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Kaufman v. Techtronic Industries North America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

September 29, 2014

CHARLES KAUFMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
TECHTRONIC INDUSTRIES NORTH AMERICA, INC.; ONE WORLD TECHNOLOGIES, INC.; and RYOBI TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

BRUCE HOWE HENDRICKS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 5.) The defendants contend that application of S.C. Code § 15-5-150 bars suit in this Court.

BACKGROUND

The plaintiff commenced this product liability action on August 28, 2013, alleging claims of strict products liability, negligence, breach of implied warranty of fitness, breach of warranty of merchantability, and reckless, willful or malicious conduct. (See generally Compl.) The plaintiff alleges that this suit "arises out of the serious and permanent personal injuries suffered by Plaintiff on or about December 4, 2009, " while using a Ryobi table saw. (Compl. ¶ 7.) The plaintiff is a resident of Massachusetts (Compl. ¶ 1); the subject accident ostensibly occurred in Massachusetts (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 7, 18); and the plaintiff purchased the subject saw outside of South Carolina. Each of the defendants are incorporated in and organized under the laws of the State of Delaware. (Compl. ¶¶ 2-4.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A plaintiff's complaint should set forth "a short and plain statement... showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8 "does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfullyharmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To show that the plaintiff is "entitled to relief, " the complaint must provide "more than labels and conclusions, " and "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court "accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff...." Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009). Notably, "legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement" do not qualify as well pled facts.

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must state "a plausible claim for relief." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Stated differently, "where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not show[n]'-that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). Still, Rule 12(b)(6) "does not countenance... dismissals based on a judge's disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations." Colon Health Centers of Am., LLC v. Hazel, 733 F.3d 535, 545 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). "A plausible but inconclusive inference from pleaded facts will survive a motion to dismiss...." Sepulveda-Villarini v. Dep't of Educ. of Puerto Rico, 628 F.3d 25, 30 (1st Cir. 2010) (Souter, J.).

DISCUSSION

The defendants argue that the South Carolina Door Closing Statute ("Statute") bars suit in this Court. See S.C. Code § 15-5-150. Specifically, defendants contend that suit here is impermissible under the Statute because the plaintiff is a non-resident suing a resident corporation over events that did not occur in the State of South Carolina. The South Carolina Door Closing Statute states:

An action against a corporation created by or under the laws of any other state, government or country may be brought in circuit court:
(1) By any resident of this state for any cause of action; or
(2) By a plaintiff not a resident of this State when the cause of action shall have arisen or subject of the action shall be situated within the State.

Id. It is well established that a South Carolina federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction "must apply § 15-5-150 unless there are affirmative countervailing federal considerations.'" Proctor & Schwartz, Inc. v. Rollins, 634 F.2d 738, 739 (4th Cir. 1980) (quoting Szantay v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 349 F.2d 60 (4th Cir. 1965)).

As an initial matter, there are two significant difficulties in the plaintiff's attempt to rejoin application of the statute. First, there is no factual dispute between the parties that the defendants are domestic corporations; the plaintiff is not a resident of this State; and the underlying factual circumstances occurred elsewhere than in South Carolina.[1] (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 7, 18; Pl. Resp. at 5.) In other words, the elements of the Statute are agreed to be satisfied. Secondarily, the plaintiff has not at all argued the presence of "countervailing federal considerations" as required. See Rollins, 634 F.2d at 739. By the express language of Rollins, in the absence of such a showing, the undersigned is constrained to apply the Statute and bar suit. For this reason alone, the Court would dismiss the ...


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