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Brown v. City of Georgetown

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

August 23, 2016

MARLIN R. BROWN, Plaintiff,
CITY OF GEORGETOWN, RICKI MARTIN, and JACK SCOVILLE, as the Mayor of Georgetown, Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on defendants City of Georgetown (“the City”), Ricki Martin (“Martin”), and Jack Scoville’s (“the Mayor”) (collectively, “defendants”) motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim and remands the case to state court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         At issue in this case are defendants’ actions with regard to 312 E Street (“the Property”), a piece of property plaintiff Marlin R. Brown (“Brown”) owns in Georgetown, South Carolina. Compl. at 2. Brown’s grandfather, Charlie Banks (“Banks”), originally purchased the Property in 1942. Id. ¶ 15. Banks later died intestate on July 13, 1988, and Clara May Banks Brown (“Clara”)-Banks’s daughter and Brown’s mother-inherited the Property as his sole heir. Id. ¶ 20. Clara then deeded the Property to Brown on August 21, 1989. Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 4, Brown Deed.

         Sometime prior to 1981, the City had a 48-inch corrugated metal storm water drainage pipe installed on the back portion of the Property. Id. at Ex. 2, 1981 Plat. Defendants have been unable to locate records of when and by whom the pipe was installed. Id. at Ex. 13, Cook Dep. at 15, ll. 17-22. Brown’s expert, Joe McCray, testified that he spoke with several property owners in the area, and they believed the pipe was installed between 1970 and 1975. Id. at Ex. 10, McCray Dep. at 30, ll. 12-15. In June 1981, Moore, Gardner & Associates, Inc. prepared a survey or plat for the Property that showed the “existing 48’ storm sewer” and referenced a “proposed 20’ permanent drainage easement.” 1981 Plat. The plat was filed with the Georgetown County Clerk of Court on August 25, 1981, and recorded in page 155 of Deed Book 1. Compl. ¶ 21. On September 2, 1981, the City obtained an easement on the Property from Clara for the drainage line and recorded it at page 795 of Deed Book 194 on October 5, 1981. Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 3, Easement.

         In 1990, Brown applied for and received a building permit to construct a garage on the rear portion of the Property. Id. at Ex. 5, 1990 Building Permit. Brown applied for and received another building permit in 1994 that allowed him to convert the upstairs of the garage into an apartment. Id. at Ex. 6, 1994 Building Permit. Thereafter, Brown began to notice flooding in his yard and contacted the City in 2012 regarding the ongoing flooding problems. Pl.’s Resp., Ex. 1, Brown Aff. at 3; Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 9, Brown Dep. at 36. The City sent an engineer to the Property on three or four occasions “to find out how to get the water out of the yard.” Brown Aff. at 3. On March 1, 2013, Brown filed a complaint with the City regarding his garage apartment because it began to crack from the flooding. Defs.’ Mot., Ex. 8, Brown Dep. at 17.

         After contacting employees of the City several times, Brown attended a City Council meeting to discuss his problems on May 7, 2013. Brown Aff. ¶¶ 21-30. At this meeting, the City notified Brown of the drainage easement on his property and informed him that he needed to tear down the back one-third of his garage and apartment for the City to replace the pipe. Id.; Pl.’s Resp. at 11. Brown spoke with Martin, as well as the Mayor, about the building permits and easement numerous times leading up to and following the May 7, 2013 City Council meeting. Brown Aff. ¶¶ 29-41.

         Brown filed the instant action in the Court of Common Pleas for Georgetown County on May 14, 2015, asserting a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against the Mayor and Martin and alleging inverse condemnation, negligence, and fraud claims against the City. Compl. 1-2, 7-11. On June 10, 2015, defendants filed a notice of removal of the action to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1441. ECF No. 1. Following the completion of discovery, defendants filed the present motion for summary judgment as to all causes of action on May 9, 2016. ECF No. 19. After receiving multiple extensions, see ECF Nos. 21, 23, 25, plaintiff filed his response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment on June 13, 2016. ECF No. 26. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for the court’s review.

         II. STANDARD

         Summary judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, ’ that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. “[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge’s function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 249. The court should view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. Id. at 255.

         “The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the district court that there is no genuine issue of material fact.” Major v. Greenville Hous. Auth., No. 6:12-cv-183, 2012 WL 3000680, at *1 (D.S.C. Apr. 11, 2012). Nevertheless, “when a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party ‘must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The plain language of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[C]onclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion.” Major, 2012 WL 2000680, at *1.


         Defendants argue no genuine issue of material fact exists as to any of Brown’s claims and, therefore, defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Brown, on the other hand, argues he has submitted sufficient evidence as to each cause of action to submit this case to a jury.

         A. Section 1983 Claim Against ...

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