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McAvoy v. Dolgencorp, LLC

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

June 9, 2017

Ryan McAvoy, Plaintiff,
v.
Dolgencorp, LLC, & Gator Northridge Partners, LLP, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Gator Northridge Partners, LLP's ("GNP") motion to dismiss Defendant Dolgencorp, LLC's ("Dolgencorp") cross-claims under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Dkt. No. 20.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion.

         I. Background

         This case arises out of an alleged slip and fall incident that occurred at a Dollar General store on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina on June 25, 2015. (Dkt. No. 8 at 2.) Plaintiff Ryan McAvoy claims that he was injured at the Dollar General Store when his foot went into a hole in the floor of a store aisle. (Dkt. No. 8 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that the property is owned by and/or under the control of Defendants Dolgencorp and GNP. (Dkt. No. 8 at 1-2.) Plaintiff asserts that the negligence of GNP, as lessor of the property, and Dolgencorp, as lessee and operator of the store, caused his injuries. (Dkt. No. 8 at 2-4.)

         In its answer to Plaintiffs amended complaint, Dolgencorp asserts three cross-claims against GNP: (1) contractual indemnification; (2) equitable indemnification; and (3) contribution. (Dkt. No. 11 at 10-12.) GNP has moved to dismiss all three cross-claims for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Dkt. No. 20.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the dismissal of an action if the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Such a motion tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint and "does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of the claim, or the applicability of defenses. . . . Our inquiry then is limited to whether the allegations constitute 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" Republican Party of N.C v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (quotation marks and citation omitted). In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is obligated to "assume the truth of all facts alleged in the complaint and the existence of any fact that can be proved, consistent with the complaint's allegations." E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). While the Court must accept the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, it "need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments." Id.

         To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the requirement of plausibility does not impose a probability requirement at this stage, the complaint must show more than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint has "facial plausibility" where the pleading "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

         B. Contractual and Equitable Indemnification

         Indemnity is a form of compensation in which one party is liable to another party for "loss or damage the second party incurs to a third party." Campbell v. Beacon Mfg. Co., 438 S.E.2d 271, 272 (S.C. Ct. App. 1993). "A right of indemnity may arise by contract ... or by operation of law as a matter of equity." Id. Contractual indemnity "will be construed in accordance with the rules of contracts generally." Id. (citing Fed. Pac. Elec. v. Carolina Prod. Enters., 378 S.E.2d 56 (S.C. Ct. App. 1989)). To sustain a claim for equitable indemnification, a party must established the "existence of some special relationship between the parties" Rhett v. Gray, 736 S.E.2d 873, 884 (S.C. Ct. App. 2012) (quoting Toomer v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 544 S.E.2d 634, 637 (S.C. Ct. App. 2001)). Such a relationship exists when a "party's negligence or breach of contract is directed at the non-faulting party and the non-faulting party incurs attorney fees and costs in defending itself against the other's conduct." Id. (quoting Town of Winnsboro v. Wiedeman-Singleton, Inc., 414 S.E.2d 118, 121 (S.C. 1992)).

         C. Contribution

         In South Carolina, "[w]here two or more persons become jointly or severally liable in tort for the same injury to person or property . . . there is a right of contribution among them." S.C. Code Ann. § 15-38-20(A); see also Vermeer Carolina's, Inc., ...


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