The plaintiff, New Day, bought and operated a poultry farm that existed since 1975, and sought to build new environmentally improved barns. In May of 2008, they received an exemption to be listed as “agriculture” by the zoning inspector and began the renovation. In February 2008, the Board of Trustees considered a fire code for the first time in the township’s history.
The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants were “ardent opponents of the development of poultry farms by out of state corporations…and have engaged in activities such as selling signs and buttons and literature opposing such developments” and that they “motivated the Board to enact the discriminatory fire code.” Furthermore, plaintiffs alleged a violation of their equal protection rights because the defendants sought to discriminate against the Hispanic population that works on poultry farms.
The court denied the civil conspiracy claim pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 because the plaintiffs did not support their claim that the defendants and the Board worked together. The court applied a number of tests to determine whether private actors can be held liable, noting that liability occurs when the private actor’s action so approximate state action that they may “be fairly attributed to the State.”
For the first prong, the Court applies a public function test to see “whether the private entity ‘exercises powers which are traditionally exclusively reserved to the state.’” Here the Court concluded that the defendants are not state actors because “firefighting and emergency medical services are ‘not powers which are traditionally exclusively reserved to the state’ of Ohio.” The second test is whether a symbiotic relationship exists where “there is a sufficiently close nexus between the state and the challenged action of the regulated entity so that the action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the state itself.” Once again the claim failed. The Court noted that just because one of the members of the opposition group is also a member of the Board, is not sufficient to establish this nexus.
Finally, the Court found that the plaintiff has no claim under 42 USC § 1985(3) which prohibits conspiracies from interfering in civil rights. The Court held that out-of-state businesses are not a class of persons that meet the standard.
New Day Farms v. Board of Trustees of York Township, 2009 WL 4016480 (S.D. OH, 11/17/2009).