Posted by: Patricia Salkin | June 2, 2017

6th Circuit Court of Appeals Dismisses Takings Claims Related to the Downsizing of Plaintiff’s Property

Plaintiff-Appellant Jeff Faulkner alleged that the City of Middletown, as part of a conspiracy against him, violated his rights on two separate occasions. First, Faulkner claimed that the City’s decision to “downzone” a piece of real property that would later come to be owned by the Faulkner Family Trust amounted to a taking that required notice and compensation under both the United States Constitution and the Ohio Constitution. Next, Faulkner alleged that the City was liable to him for malicious prosecution and abuse of process under Ohio law because City employees wrongfully arrested him and charged him with landlord theft of rent. As a result, Faulkner brought nine claims against the City, seeking relief ranging from damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to mandamus. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City on all nine claims.

The gravamen of plaintiff’s due process and equal protection claims was that the City owed the Trust a duty to provide notice and an opportunity to respond before downzoning the lot in question and to refrain from singling out the Trust’s property for disparate and discriminatory treatment. However, the record indicated that the property at issue was validly downzoned on August 20, 2013; Faulkner did not agree to purchase the land at issue on behalf of the Trust until February 27, 2014, and he did not close on the land until March 26, 2014. Because the Trust did not own the land at issue when the City duly amended the land’s zoning classification, Faulkner lacked standing to challenge that decision on the basis of procedural due process or equal protection.

Lastly, the court found the district court properly granted summary judgment to the City on Faulkner’s claims of malicious prosecution and abuse of process.  The court noted that Ohio law generally immunizes municipalities from civil liability flowing from “loss to person or property allegedly caused by any act or omission of the political subdivision or an employee of the political subdivision in connection with a governmental or proprietary function.” Here, Faulkner did not make this claim against a municipal employee, but against the City. As such, the court rejected this claim, and affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Faulkner v City of Middletown, OH, 2017 WL 1857271 (6th Cir. CA 5/8/2017)

 


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