Kaufman v. All Seasons Marine Works Inc.
When ruling whether an entity acts under color of state law, courts may consider: 1.) whether the entity acts pursuant to the coercive power of the state or is controlled by the state; 2.) whether the state provides significant encouragement to the entity or the entity's functions are entwined with state policies; and 3.) whether the state has delegated the entity a public function. In 2001, the plaintiff, Alan Kaufman, purchased a 20-foot boat, a LTS 20 model, manufactured by Hydra Sports, for $15,100. During the winter months, the plaintiff stored the boat at All Seasons. In 2010, the plaintiff discovered that All Seasons allegedly had sold the boat, because there were unpaid invoices. Allegedly, the defendants failed to certify on a Department of Motor Vehicles Form B-203 that the owner could not be located, and the plaintiff's signature was forged on the bill of sale. The plaintiff sued and alleged All Seasons acted under color of state law, because it filed a lien and obtained authority from the state to conduct a sale, and it deprived the plaintiff of his constitutional right to petition, in violation of the 1st Amendment. The plaintiff also alleged that All Seasons deprived the plaintiff of his property without due process, in violation of the Fifth and 14th Amendments. All Seasons moved to dismiss for failure to state a federal claim. The court found that All Seasons was not controlled by the state, and it did not act pursuant to the coercive power of the state, when it placed a lien on the plaintiff's boat and sold the boat. It also was not delegated a public function by the state. "Since none of the alleged conduct by the Defendants can be deemed fairly attributable to the state," wrote the court, "the Defendants did not act under color of state law." The District Court dismissed the plaintiff's federal claims and did not exercise jurisdiction over state-law claims. The District Court denied the plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint, because any amendment would be futile.