United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
ROBERT D. AINSWORTH; TAMI L. AINSWORTH; KARL G. FRINK; LUCINDA A. FRINK; GORDON D. GRISWOLD; ELAINE C. GRISWOLD; JOHN K. LINDSEY; LINDA K. LINDSEY; WILLIAM E. WHITAKER; SUZANNE R. WHITAKER, Plaintiffs,
MARK ALLEN OWENBY; MICHELLE ANNETTE PAGE; JENNY REBECCA SILVEIRA; HOWARD DEE BROWN III; WILLIAM WALTER TEMPLETON, JR.; ELISHA TEMPLETON; BRYAN DAVID PHILP; GUILD MORTGAGE COMPANY, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL J. MCSHANE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
are a group of residential property owners displeased with
the effects of an alleged marijuana production and processing
operation hosted on nearby land. Defendants are the owners of
the land on which the marijuana operation is claimed to be
maintained and several alleged participants in that
operation. As to each defendant, Plaintiffs assert
one state-law nuisance claim and two Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) claims. The
case comes before the Court on Defendants' motions to
dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and, as to
the alleged RICO violations, for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. Since each claim satisfies
the minimum constitutional requirements for this Court to
exercise jurisdiction, Defendants' motion to dismiss for
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is DENIED. Nevertheless,
because Plaintiffs fail to allege a compensable property
injury under the civil RICO statute, Defendants' motion
to dismiss for failure to state a claim is GRANTED.
Plaintiffs' RICO claims are therefore DISMISSED without
D. Ainsworth, Tami L. Ainsworth, Karl G. Frink, Lucinda A.
Frink, Gordon D. Griswold, Elaine C. Griswold, John K.
Lindsey, William E. Whitaker, and Suzanne R. Whitaker bring
this civil RICO and state-law nuisance action against Mark A.
Owenby, Michelle A. Page, Jenny R. Silveira, Howard D. Brown
III, William W. Templeton, Jr., Elisha Templeton, and Bryan
D. Philp. Compl. ¶¶ 1-13. Their claims arise out of
the presence and effects of an alleged marijuana production
and processing operation (the “Marijuana
Operation”) on property owned by Owenby and Page in
Lebanon, Oregon. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs are
residential property owners with land neighboring the Owenby
and Page property. Compl. ¶¶ 27-28, 30-32.
to Plaintiffs, in November 2016, Owenby and Page agreed with
William Templeton and Elisha Templeton (collectively, the
“Templetons”) to seek and acquire property on
which to “produce and process” marijuana. Compl.
¶ 15. In December 2016, Owenby and Page purchased their
Lebanon property and resolved with the Templetons, Silveira,
and Brown to “develop” the property, “erect
structures, ” and “purchase and install
equipment, fixtures, and materials” to produce and
process marijuana. Compl. ¶ 15. Owenby and Page further
agreed with the Templetons, Silveria, and Brown that they
would “make a financial investment in the Marijuana
Operation, and that in exchange, ” Owenby and Page
“would receive a portion of the [operation's]
proceeds.” Compl. ¶ 15.
thereafter, the Templetons, Owenby, Page, Silveira, Brown,
and Philp began using the property to “produce[ ]
marijuana and distribute[ ] it for sale.” Compl. ¶
22. To that end, Silveria and Brown moved onto the Owneby and
Page property in January 2017, “setting up” and
“managing” the Marijuana Operation. Compl. ¶
17. Also in support of the Marijuana Operation, Owenby, Page,
and the Templetons purchased and transported to the property
materials and equipment for producing and processing
marijuana, often with the help of Silveria, Brown, and Philp.
Compl. ¶¶ 16, 18. The same defendants made
improvements to the land and its structures in furtherance of
the Marijuana Operation. Compl. ¶¶ 18-20. In
return, the Templetons, Owenby, Page, Silveria, Brown, and
Philp have all “received a portion of the proceeds of
the Marijuana Operation.” Compl. ¶ 22.
allege that the Marijuana Operation continued to operate
through at least December 1, 2017, the date on which they
filed their Complaint. Compl. ¶ 22. Since the
operation's commencement, a greenhouse “equipped
with large, commercial exhaust fans” has operated on
the Owenby and Page property “24 hours a day, seven
days a week.” Compl. ¶ 24. In addition, Owenby,
Page, Silveira, Brown, Philp, and Bill Templeton have
“regularly burn[ed] marijuana debris, trash[, ] and
discarded items from the [M]arijuana [O]peration, creating
thick, noxious smoke.” Compl. ¶ 24. Traffic
traveling to and from the Owenby and Page property, moreover,
has transformed the two dead-end roads on which Plaintiffs
live into “busy, and at times unsafe, commercial
roadways.” Compl. ¶ 26. Plaintiffs “no
longer feel safe in their homes and on their properties,
” citing the presence of “pit bull guard
dogs” roaming loose in the neighborhood, “unknown
vehicles entering their properties at all hours of the day
and night, ” and at least two reports of
“prowling and break-ins” on nearby properties.
