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Fairbanks v. O'Hagan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 9, 2017

MATTHEW FAIRBANKS, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER DANA O'HAGAN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge.

         This case arises out of the arrest of Matthew Fairbanks (“Fairbanks” or “plaintiff”), the subsequent search of his apartment and car and the seizure of his property. Fairbanks claims that defendants, various police officers employed by the Town of Danvers, Massachusetts, 1) falsely arrested him, 2) conducted an unlawful search and seizure, 3) violated his right to bear arms, 4) violated the Equal Protection Clause and 5) took his property without just compensation, all in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is pending before the Court. For the following reasons, that motion will be allowed, in part, and denied, in part.

         I. Background

         In January, 2013, plaintiff hosted a small social gathering at his apartment in Danvers, Massachusetts which included his estranged father, Mark Kendall, his neighbor, Maria Melendez and his father's friend, Holly Fletcher. During the gathering, plaintiff and his father, Kendall, stepped into the bathroom to have a conversation which descended into an argument with raised voices. In the course of the argument, fixtures in the bathroom were damaged and the toilet was broken off of its base and began leaking water into the apartment below.

         At approximately 3:00 A.M., the individual who lived in the lower apartment called the police about the water leak. Officer Dana O'Hagan arrived at plaintiff's apartment shortly thereafter. Kendall and Fletcher met him in the lobby and told him that plaintiff was a Marine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and was “crazy”. O'Hagan and other officers went upstairs to plaintiff's apartment. They found plaintiff in the hallway and proceeded to handcuff and frisk him. They also asked him if he had any weapons and he responded that he had three weapons: a .45 caliber pistol, a .38 caliber revolver and a .22 caliber rifle two of which were in his vehicle.

         Officers then entered plaintiff's apartment to recover his keys and seized the revolver and rifle from his vehicle. They also confiscated a knife, a “scope”, the pistol and other property not specifically identified in the complaint from plaintiff's apartment.

         Plaintiff was charged in the Massachusetts District Court with 1) assault and battery, 2) assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, 3) two counts of improper storage of a firearm and 4) malicious destruction of property. In July, 2013, he admitted to sufficient facts for a guilty finding with respect to the assault and battery charge and one of the charges of improper storage of a firearm. As to those admissions, he agreed to a two-year continuance without a finding. The other charges were dismissed.

         In January, 2016, plaintiff filed suit in this Court against the Town of Danvers and five Danvers police officers, Officer Dana O'Hagan, Detective f/n/u Carleton, Officer f/n/u Cassidy, Officer f/n/u George and Sergeant f/n/u Janvrin (collectively “defendants”). This Court dismissed the claims against the Town of Danvers in September, 2016. The remaining defendants filed a motion to dismiss shortly thereafter which plaintiff opposes. That motion is the subject of this memorandum and order and for the reasons that follow, it will be allowed, in part, and denied, in part.

         II. Legal Analysis

         A. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter” to state a claim for relief that is actionable as a matter of law and “plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 667 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible if, after accepting as true all non-conclusory factual allegations, the court can draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Ocasio Hernandez v. Fortuno Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A court may not disregard properly pled factual allegations even if actual proof of those facts is improbable. Id. Rather, the relevant inquiry focuses on the reasonableness of the inference of liability that the plaintiff is asking the court to draw. Id. at 13.

         When rendering that determination, a court may not look beyond the facts alleged in the complaint, documents incorporated by reference therein and facts susceptible to judicial notice. Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011); Alt. Energy, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 267 F.3d 30, 33-34 (1st Cir. 2001) (excluding opposition memorandum and supporting materials unless they are undisputed by the parties or the motion is converted to summary judgment). Courts may properly consider matters of public record such as documents from prior state court adjudications. Giragosian v. Ryan, 547 F.3d 59, 66 (1st Cir. 2008).

         B. Application

         Defendants contend that plaintiff's claims must be dismissed pursuant to the doctrine espoused in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), which prohibits 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 claims that would undermine state court convictions. Defendants further assert that plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted for violations of his ...


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