United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
ESTATE OF MARVIS LAVAR MYERS; BRITTNEY MYERS individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Marvis Myers, and as Parent and Guardian on behalf of two minor children, T. B. and M. J.; T. B. a minor child by and through his parent and guardian, Brittney Myers; and M. J. a minor child by and through his parent and guardian, Brittney Myers, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF COLUMBIA; and TERRANCE WILLIAMS in his individual capacity, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT CITY
OF COLUMBIA'S MOTION TO DISMISS
GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case was filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court
has jurisdiction over the matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Pending before the Court is Defendant City of Columbia
(City)'s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' § 1983
claim against City by way of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). ECF No. 5. Having carefully considered the motion,
the response, the record, and the applicable law, it is the
judgment of the Court that City's motion to dismiss will
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
action arises from the February 6, 2015, death of Marvis
Lavar Myers (Decedent), whom City employed at the time. ECF
No. 5-1 at 2. Prior to his death, Decedent worked at
City's Department of Public Utilities as a construction
worker for City's Wastewater Treatment Division.
Id. Decedent was repairing a damaged sewer line at
the time the trench he was in collapsed, causing his death.
Id.; ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 10-11, 18. The
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
subsequently fined City for its failure to use a trench box
as required due to the depth of the excavation. ECF No. 5-1
at 2. Plaintiffs filed a claim for workers' compensation
benefits with the South Carolina Workers' Compensation
Commission and are awaiting final approval of disbursement.
filed this case on March 16, 2016, alleging violations of 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against City and alleging violations of
South Carolina law against Defendant Terrance Williams in his
individual capacity. ECF No. 1. Importantly, Plaintiffs
propound that City maintains a policy and practice that
required Decedent, and continues to require his co-workers,
to work in untrenched boxes five to fifteen times per month;
and, according to Plaintiffs, City punishes employees who
raise safety concerns. Id. ¶¶ 19-23.
Plaintiffs state that City's policy and practice
jeopardizes employee safety in favor of expediency and cost
cutting measures. Id.
17, 2016, City filed its motion to dismiss Plaintiffs'
§ 1983 claim directed against it, ECF No. 5, to which
Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition on June 2, 2016,
ECF No. 9. The Court, having been fully briefed on the
relevant issues, is now prepared to discuss the merits of the
CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES
motion to dismiss, City contends that Plaintiffs' §
1983 claim against it should be dismissed because violations
of regulations promulgated under the OSHA are non-cognizable
under § 1983. ECF No. 5-1 at 2-4. Further, City
propounds that, assuming Plaintiffs intend to allege a
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Plaintiffs'
Complaint fails to state a claim for a violation of
substantive due process. Id. at 4-5. Specifically,
City asserts that Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim alleges
mere negligence against City, and, consequently, Plaintiffs
have failed to state a claim for violation of § 1983.
respond by advancing that they have failed to allege a
private right of action pursuant to OSHA regulations; rather,
they have argued that City maintains a systematic and
purposeful set of policies and practices resulting in the
deprivation of the life, liberty, and bodily integrity of
City's employees, violating the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution. ECF No. 9 at
6-7. Moreover, Plaintiffs aver that their claim against City
does not contain negligence allegations. Id. at 6.
Instead, Plaintiffs declare that the Complaint alleges
City's systematic and purposeful creation of policies,
which disregard all measures of safety, that resulted in
Decedent's death being more than just merely accidental.
Id. at 6-7. Furthermore, Plaintiffs posit that
City's policies and practices that purportedly resulted
in Decedent's death are "arbitrary" and
"shocking" to the conscience such that they violate
Decedent's substantive due process rights under the Fifth
and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at 8.
DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
considering a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's well-pled
allegations are taken as true, and the complaint and all
reasonable inferences are liberally construed in the
plaintiff's favor. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari,
7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). The Court may consider
only the facts alleged in the complaint, which may include
any documents either attached to or incorporated in the
complaint, and matters of which the Court may take judicial
notice. Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights,
Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). Although the Court must
accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true, any
conclusory allegations are not entitled to an assumption of
truth, and even those allegations pled with factual support
need be accepted only to the extent that "they plausibly
give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). In sum, factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level, on the assumption that all the
allegations in the complaint are true, even if doubtful in
fact. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
City correctly notes-and Plaintiffs agree-that a plaintiff is
unable to bring a private cause of action for violations of
OSHA regulations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Byrd v.
Fieldcrest Mills, Inc., 496 F.2d 1323 (4th Cir. 1974)
(holding that the North Carolina Workmen's Compensation
Act precluded a private remedy and dismissing the action). In
South Carolina, the South Carolina Workers' Compensation
Act, SC Code Ann. § 42-1-540, expressly provides that
all rights and remedies granted therein shall exclude all
other rights and remedies owing the employee and his
beneficiaries. Consequently, to prevail on their claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiffs must demonstrate that City
deprived Decedent of rights secured by the United States
interpretation of Plaintiffs' Complaint, City contends
that Plaintiffs seek to establish City's liability based
on negligence in failing to use the appropriate safety
equipment. ECF No. 5-1 at 4-5. Under this interpretation,
Plaintiffs would be unable to prevail on their § 1983
claim because the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment is inapplicable to a negligent act of a
municipality. See Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327,