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Ayn Harris v. City of Wilmington

January 7, 2011

AYN HARRIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF WILMINGTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff, Ayn Harris, alleges that her constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, and property have been violated by Defendants, the City of Wilmington, the Wilmington Department of Revenue, the Records Department of the Wilmington Police Department, John Rago, Debra Wooden, and Swift Towing Company and Recovery, Inc. ("Swift Towing"). Harris now moves for injunctive relief. The City of Wilmington, the Wilmington Department of Revenue, the Records Department of the Wilmington Police Department, Rago, and Wooden (collectively, "Defendants")*fn1 move to dismiss Harris's claims or, alternatively, to transfer the case to the District of Delaware.

For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted and the case transferred to the District of Delaware. Harris's Motion for Injunctive Relief will be denied.

I. JURISDICTION

Plaintiff has brought federal claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. BACKGROUND

On April 5, 2010, Harris discovered that her vehicle, parked on a street in Wilmington, Delaware, had been immobilized through the use of a device called a "boot." At that time, Harris was waiting for the car's title to be mailed to her from the dealership. As a result, the car was unregistered.

Harris found a notice on the windshield of the car with a phone number for the City of Wilmington and instructions on how to have the car returned to her. Harris called the number and spoke with a woman. The woman informed Harris that her car was mistakenly booted, but that Harris could not take possession of her vehicle because it was unregistered. The woman further explained that Harris's car would be towed but that she could retrieve it once she had proof of ownership. Before she attempted to reclaim her car, the woman added, Harris would have to check with the Wilmington Department of Revenue and the Records Department of the Wilmington Police Department to ensure that she did not owe any money to the City or that any warrants were outstanding. Ultimately, an employee with Swift Towing arrived to remove the boot from Harris's vehicle and towed it away.

On or about April 9, 2010, Harris visited the Wilmington Department of Revenue and the Records Department of the Wilmington Police Department. She met with Debra Wooden, a cashier supervisor with the Department of Revenue, who refused to release her car. Later, Harris spoke with John Rago, a director of communications with the City. Harris showed Rago her bill of sale as proof of ownership of the vehicle. Rago told her that he would arrange for the release of her car. After approximately forty-five minutes, Rago returned and refused to release the car without giving a reason. According to Defendants, Harris's vehicle remains unregistered, and for that reason, Rago and Wooden could not release her car pursuant to a Wilmington ordinance that precludes the release of an unregistered vehicle.

About a week or so later, Harris filed suit in this Court, alleging that Defendants' refusal to release her vehicle violated her due process, equal protection, and property rights.*fn2

According to Harris, her car has been withheld from her without any explanation or any opportunity to demonstrate why it should be released. Harris seeks to have her car returned to her. In June 2010, Defendants moved to dismiss Harris's claims or, alternatively, to transfer the case to the District of Delaware. Soon thereafter, Harris moved for injunctive relief.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standards for Motion to Dismiss

Defendants assert several grounds on which they seek the dismissal or transfer of Harris's case. Among their assertions is Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3). Rule 12(b)(3) permits a defendant to move to dismiss a claim for improper venue. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3). The movant bears the burden to show that venue is improper in the selected forum. Myers v. Am. Dental Ass'n, 695 F.2d 716, 724 (3d Cir. 1982). The Court must generally accept the plaintiff's allegations as true ...


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