmovant is "to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is merely ...


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