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Hyytinen v. Morhous

United States District Court, Western District of Washington, Tacoma

March 3, 2015

DAVID HYYTINEN, Plaintiff,
v.
IAN MORHOUS, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES

BENJAMIN H. SETTLE United States District Judge

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Ian Morhous’s (“Morhous”) motion for summary judgment and motion for attorney fees (Dkt. 16). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motions and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion for summary judgment and grants the motion for attorney fees in part and denies it in part for the reasons stated herein.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 17, 2012, Plaintiff David Hyytinen (“Hyytinen”) filed an amended complaint against the Washington State Patrol (“State Patrol”) and the City of Bremerton in Kitsap County Superior Court. Dkt. 17, Declaration of Paul Triesch (“Triesch Dec.”), Ex. D. Hyytinen alleged that the State Patrol violated his federal due process rights and acted negligently when it seized his Cadillac Escalade. Id.

On May 10 and June 28, 2013, the trial court dismissed Hyytinen’s claims against the State Patrol. Triesch Dec., Exs. B, C. Hyytinen appealed the trial court’s judgment. Triesch Dec. ¶ 11. During oral argument before the court of appeals, Hyytinen’s counsel acknowledged that he could have alleged a claim against Morhous under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but purposely did not do so. Triesch Dec., Ex. I at 21–22.

The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s dismissal. On January 29, 2015, Hyytinen petitioned the Washington Supreme Court for review. Dkt. 20, Declaration of Rick Wathen, Ex. A.

On July 3, 2014, Hyytinen filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against Morhous, Jane Doe Morhous, John Doe, and Jane Doe in this Court. Dkt. 1. Hyytinen alleges that Morhous violated his federal and state due process rights and acted negligently when Morhous seized his Escalade. Id.

On January 15, 2015, Morhous moved for summary judgment and attorney fees. Dkt. 16. On February 2, 2015, Hyytinen responded. Dkt. 19. On February 3, 2015, Morhous replied. Dkt. 23.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In 2004, the Bremerton Police Department (“Department”) seized a Cadillac Escalade during the course of drug enforcement activity. Dkt. 18, Declaration of Ian Morhous (“Morhous Dec.”), Ex. B at 3. In 2007, Hyytinen purchased the Escalade from the Department at an auction. Id.

On July 5, 2011, Hyytinen brought the Escalade to the State Patrol for a VIN inspection. Id. at 4. At the time, Morhous was a detective in the State Patrol’s Criminal Investigation Division. Morhous Dec. ¶ 2. During the inspection, a State Patrol employee discovered that the Escalade had been stolen from a car dealership in Canada in November 2002. Morhous Dec., Ex. B at 4. The employee notified Morhous that the Escalade was stolen. Morhous Dec. ¶ 4.

On July 6, 2011, Morhous informed Hyytinen that the Escalade was stolen and therefore would not be returned to him. Morhous Dec. ¶ 5. The Escalade was returned to the insurance company for the car dealership in Canada. Id. ¶ 8.

III. DISCUSSION

Morhous moves for summary judgment, arguing that all of Hyytinen’s claims should be dismissed. Dkt. 16. Morhous also moves for ...


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