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Shipman v. Baltimore Police Department

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 29, 2014




One morning, plaintiff Dennis Shipman parked his tractor at a surface parking lot in Baltimore, allegedly with the permission of the store manager of the CVS, the anchor tenant. When plaintiff returned that evening, his tractor was gone. Believing that his tractor was stolen, plaintiff called the Baltimore City Police Department ("BPD") and filed a police report. Plaintiff later learned that the tractor had, in fact, been towed by Greenwood Towing ("Greenwood").

This sequence of events forms the factual background of plaintiff's Complaint (ECF 1), which he filed pro se. [1] In the Complaint, plaintiff sets forth ten causes of action against five defendants: BPD; Mark A. Grimes, Chief Legal Counsel for BPD; James H. Green, Deputy Chief Legal Counsel for BPD;[2] Greenwood; and "Lateef A. Adenekan Insurance" ("Adenekan").[3] See id. at 1. Plaintiff does not distinguish among the defendants in asserting his ten causes of action, all of which arise under the United States Constitution or Maryland law.[4] The causes of action are as follows: Due Process (Count I); Unlawful Seizure (Count II); Negligence (Count III); Official Misconduct (Count IV); Conspiracy (Count V); Collusion (Count VI); Conversion (Count VII); Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count VIII); Equal Protection (Count IX); and Tortious Interference (Count X). In essence, Shipman complains that Greenwood had no authority to tow his tractor, that BPD violated several laws in its investigation of the incident, and that Adenekan failed to secure adequate insurance coverage for plaintiff.

Greenwood filed a Motion to Dismiss ("Greenwood Motion, " ECF 8). The BPD Defendants filed a joint Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, for Partial Summary Judgment ("BPD Motion, " ECF 9).[5] Plaintiff filed an Opposition (ECF 14), ostensibly to both motions. The Opposition consists largely of a lengthy recitation of the legal standard for summary judgment motions; it contains almost no reference to plaintiff's case or to the substance of defendants' motions to dismiss.

No hearing is necessary is resolve the motions. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant both motions to dismiss with respect to plaintiff's federal claims (Counts I, II, and IX), with prejudice. As to plaintiff's claims under Maryland law (Counts III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, and X), I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). Therefore, I will dismiss the State law claims, without prejudice to plaintiff's right to pursue them in State court.[6]

Factual Summary[7]

"On or about December 8, 2012, at approximately 8:00 [a.m.], plaintiff parked his tractor, which is his sole asset, " in the parking lot for a CVS pharmacy on Belair Road in Baltimore. Complaint ¶ 3. Plaintiff claims that he had permission to do so from "the anchor store management, " i.e., CVS. Id. A company called Frankfort Towing had its signage posted in the parking lot, but Greenwood did not post its own signage. Id. ¶¶ 31-32, 45. At approximately 5:00 p.m. the same day, plaintiff returned to the parking lot and found that his tractor, a 1986 vehicle valued at $6, 500, was not on the lot. Id. ¶¶ 5, 15, 18. As a result, plaintiff called the CVS store. Id. ¶ 19. "Management denied knowing who had unlawfully removed plaintiff's tractor, " id. ¶ 20, and advised plaintiff that "it is not their policy to authorize tows from the parking lot." Id. ¶ 21.

After plaintiff called 911, he was contacted by a police officer from the Eastern District of BPD. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. According to plaintiff, the officer "had an engagement to attend a dinner party out-of-state" and "suggested that plaintiff ask that an officer meet him at the location to make a stolen vehicle report. Id. ¶ 23. An officer later met plaintiff at the CVS parking lot, at which point plaintiff gave the officer a copy of the tractor's title. Id. ¶ 24. The officer issued police report number 124L3499. Id. Three days later, on December 11, 2012, plaintiff e-mailed BPD, requesting a status update on the stolen vehicle report. Id. ¶ 27. Plaintiff did not receive a response. Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiff later sent several letters to BPD Commissioner Anthony Batts, who also did not respond. Id. ¶ 38.

It also appears that plaintiff e-mailed Adenekan to advise that his tractor had been stolen. See id. ¶¶ 27, 29. But, Adenekan "never filed a claim with Progressive[, ] contending he did not know that the truck was stolen, " despite plaintiff's emails of December 12, 2012, informing Adenekan of the theft. Id. ¶ 29. And, according to plaintiff, Adenekan "neglected to add coverage sufficient to cover the economic losses plaintiff has suffered." Id. ¶ 30.[8]

"To protect his only asset, plaintiff filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection... on or about December 12, 2012." Id. ¶ 31. In his bankruptcy petition, plaintiff named Frankfort Towing as a creditor. Id. ¶ 31. On December 13, 2012, a BPD employee called plaintiff, asking him to verify the VIN on the tractor. Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff provided the employee with the tractor's VIN. Id. ¶ 26.

Plaintiff alleges that, at some point after December 8, 2012, Greenwood placed its signage in the CVS parking lot. See id. ¶¶ 33-36. According to plaintiff, Greenwood only placed the signage at the lot because "either the property owner or someone in the police department contacted Greenwood Towing and told them to immediately post signage." Id. ¶ 35 (emphasis in original). This allegation forms the basis of plaintiff's "conspiracy" and "collusion" causes of action. See id.

On or about December 20, 2012, Green contacted plaintiff. Id. ¶ 39. Plaintiff alleges that Green was "extraordinarily abrasive and, consequently, disrespectful." Id. Green and plaintiff later exchanged e-mail correspondence "that culminated in Green finally informing plaintiff that the tractor was... listed in the National Crime Information Center (hereinafter "NCIC") as stolen' on or about December 12, 2012." Id. Green also informed plaintiff that the tractor was in the possession of Greenwood, and he suggested that plaintiff contact Greenwood directly. Id. ¶ 41.[9]

At some point, plaintiff contacted Francis McCauley, a member of Progressive Insurance's auto theft unit. Id. ¶ 42. McCauley informed plaintiff that he "could find no evidence the tractor had been reported stolen by BPD and entered into [the NCIC]... until Friday, February 1, 2013." Id. ¶ 43. After learning this information, plaintiff "immediately sent a letter to BPD by facsimile; electronic and regular mail stating, We appreciate that information ...

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