United States District Court, D. Connecticut
H. JEFFREY BAKER, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL BZYDRA, et al., Defendants.
RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS
Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.
H. Jeffrey Baker is the “ex-president and owner”
of CT 102 LLC, which “has been dissolved under
Connecticut law.” Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 5. He has
sued Michael Bzdyra, the Commissioner of the Connecticut
Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”); Michelle
Givens, a “presenter/prosecutor of cases” at the
DMV; and James Quinn, a Hearing Officer at the DMV. These
State employee defendants (the “State
Defendants”) are sued in their individual and official
capacities. He has also sued Mark Goldman, who allegedly
filed a complaint against CT 102 LLC with the DMV. Plaintiff
alleges that, at a DMV hearing concerning Goldman's
complaint, Goldman, apparently with the collusion of Givens,
introduced a “fraudulent” tow slip as an exhibit.
Id. ¶ 9. He alleges that although Quinn, the
hearing officer, recused himself after Plaintiff filed an
attorney disciplinary grievance against him, Givens, the
“presenter/prosecutor, ” did not, and colluded
with Goldman “to force” Plaintiff to
“settle the case at an amount of money greater than the
law permits by use of these fraudulent documents.”
Id. ¶¶ 8-9. He alleges that “[t]he
hearing continued despite evidence of fraud which was offered
before the [h]earing and presented to the DMV” by
Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 1. He attaches to his
complaint letters his lawyer sent to two local police
departments alleging that Goldman had “fabricated a tow
slip [at the DMV hearing] in order to increase the alleged
damages he is attempting to collect regarding” the DMV
case. Compl. Exs. A-B, ECF No. 1 at 8-9. Plaintiff claims
that all of this conduct violated his Fourteenth Amendment
rights to “equal justice under the law.” Compl.,
ECF No. 1 ¶ 32. The complaint seeks declaratory and
injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and
State Defendants move to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction, arguing that the plaintiff lacks standing and
that the money damages claims brought against them in their
official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. ECF
No. 21. They also move to dismiss on grounds of qualified
immunity and absolute immunity as well as on the ground that
the complaint fails to state a claim. Id. Defendant
Goldman joins in the State Defendants' motion. ECF No.
22. I GRANT the motion to dismiss for the reasons set forth
assume familiarity with the complaint and briefs supporting
and opposing the motion to dismiss, including the portions of
the underlying DMV record attached to the Defendants'
motion to dismiss, which I consider only for background
purposes and not for the truth of any statements made in
those documents. I also accept all the factual allegations of
the complaint as true for purposes of deciding the motion to
the plaintiff lacks standing, which is a prerequisite to this
Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Among other things,
standing requires that the plaintiff have suffered an injury.
Plaintiff fails to plead facts suggesting that he has. He
alleges that Goldman's complaint to the DMV was filed
against CT 102 LLC, which is not a party to this action.
Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 9. Plaintiff alleges that he is the
“ex-president and owner of” CT 102 LLC.
Id. ¶ 5. This is insufficient to allege
standing. Under Connecticut law, “a limited liability
company is a distinct legal entity whose existence is
separate from its member . . . . It has the power to sue or
to be sued in its own name . . . . A member or manager,
however, may not sue in an individual capacity to recover for
an injury based on a wrong to the limited liability
company.” Padawer v. Yur, 142 Conn.App. 812,
817 (Conn. App. 2013) (dismissing action for lack of standing
where plaintiff sued in individual capacity under contract
made by limited liability company of which plaintiff was sole
member). The Second Circuit has applied a similar principle
in cases involving corporations and shareholders. See,
e.g., Rand v. Anaconda-Ericsson, Inc., 794 F.2d 843, 849
(2d Cir. 1986). It does not matter whether, as Plaintiff
alleges, the limited liability company has “dissolved,
” because the complaint here alleges that the target of
the underlying DMV complaint by Goldman was the limited
liability company and, thus, only it could have been injured
by the introduction of a fraudulent exhibit in the DMV
hearing. See, e.g. Houraney v. Burton & Assocs.,
P.C., No. 08-CV-2688, 2011 WL 710269, at *1 (E.D.N.Y.
Feb. 22, 2011) (finding that plaintiff lacked standing to sue
on behalf of his LLC for injury to the LLC, even where the
LLC had dissolved). And the alleged dissolution of CT 102 LLC
would not have prevented it from bringing this action. See
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 34-267a(b)(2)(B) (providing that a
dissolved limited liability company continues after
dissolution for the purpose of winding up its affairs,
including “prosecut[ing] … actions and
proceedings, whether civil, criminal or
administrative”). To the extent the complaint alleges
an injury at all, it alleges that the injury was incurred by
CT 102 LLC, not Plaintiff. The complaint must therefore be
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule
even if the LLC were substituted as the plaintiff (which
Plaintiff has not requested, even after reviewing and
responding to the Defendants' motion to dismiss), the
Court would still have to dismiss the official capacity
claims for damages against the State Defendants under Rule
12(b)(1) because they are barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
And the Court would have to dismiss the remaining claims
under Rule 12(b)(6) because they fail to state a claim under
the standards set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662 (2009).
respect to Defendant Goldman, the complaint asserts no claim
against him. See Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 18-25, 31-34
(asserting count one against Bzdyra, Count Two against Quinn,
and Count Four against Givens; the complaint includes no
count three or any other counts).
respect to Bzdyra, the Commissioner, the complaint fails to
plead facts suggesting his personal involvement, as required
for Section 1983 liability. The only act attributed to Bzdyra
is that he “has failed to cancel.” Compl., ECF
No. 1 ¶ 19. Even if the Court construes this as an
allegation that Bzdrya “has failed to cancel the
hearing, ” there is no allegation that Bzdrya knew of
the hearing or was involved in it in any way, let alone that
he knew an exhibit introduced at the hearing was fabricated.
In any event, failing to cancel a hearing, without more, did
not violate the federal rights of CT 102 LLC and is therefore
not actionable under Section 1983.
with respect to Quinn and Givens, both enjoy absolute
immunity for the actions alleged in the complaint. The
complaint accuses Quinn, the hearing officer, of
“agreeing to go forward with a fraudulent exhibit that
was actually entered and marked as a full exhibit, ”
and “refusing to postpone or dismiss the
hearing.” Id. ¶ 23. These actions were
taken in Quinn's capacity as a hearing officer, and Quinn
is thus absolutely immune from liability for them, even if he
acted in bad faith. Durant v. New York City Hous.
Auth., No. 12-CV-00937, 2012 WL 928343, at *2 (E.D.N.Y.
Mar. 19, 2012) (noting that “absolute judicial immunity
has been further applied to non-federal administrative
hearing officers” and citing cases); Mireles v.
Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991) (noting that “judicial
immunity is not overcome by allegations of bad faith or
malice”). As a “presenter/prosecutor” at
DMV who is being sued because she allegedly knew “that
a fraudulent document was placed into evidence at a hearing
she participated in” and “covered up the fraud,
” Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 33, Givens enjoys a similar
immunity. Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 515 (1978)
(“We also believe that agency officials performing
certain functions analogous to those of a prosecutor should
be able to claim absolute immunity with respect to such
acts.”); Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 487
(1991) (prosecutor enjoyed absolute immunity for actions
related to his appearance as lawyer for state in
probable-cause hearing, including examining witness and
successfully supporting application for search warrant).
the complaint is dismissed and the Clerk is ...