Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks

436 U.S. 149, 98 S. Ct. 1729 (1978)



A claim upon which relief may be granted to a plaintiff under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 must embody at least two elements. The plaintiff is first bound to show that he has been deprived of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States. He must secondly show that the defendant deprived him of this right acting under color of any statute. It is clear that these two elements denote two separate areas of inquiry. 


Plaintiff was evicted from her apartment, and her possessions were stored by defendant in its warehouse. After a series of disputes over the validity of charges claimed by defendant, plaintiff received a letter demanding that her account be brought up to date or her furniture would be sold pursuant to the state commercial code. Plaintiff then filed suit against defendant, seeking an injunction against the threatened sale of her belongings and the declaration that such a sale would violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. An order dismissing the complaint for failure to state a claim was reversed by the court of appeals. On review, the Court reversed.


Is warehouseman's proposed sale of goods entrusted to him for storage, as permitted by the New York Uniform Commercial Code, an action properly attributable to the State of New York? 




Plaintiff failed to allege facts that constituted a deprivation of any right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States. The state did not compel the sale of plaintiff's possessions but merely announced the circumstances under which its courts would not interfere with a private sale. Thus, the allegations of plaintiff's complaint did not establish a violation of her Fourteenth Amendment rights either by defendant or the state.

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