United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
Allison Colter, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
Omni Insurance Company and Omni Indemnity Company, Defendants.
ORDER AND OPINION
Allison Colter ("Plaintiff"), on behalf of herself
and all others similarly situated, filed the instant putative
class action seeking damages from Defendants Omni Insurance
Company and Omni Indemnity Company (together
"Defendants") for their alleged imposition of an
illegal and unauthorized "betterment" or
depreciation charge on property settlements for accidents.
(ECF No. 1-1.)
matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure (ECF No. 8) on the basis that Plaintiff lacks
standing to raise a breach of contract class claim. (ECF No.
12 at 3.) Plaintiff opposes Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
asserting that she "has standing to assert the contract
claim on behalf of the [putative] class members because the
injuries suffered by . . . [Plaintiff] and the purported
class members . . . are identical" and is entitled to
discovery before dismissal of a breach of contract class
claim. (ECF No. 15 at 1.) For the reasons set forth below,
the court DENIES Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
RELEVANT BACKGROUND TO PENDING MOTION
February 17, 2015, Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle
accident with Defendants' insured. (ECF No. 1-1 at 3
¶ 5.) After determining that their insured was liable
for the damage to Plaintiff's vehicle, Defendants told
Plaintiff that she would receive an amount equal to her
repair estimate minus a betterment or depreciation charge for
certain damaged parts. (Id. at ¶ 6; see
also ECF No. 1-1 at 9.) Plaintiff alleges that
Defendants' attempt to enforce the "illegal"
betterment charge delayed the repair of her vehicle and
caused her to incur increased fees for storage of her vehicle
and to hire an attorney. (Id. at ¶ 8.)
she believes the betterment charge is illegal and not allowed
under South Carolina law, Plaintiff filed an action in the
Richland County (South Carolina) Court of Common Pleas on
September 18, 2015, asserting causes of action against
Defendants for breach of contract, fraud, violation of the
South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act
("SCUTPA"), SC Code Ann. §§ 39-5-10 to
-560 (2014), negligent misrepresentation, and negligence.
(ECF No. 1-1 at 4-7.) On October 8, 2015, Defendants removed
the matter to this court on the basis of diversity
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (ECF No. 1.)
After removing the matter, Defendants filed their Motion to
Dismiss on November 3, 2015. (ECF No. 8.) Plaintiff filed
opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on December
4, 2015. (ECF No. 15.)
28, 2016, the court held a hearing on the pending Motion to
Dismiss. (ECF No. 66.)
court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a)(1) based on Defendants' allegations that
there is complete diversity of citizenship between Plaintiff
and Defendants, and the amount in controversy herein exceeds
the sum of Seventy-Five Thousand ($75, 000.00) Dollars,
exclusive of interest and costs. (See ECF No. 1 at 2
III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of the
federal courts to the consideration of "cases" and
"controversies." U.S. Const. art. III, § 2.
"Federal courts are courts of limited subject matter
jurisdiction, and as such there is no presumption that the
court has jurisdiction." Pinkley, Inc. v. City of
Fredrick, Md., 191 F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule
12(b)(1) motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
raises the fundamental question of whether a court has
jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter before it. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). In determining whether jurisdiction exists, the
court is to "regard the pleadings' allegations as
mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside
the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for
summary judgment." Richmond, Fredericksburg &
Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768
(4th Cir. 1991) (citing Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d
1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). "The moving party should
prevail only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in
dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a
matter of law." Id. (citation omitted). The
plaintiff bears the burden of proof on questions of subject
matter jurisdiction. See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co.,
166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999).
implicates the court's subject matter jurisdiction and is
governed by Rule 12(b)(1). Crumbling v. Miyabi Murrells
Inlet, LLC, C/A No. 2:15-cv-4902-PMD, 2016 WL 3351351,
at *1 (D.S.C. June 16, 2016). "It is well established
that standing is a threshold jurisdictional issue that must
be determined first because ‘[w]ithout jurisdiction the
court cannot proceed at all in any cause.'"
Covenant Media of N.C., LLC v. City of Monroe, N.C.
, 285 F.App'x 30, 34 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Steel
Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94
(1998)). "To possess the constitutional component of
standing, a party must meet three requirements: (1) [the
party] has suffered an ‘injury in fact' that is (a)
concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not
conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly
traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3)
it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the
injury will be redressed by a favorable decision."
McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 410 (4th Cir.
2010) (citing, e.g., Friends of the Earth, Inc.
v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167,
must be brought by a party with a "personal stake"
in the litigation. See U.S. Parole Comm'n v.
Geraghty, 445 U.S. 388, 396 (1980); United States v.
Hardy, 545 F.3d 280, 283 (4th Cir. 2008). "When the
case is a class action lawsuit, the named class
representatives ‘must allege and show that they
personally have been injured, not that injury has been
suffered by other, unidentified members of the class to which
they belong.'" Pasby v. Delia, 709 F.3d
307, 316 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Blum v. Yaretsky,
457 U.S. 991, 1001 n.13 (1982)). "[I]f none of the named
plaintiffs purporting to represent a class establishes the
requisite of a case or controversy with the defendants, none
may seek relief on behalf of himself or any other member of
the class." O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S.
488, 494 (1974) (citation omitted).