United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendants GCA Education
Services, Inc. and GCA Services Group, Inc.'s
(collectively “GCA”) joint motion to transfer
(ECF No. 18). For the reasons set forth herein, GCA's
motion is denied.
action arises out of a dispute over non-compete provisions
contained in Plaintiff Stephen Gritzuk's employment
agreement with GCA Services Group, Inc. and in his stock
option agreement with Defendant Erie Acquisition Holdings,
Inc. GCA is in the business of providing custodial and
facilities management services. Gritzuk, a South Carolina
resident, worked for GCA in operations and facilities
management for specific sites in the educational sector, and
he assisted with GCA's sales in that sector as well.
early July 2015, Gritzuk notified GCA that he intended to
resign. After working two more weeks for GCA, he resigned on
July 23. After his resignation, Gritzuk was hired by Harvard
Maintenance, Inc., which is also in the business of providing
facilities management services. Gritzuk alleges that his
employment with Harvard Maintenance does not involve any work
in educational sector facilities.
February 2016, Gritzuk received a letter from an attorney
representing GCA stating that his employment with Harvard
Maintenance violated the terms of his employment and stock
option agreements. In this action, Gritzuk seeks a
declaratory judgment that the provisions at issue are invalid
and that he need not terminate or modify his employment at
removed this case on April 7, 2016. A week later, Erie filed
a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Gritzuk responded on May 2, and Erie replied on May 12. Then,
on May 17, GCA filed a motion to transfer, to which Gritzuk
responded on June 3. GCA filed a reply on June 13. The Court
issued an order on June 28 granting Erie's motion to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and requesting
supplemental briefing on GCA's motion to transfer.
Gritzuk filed his supplemental brief on July 5 and GCA filed
their supplemental brief on July 6. Both sides filed their
responses on July 11. Accordingly, this matter is now ripe
19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth a
two-step inquiry for courts to determine whether a party is
necessary and indispensable.” Home Buyers Warranty
Corp. v. Hanna, 750 F.3d 427, 433 (4th Cir. 2014)
(internal quotation marks omitted). “The first question
under Rule 19(a) is whether a party is necessary to a
proceeding because of its relationship to the matter under
consideration.” Id. (quoting Teamsters
Local Union No. 171 v. Keal Driveaway Co., 173 F.3d 915,
917 (4th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted)).
“Second, if the party is necessary . . . the court must
decide under Rule 19(b) whether the proceeding can continue
in that party's absence.” Id. (quoting
Keal, 173 F.3d at 917-18 (internal quotation marks
19 is not to be applied as a ‘procedural
formula.'” Id. (quoting Provident
Tradesman Bank & Trust Co. v. Patterson, 390 U.S.
102, 119 n.16 (1968)). “Decisions must be made
pragmatically, in the context of the substance of each
case.” Id. (quoting Patterson, 390
U.S. at 199 n.16) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Additionally, “courts must take into account the
possible prejudice ‘to all parties, including those not
before it.'” Id. (quoting Owens-Ill.,
Inc. v. Meade, 186 F.3d 435, 441 (4th Cir. 1999)).
“While dismissal of a case is a ‘drastic remedy
that should be employed only sparingly, ' it is required
if a non-joined party is both necessary and
indispensable.” Id. (quoting Keal,
173 F.3d at 918).
addressing GCA's motion to transfer, the Court must
examine whether this case can continue in Erie's absence.
The Court notes at the outset that this case does not present
a prototypical Rule 19 issue. Here, all three relevant
parties were initially a part of the current litigation.
However, Erie thereafter moved to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction, and the Court granted that motion. As
a result of Erie's dismissal, the Court became concerned
that there might be an indispensable-party issue pursuant to
Rule 19. See Republic of Philippines v. Pimentel,
553 U.S. 851, 861 (2008) (“A court with proper
jurisdiction may also consider sua sponte the
absence of a required person and dismiss for failure to
Erie cannot be joined, the Court must first determine whether
Erie is a necessary party. The advisory ...