United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
following matter is before the court on defendant DuPriest
Construction Inc.'s (“DuPriest”) motion to
dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment, ECF No.
46. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants the
motion and dismisses plaintiff Leonard Paul Jarman's
(“Jarman”) claims with prejudice.
case stems from an accident that occurred on the site of a
construction project on Parris Island, South Carolina, a
federal enclave. Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority
(“BJWSA”) contracted with DuPriest Construction,
Inc. (“DuPriest”), a construction company
specializing in water, sewer, and storm drain installation,
to perform work on the ISM Group II Sewer Project on Parris
Island. The contract between BJWSA and DuPriest required
DuPriest to install a new gravity sewer line, a portion of
which was to run underneath a roadway. To avoid disrupting
the roadway traffic, the government required BJWSA-and
therefore DuPriest as the contractor-to bore underneath the
roadway to install a sewer line using the “jack and
bore” drilling method. DuPriest in turn hired Razorback
Boring, Inc. (“Razorback”), a subcontractor, to
perform the boring work.
Paul Jarman (“Jarman”), a direct employee of
Razorback, was injured while working on the ISM Group II
Sewer Project. Jarman filed suit against BJWSA and DuPriest,
alleging a number of common law tort claims including
negligence, premises liability, and breach of
warranties. BJWSA and DuPriest removed the case on
January 26, 2015, asserting that the court had concurrent
jurisdiction over the matter because the accident occurred on
filed a motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary
judgment on January 14, 2016, ECF No. 20, and the court held
a hearing on June 8, 2016. During the hearing, the court
focused on the threshold issue of whether the court had
subject matter jurisdiction to hear Jarman's common law
tort claims, or if Jarman was a “statutory
employee” under the South Carolina Workers'
Compensation Act (“SCWCA”) such that workers'
compensation was the exclusive remedy. The court ordered the
parties to conduct jurisdictional discovery to assist with
the subject matter jurisdiction inquiry. ECF No. 39. Having
now completed jurisdictional discovery, DuPriest once again
brings a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction before the court. Jarman filed a response on
November 21, 2016. The motion has been fully briefed and is
now ripe for the court's review.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a party may move to
dismiss for “lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction.” The determination of subject matter
jurisdiction must be made at the outset before any
determination on the merits. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a
Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83 (1998). “The
plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion if subject matter
jurisdiction is challenged under Rule 12(b)(1).”
Williams v. United States, 50 F.3d 299, 304 (4th
Cir. 1995). If the plaintiff cannot overcome this burden, the
claim must be dismissed. Welch v. United States, 409
F.3d 646, 651 (4th Cir. 2005). In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion, “the court may consider exhibits outside the
pleadings” and “is free to weigh the evidence and
satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the
case.” Williams, 50 F.3d at 304 (internal
citations and quotations omitted).
judgment shall be granted “if the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show 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(c). “By its
very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not
defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary
judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue
of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). “Only disputes
over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment.” Id. at 248. “[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 non-moving party and draw all
inferences in its favor. Id. at 255.
sole issue before this court is whether Jarman is a statutory
employee of DuPriest such that he is barred from bringing any
claims in this court. DuPriest argues that Jarman is a
statutory employee of DuPriest, and so his exclusive remedy
is through the SCWCA. Def.'s Mot. 2. Jarman contends that
he is not a statutory employee of DuPriest, and the court
continues to have subject-matter jurisdiction over his common
law claims. Pl.'s Resp. 1. The court agrees with
DuPriest, and grants the motion to dismiss.
SCWCA is the exclusive remedy against an employer for an
employee's work-related accident or injury. Fuller v.
Blanchard, 595 S.E.2d 831, 832 (S.C. Ct. App. 2004).
When determining whether a worker is a statutory employee
under the SWCA, courts are to ask three questions: “(1)
Is the activity an important part of the owner's business
or trade; (2) Is the activity a necessary, essential, and
integral part of the owner's trade, business or
occupation; or (3) Has the identical activity previously been
performed by the owner's employees.” Edens v.
Bellini, 597 S.E.2d 863, 867 (S.C. Ct. App. 2004). To
qualify as a statutory employee, the activity needs to meet
just one of the three tests ...