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Conner v. Reilly

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

January 17, 2017

DAVID CONNER, Plaintiff,


          STEPHEN L. CROCKER Magistrate Judge.

         This case presents an unfortunate situation of caveat emptor (“buyer beware”). In March 2015, plaintiff David Conner paid $15, 000 cash to his son, Christopher Conner, for a 2009 Dodge Challenger. Just days earlier, Christopher had purchased the Challenger for that amount from a Craigslist seller, relying in part on the seller's representation that the car was not subject to any liens. As it turns out, the notice of lien release presented by the seller was phony: the seller actually had obtained this Challenger by fraud and it remained subject to a lien owned by Bank of the West. David Conner learned this approximately two and a half months after he bought the car from his son, when the Rock County Sheriff's Department seized the Challenger pursuant to a search warrant. After the sheriff's department authorized release of the car to its original owner, Conner filed this lawsuit. Conner claims that by releasing the car without first allowing Conner the right to a hearing, defendants Rock County, Sheriff Richard Spoden, and Detective Brent Reilly deprived Conner of his federal right to procedural due process. Conner also brings a state law conversion claim against Reilly and a claim of civil conspiracy between the Rock County and Cedar County, Missouri Sheriff's Departments. Defendants removed the case to this court on May 23, 2016 (dkt. 1), and have moved for summary judgment on all of Conner's claims (dkt. 11). For the reasons stated below, I am granting defendants' motion.

         In support of their summary judgment motion, defendants assert that:

(1) Conner did not have a legitimate claim of entitlement to the vehicle because his rights were inferior to the Bank of the West's and in any event, he was not a good faith purchaser of the vehicle;
(2) Conner had adequate post-deprivation remedies;
(3) Detective Reilly did not participate in the alleged constitutional violation and in any event, he is entitled to qualified immunity;
(4) Conner failed to adduce facts showing the existence of an official policy or custom necessary for Rock County to be liable under § 1983;
(5) Conner alleged no facts suggesting that Sheriff Spoden participated in any way in the alleged violation of Conner's rights;
(6) Conner's conversion claim fails because he did not have a right to possession of the vehicle that was superior to the Bank of the West's; and
(7) Conner's civil conspiracy claim fails because he suffered no damages.

See Dkts. 11, 13.

         In response to defendants' motion, Conner has offered no evidence or argument in support of any theory of liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against either Rock County or Sheriff Spoden. Accordingly, I am granting summary judgment to defendants on these claims at the outset. Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 624 F.3d 461, 466 (7th Cir. 2010) (“Failure to respond to an argument . . . results in waiver.”); Judge v. Quinn, 612 F.3d 537, 557 (7th Cir. 2010) (“it is not the obligation of this court to research and construct legal arguments open to parties, especially when they are represented by counsel, and we have warned that perfunctory and undeveloped arguments, and arguments that are unsupported by pertinent authority, are waived”) (brackets and internal quotation marks omitted).

         As for Conner's § 1983 and conversion claims against defendant Reilly, I find that these claims fail because Conner has not established that he ever had a legitimate claim of entitlement to the Challenger, or that Reilly was personally involved in the deprivation of his alleged property interest or that Conner lacked adequate post-deprivation remedies for the alleged deprivation.

         Finally, Conner's conspiracy claim cannot survive summary judgment because he has failed to come forth with any evidence establishing any agreement between the Rock County and Cedar County sheriff's departments to commit unlawful acts or that he suffered damages as a result of their actions.

         The material facts are largely undisputed:


         In June 2013, Michael and Linda Larsen, who lived in El Dorado Springs, Missouri, purchased a used 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T, [1] VIN # 2B3LJ54T39H503270 (the “Challenger”). The Larsens financed their purchase of the Challenger through a secured loan from the Bank of the West. The Bank of the West had a perfected security interest in the Challenger, which was noted on the Challenger's Certificate of Title.

         A little less than two years later, in March 2015, the Larsens advertised the Challenger for sale on Craigslist, a well-known, on-line classified advertising site. At the time, the balance due on the Larsen loan from Bank of the West was approximately $15, 000. On or about March 9, 2015, a person who identified himself as “L.C. Turner” replied to the Larsens' ad and agreed to purchase the Challenger for $22, 500. Turner provided the ...

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