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Coleman v. City of Indianapolis

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

December 28, 2016

CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge.

         This cause is before the Court on the Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 85).[1] The motion is fully briefed, and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the motion for the reasons set forth below. The Defendants' related motion to strike (Dkt. No. 93) is DENIED AS MOOT. The Plaintiff's request for a hearing is denied.

         I. STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). However, a party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must show what evidence he has that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).


         In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Wayde Coleman, who is proceeding pro se in this action, [2] asserted claims against the City of Indianapolis, Marion County, the Marion County Assessor's Office, and the Marion County Treasurer's Office. In his response to the instant motion, Coleman voluntarily dismissed his claims against the Marion County Assessor's Office. Dkt. No. 88 at 11.

         In a nutshell, Coleman asserted in his Second Amended Complaint various claims arising out of the fact that Marion County obtained a Judgment and Order for Sale (“the Judgment”) regarding a home he owned in Indianapolis (“the Property”) in 2010. When the Property did not sell, the County acquired by operation of law a tax sale certificate for the Property; in November 2010, the Marion Circuit Court issued an order for issuance of a tax deed for the Property conveying ownership to Marion County. The County Auditor did not take the necessary action to obtain the tax deed for the Property until March 2014; Coleman thus remained the owner of record of the Property until that time.

         The Court dismissed most of Coleman's claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based upon the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because his alleged injuries flowed from the Judgment that gave the County the authority to attempt to sell and eventually take ownership of the Property. See Dkt. No. 65. Coleman then pursued those claims in state court. While it does not appear that his claims for damages have been resolved, the state court has issued a ruling setting aside the tax deed, finding it void because Marion County had not provided Coleman with all of the notices due pursuant to statute before the Judgment was obtained. Accordingly, Coleman is once again the owner of record of the Property.

         In addition to his claims that related to the County's taking ownership of the Property, Coleman alleged that the Defendants failed to notify him that he was no longer the owner of the Property during the time between March 20, 2014, the date the County recorded the tax deed, and May 29, 2014, when Coleman alleges he finally received notice that the County had acquired ownership of the Property. During that time, Coleman alleges that he spent a substantial amount of effort and money making repairs to the Property because he was unaware that he no longer owned it. Those are the only claims that remain before this Court. The Defendants have now moved for summary judgment on those claims.


         The Defendants first argue that Coleman is not the real party in interest in this case and therefore has no standing to pursue it because Coleman filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy during the pendency of this case but did not list the case as an asset in his bankruptcy filings. The Defendants are correct that this lawsuit was part of Coleman's bankruptcy estate and therefore could be pursued only by the bankruptcy trustee unless and until it was abandoned by the trustee. See Biesek v. Soo Line R. Co., 440 F.3d 410, 413 (7th Cir. 2006) (pre-bankruptcy claims belong to Trustee for benefit of creditors unless abandoned). However, Coleman successfully petitioned to reopen his bankruptcy and, subsequent to the briefing of the instant motion, the Trustee did, in fact, abandon his interest in this lawsuit. Coleman is, therefore, now the real party of interest in this case. See Matthews v. Potter, 316 Fed.Appx. 518, 521-22 (7th Cir. 2009) (Once claims are abandoned by the bankruptcy trustee, “title reverted to [Coleman] as if [he] owned them continuously and the bankruptcy never happened.”) (citing Kane v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co., 535 F.3d 380, 385 (5th Cir.2008); Morlan v. Universal Guar. Life Ins. Co., 298 F.3d 609, 617 (7th Cir. 2002); In re Kasper, 309 B.R. 82, 94 (Bankr. D.C. 2004) (noting that title reverts to debtor as of the petition date with all pre-petition rights); 5 Collier on Bankruptcy ¶ 5-554.02 (Alan N. Resnick & Henry J. Sommer eds., 15th ed. rev. 2008)).

         The Defendants also argue that Coleman should be estopped from pursuing this case because he concealed it from the bankruptcy court. The Court need not consider that argument because the Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Coleman's remaining claims in any event.

         Coleman's arguments in his brief make it clear that he in large part is still complaining about the failure to provide him with the statutorily required notice prior to obtaining ownership of the Property. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 88 at 39 (“Mr. Coleman is claiming that he was injured because of action outside and inside the Court that was wrongfully used to gain [the state court judgment and order for sale of the Property]”; “Coleman was a victim of Fraud once the Defendants moved the Circuit Court for judgment; when they claim that ALL PROPER NOTICE was given prior to sale pursuant to Indiana Code . . . .”); id. at 41 (“Defendants clearly failed to provide Coleman with notice prior to collecting on Tax Deed, judgment and the initial-sale; in which was ALL voided by the Marion County Circuit Court.”); id. at 42 (“Defendants presented false affirmations, affidavits and or declaration to the Marion Circuit Court leading them to believe that All Laws were followed prior to taking the property.”). None of those claims are properly before this Court, however; they ...

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