United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
CHRISTOPHER T. MANGUM, individually and d/b/a/ Wrightsville Beach Jet Ski Rentals, WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH JET SKI RENTALS, INC., MITCHELL CARSON SEITTER, individually and d/b/a Carolina Coast Watersports, LLC, and CAROLINA COAST WATERSPORTS, LLC, Plaintiffs,
TOWN OF WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, a North Carolina Corporation and Body Politic, TIMOTHY OWENS, individually and in his official capacity as Town Manager, and JOHN WESSELL, individually and in his official capacity as Town Attorney, Defendants.
W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge.
matter is before the court on defendants' partial motion
to dismiss. (DE 10). No. response was filed, and the time to
do so has expired. In this posture, the issues raised are
ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, defendants'
motion is granted.
OF THE CASE
initiated this action February 16, 2019 filing complaint
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking declaratory
judgment, preliminary and permanent injunction, and damages,
asserting as follows:
This action challenges the constitutional authority of the
Town of Wrightsville Beach to demand a $500.00 non-refundable
“appeal fee” from persons requesting appeals of
adverse zoning decisions; the Town's authority to enforce
zoning ordinances at the N.C. Wildlife Public Boating Access
Area, the adjacent [North Carolina Department of
Transportation] drawbridge right-of-way, and the public trust
waters of the adjoining Intracoastal Waterway; and further
challenges the lawfulness and constitutionality of the
Defendants' enforcement of Town ordinances against
Plaintiffs for alleged zoning violations arising out of the
use and enjoyment of those public lands and waters by
Plaintiffs and customers of their jet ski rental businesses.
(Compl. (DE 1) ¶ 1). More specifically, plaintiffs bring
18 claims against defendant Town of Wrightsville Beach
(“Town”), defendant Timothy Owens
(“Owens”), individually and in his official
capacity as town manager, as well as defendant John Wessell
(“Wessell”), individually and in his official
capacity as town attorney, based on the above allegations. As
relevant here, all claims brought by plaintiffs against
defendant Owens in his official capacity are also brought
against defendant Town.
April 25, 2019, defendants filed instant motion to dismiss,
arguing claims against the town manager, defendant Owens, in
his official capacity, are duplicative of claims against
defendant Town and should therefore be dismissed.
against local government officials in their official capacity
are, in essence, claims against the unit of local government
for which the official works. As held by the Supreme Court,
“[t]here is no longer a need to bring official capacity
actions against local government officials, [because] local
government units can be sued directly for damages and
injunctive or declaratory relief.” Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n.14 (1985). Likewise, the
Fourth Circuit has held that because the unit of local
government is the real party in interest with respect to
these “official capacity” claims, trial courts
should dismiss the claims as duplicative. See Love-Lane
v. Martin, 355 F.3d 766, 783 (4th Cir. 2004) (“The
district court correctly held that the § 1983 claim
against Martin in his official capacity as Superintendent is
essentially a claim against the Board [of Education] and thus
should be dismissed as duplicative.”). This is likewise
true under North Carolina law. See Moore v. City of
Creedmoor, 345 N.C. 356, 367 (1997) (citing
Kentucky, 473 U.S. at 165-66) (“Thus, where
the governmental entity may be held liable for damages
resulting from its official policy, a suit naming public
officers in their official capacity is redundant . . .
Consequently, the claims against defendants Seagroves and
High in their official capacities are merely another way of
bringing suit against the City of Creedmoor.”); see
also Wright v. Town of Zebulon, 202 N.C.App. 540, 543-44
(2010) (holding official capacity claims properly dismissed
where duplicative and asserted against the individual
defendants and their employer, the Town of Zebulon).
all claims brought by plaintiffs against defendant Owens in
his official capacity are also brought against defendant
Town, and where plaintiffs have filed no opposition to
defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' official
capacity claims against defendant Owens, the court grants
foregoing reasons, the court GRANTS defendants' motion to
dismiss, dismissing claims against defendant Owens in his