Compl. ¶ 34.
allege that, as a result of the “persistent stench of
marijuana, ” ever-present fan noise, and increased
traffic, the Marijuana Operation has interfered with the
“use and enjoyment of their properties.” Compl.
¶¶ 27-32. They note, for example, that they are no
longer able to open the windows in their homes, sit outside
on their decks and patios, or recreate in their yards. Compl.
¶¶ 27-32. Plaintiffs further allege that the odors,
noise, and traffic created by the Marijuana Operation, along
with the very fact of the operation's existence, make
each of their properties “worth materially less than
they otherwise would be” and “harder to sell at
any price.” Compl. ¶ 35. Finally, Plaintiffs
allege that, fearing “the presence of a drug
trafficking operation in their neighborhood, ” they
have “formed a neighborhood watch group, . . .
purchased and installed cameras and security systems,
purchased and installed fencing and gates, and purchased
firearms.” Compl. ¶¶ 28, 30, 34.
Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(1).
motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) tests the
subject-matter jurisdiction of a federal court. Under the
U.S. Constitution, a federal court is without jurisdiction to
resolve any claim for which a plaintiff lacks standing.
Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560
(1992). At a constitutional minimum, standing requires a
plaintiff to show that she has “suffered some actual or
threatened injury as a result of the putatively illegal
conduct of the defendant, and that the injury can be traced
to the challenged action and is likely to be redressed by a
favorable decision.” Valley Forge Christian Coll.
v. Ams. United for Separation of Church and State, Inc.,
454 U.S. 464, 472 (1982) (internal quotation marks and
citations omitted). To satisfy the injury-in-fact
requirement, the alleged harm must be “an invasion of a
legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and
particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or
hypothetical.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The party
invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of
establishing these elements. Id. at 561.
Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6).
survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a
complaint must contain factual allegations sufficient to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible on its face when
the factual allegations allow a court to infer the
defendant's liability based on the alleged conduct.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009). The
factual allegations must present more than “the mere
possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 678. When
considering a motion to dismiss, a court must accept all
allegations of material fact as true and construe those facts
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
Burget v. Lokelani Bernice Pauahi Bishop Trust, 200
F.3d 661, 663 (9th Cir. 2000), but it is “not bound to
accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. If a
complaint is dismissed, the court must grant the plaintiff
leave to amend unless it “determines that the pleading
could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other
facts.” Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497
(9th Cir. 1995).
move to dismiss Plaintiffs' action for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction, see Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(1), and, as to each RICO claim, for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, see Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Defendants do not dispute that, as alleged,
their activities violate the two substantive provisions of
RICO relied upon by Plaintiffs, namely 18 U.S.C. §
1962(c) and 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). They instead argue that
Plaintiffs are the wrong parties to bring the instant suit.
They contend that Plaintiffs lack constitutional standing to
seek relief in federal court and, even if they did not lack
constitutional standing, that Plaintiffs have suffered no
injuries of the type compensable under the civil RICO
statute. Since this Court is without jurisdiction to
entertain the merits of any of Plaintiffs' claims if they
lack constitutional standing, it addresses that issue first.
The Court finds that, although Plaintiffs have constitutional
standing to bring their claims, Plaintiffs have not alleged
any compensable injuries to property and therefore cannot to
state a claim under any provision of the civil RICO statute.
Plaintiffs' Constitutional Standing.
argue that this Court is without jurisdiction to decide the
present suit because Plaintiffs lack standing. Under Article
III of the U.S. Constitution, the “judicial
[p]ower” of federal courts is restricted to
“[c]ases” and “[c]ontroversies.” U.S.
Const. art. III, §§ 1-2. One component of this
constitutional limitation is that a federal court may not
“decide the merits of [a] dispute” unless the
plaintiff demonstrates that she has “standing” as
to each claim and each form of relief sought. Warth v.
Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975); see also City of
Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 105 (1983). To have
standing, a plaintiff must show that she has (1) suffered an
“injury-in-fact, ” (2) that the injury is
“fairly traceable” to the actions of the
defendant, and (3) that the injury is likely to be
“redressed by a favorable decision.”
Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61 (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted). As relevant here, an injury-in-fact
is one which stems from a “legally protected
interest” and is both “(a) concrete and
particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or
hypothetical.” Id. at 560.
present case, Plaintiffs allege three separate
injuries-in-fact upon which to base standing for their RICO
and nuisance claims: (1) a present drop in the fair market
value of their properties, (2) past and present lost use and
enjoyment of their lands, and (3) past out-of-pocket expenses
on firearms, fencing, cameras, and other security measures.
Compl. ¶¶ 30-32, 34-35. As to each alleged injury
and corresponding claim, Plaintiffs seek only damages and no
injunctive or other equitable relief. Compl. ¶ 112. In
response, Defendants argue that, because all
marijuana-related activities have supposedly ceased on the
Owenby and Page property, see Page Decl. ¶ 7,
Plaintiffs' first two injuries no longer exist and, as a
result, cannot be redressed by a favorable decision from this
Court. They also argue that, although ...