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Burgess v. Elliott

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

April 27, 2017

ALBERT C. BURGESS, JR., No. 88539-071, Plaintiff,


          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court for review of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint filed on December 8, 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">16. [ECF #20');">20');">20');">20]. On February 24, 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">17, Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges issued her Report and Recommendation. [ECF #30]. These motions were referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1');">1');">1');">1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e). The Magistrate Judge recommends that this Court grant the motion. On April 1');">1');">1');">10, 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">17, Plaintiff filed Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”). [ECF #37');">37]. All parties have had the opportunity to extensively brief the issues raised in the motions, and this Court has thoroughly considered all pleadings filed in this case.[1');">1');">1');">1" name="FN1');">1');">1');">1" id="FN1');">1');">1');">1">1');">1');">1');">1] Plaintiff has also sent a letter to Judge Hodges requesting an extension of time to reply to Defendants' Motion in order to allow him time to get his own copy of the order of dismissal in an underlying lawsuit. [ECF #29].

         Factual Background and Procedural History

         On October 6, 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">16, Plaintiff Albert C. Burgess, Jr. filed this action pro se in the federal district court of South Carolina against Defendants John D. Elliott and Scott Elliott. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in North Carolina, though he states he is a citizen and resident of Virginia, and it appears Defendants are South Carolina residents. The lawsuit arises from the legal representation of Plaintiff's corporation approximately ten years ago by Defendants. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1]. Plaintiff brings claims for legal malpractice and tortious interference with contract against Defendants John D. Elliott and Scott Elliott. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1]. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that, in 20');">20');">20');">2003, Defendants induced him to fire his former attorney who was assisting his business in an action against Institutional Products Corporation for contractual interference and other related claims. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1]. Once he engaged Defendants for legal services, Plaintiff claims that Defendants did not perform any work on his case and eventually insisted he settle the case for $1');">1');">1');">1, 500.00. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1, p. 4]. Plaintiff notes in his brief that he filed suit against the Elliotts in 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">13 for malpractice, but that suit was dismissed without prejudice. [ECF #27, p. 3');">p. 3');">p. 3');">p. 3]. In this current lawsuit, Plaintiff argues that Defendants illegally interfered in the contract with his former attorney to his detriment in an amount in excess of $350, 000.00 and also alleges Defendants committed legal malpractice. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1]. Plaintiff further seeks punitive damages. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1]. Other than alleging he received funds from the settlement in October of 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">13, Plaintiff does not otherwise allege any of the allegations occurred after September 1');">1');">1');">18, 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">13.

         On December 8, 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">16, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1');">1');">1');">12(b)(6). [ECF #20');">20');">20');">20, p. 1');">1');">1');">1]. Defendants argue three grounds for dismissal: (1');">1');">1');">1) the claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations; (2) Plaintiff's legal malpractice claim is not verified by a qualified expert; and (3) Plaintiff lacks standing to sue. [ECF #20');">20');">20');">20, p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2]. Defendants attached the Stipulation of Dismissal filed in the underlying lawsuit, styled KC Sports, Inc. v. Institutional Products, Inc., C/A No. 20');">20');">20');">2007-CP-20');">20');">20');">20-0300, reflecting the fact that Plaintiff executed this document on or about August 28, 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">13, and it was filed in the public index on September 1');">1');">1');">18, 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">13. [ECF #20');">20');">20');">20]. Plaintiff filed a response to the Motion to Dismiss, urging this Court to deny Defendants' Motion to Dismiss because he argues that the statute of limitations has not yet run, and that his legal malpractice claim is a substantive issue that does not require dismissal with prejudice. [ECF #27]. Plaintiff also requests this Court impose sanctions against Defendants regarding their statute of limitations argument, and he further requests a change of venue to the Middle District of North Carolina. [ECF #27, p. 3');">p. 3');">p. 3');">p. 3]. Plaintiff does not address Defendants' argument regarding standing, and the fact that the legal representation was on behalf of his company, as opposed to himself individually.

         On February 24, 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">17, Judge Shiva V. Hodges issued her Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that this Court grant the Motion to Dismiss because Plaintiff's Complaint is barred by the statute of limitations and Plaintiff did not attach an expert affidavit to his Complaint, which is a prerequisite for a professional malpractice claim. [ECF #30, p. 6]. On April 1');">1');">1');">10, 20');">20');">20');">201');">1');">1');">17, Plaintiff filed objections to the R&R. [ECF #37');">37]. The Court now issues the following Order.

         Standards of Review

         A. Review of the Magistrate Judge's Report & Recommendation

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 1');">1');">1');">1');">423 U.S. 261');">1');">1');">1, 270-71');">1');">1');">1 (1');">1');">1');">1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the report and recommendation to which specific objection is made, and 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');">1');">1');">1).

         The district court is obligated to conduct a de novo review of every portion of the Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been filed. Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1982). However, the Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a specific error in the [M]agistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Id. In the absence of specific objections to the R&R, the Court reviews only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 1');">1');">1');">16 F.3d 31');">1');">1');">10');">41');">1');">1');">16 F.3d 31');">1');">1');">10, 31');">1');">1');">15 (4th Cir. 20');">20');">20');">2005), and the Court need not give any explanation for adopting the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v. Davis, 71');">1');">1');">18 F.2d 1');">1');">1');">198, 1');">1');">1');">199-20');">20');">20');">200 (4th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1983).

         B. Standard for Rule 1');">1');">1');">12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants have moved to dismiss the claims brought by Plaintiff against them pursuant to Rule 1');">1');">1');">12(b)(6). Under the standard set forth in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 1');">1');">1');">127 S.Ct. 1');">1');">1');">1955');">1');">1');">1');">127 S.Ct. 1');">1');">1');">1955 (20');">20');">20');">2007), a complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 1');">1');">1');">12(b)(6) if it fails to allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Giarratano v. Johnson, 1');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 298');">521');">1');">1');">1 F.3d 298 (4th Cir. 20');">20');">20');">2008), citing Twombly, 1');">1');">1');">127 S.Ct. at 1');">1');">1');">1974. The purpose of such a motion is to test the sufficiency of the facts alleged in a plaintiff's complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 1');">1');">1');">178 F.3d 231');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">178 F.3d 231');">1');">1');">1, 243 (4th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1999). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” While this standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' . . . [a] pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions, ' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 1');">1');">1');">129 S.Ct. 1');">1');">1');">1937');">37');">1');">1');">1');">129 S.Ct. 1');">1');">1');">1937');">37, 1');">1');">1');">1949 (20');">20');">20');">2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (20');">20');">20');">2007)). Likewise, “a complaint [will not] suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 1');">1');">1');">129 S.Ct. at 1');">1');">1');">1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Rather, to survive a Rule 1');">1');">1');">12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The United States Supreme Court recently stated that

[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.

Iqbal, 1');">1');">1');">129 S.Ct. at 1');">1');">1');">1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 1');">1');">1');">1 U.S. ...

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