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Thomas v. Santander Consumer USA Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

October 14, 2016

Shelia T. Thomas, Plaintiff,
v.
Santander Consumer USA Inc., and Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (GRANTING ECF NOS. 24, 30 AND DISMISSING ACTION)

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE Senior United States District Judge

         Through this action, Plaintiff Shelia T. Thomas (“Thomas”), proceeding pro se, seeks recovery from her former employer, Defendant Santander Consumer USA Inc. (“SCUSA”), and SCUSA's parent company, Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc. (“Santander Holdings”), for events surrounding and including termination of her employment. Thomas asserts four causes of action arising under federal employment statutes. She also appears to assert two claims arising under state law.

         The matter is before the court on Defendants' separate motions. Defendant SCUSA, which concedes it was Thomas's employer, moves to compel arbitration and stay the action or, alternatively, to dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. ECF No. 24. Both forms of relief are sought based on an arbitration agreement (“Arbitration Policy”) SCUSA argues is mutually-binding and encompasses all claims asserted in this action. Id. Defendant Santander Holdings denies it was Thomas's employer and moves to dismiss on that basis. ECF No. 30. It also argues three of Thomas's federal claims fail because she did not name Santander Holdings in her administrative charge. Id. In the alternative, Santander Holdings joins SCUSA's arguments to compel arbitration and dismiss based on a third-party beneficiary theory.

         For reasons set forth below, the motions are granted and this action is dismissed without prejudice to Thomas's right to pursue her claims against SCUSA through arbitration.

         BACKGROUND

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 (B)(2), D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett for pre-trial proceedings and a Report and Recommendation (“Report”). On August 29, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending Defendants' motions be granted and the action be dismissed. ECF No. 40.

         The Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the procedures and requirements for filing objections to the Report and the serious consequences if they failed to do so. Thomas filed objections on September 15, 2016. ECF No. 43. Defendants filed a joint response to Thomas's objections on September 30, 2016. ECF No. 45. The matter is now ripe for resolution.

         STANDARD

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portion of the Report to which a specific objection is made. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of a specific objection, the court reviews only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (“in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'”) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note))

         DISCUSSION

         The court adopts both the reasoning and recommendation of the Report as supplemented below. Defendants' motions are, therefore, granted.

         I. Dismissal of Defendant Santander Holdings

         The Report recommends Thomas's claims be dismissed to the extent they are asserted against Santander Holdings based on Thomas's failure to contest that Defendant's arguments it was not Thomas's employer and did not operate any business in South Carolina where Thomas was employed. ECF No. 40 at 2. Thomas does not address this recommendation in her objections. Her objections are, instead, consistent with Defendants' position that SCUSA, not Santander Holdings, was Thomas's sole employer.[1]

         The court has, therefore, reviewed the Report for plain error as to this recommendation. Finding none, the court adopts the recommendation of the Report ...


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