United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Margaret B. Seymour, Senior United States District Judge
27, 2016, Plaintiff Paige Martineau
(“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se,
brought the underlying action against Richard Guest, and his
sister and brother-in-law Diane and Joel Wier (collectively
“Defendants”), alleging claims of: (1) rescission
of settlement agreement for fraudulent inducement to enter a
settlement; (2) negligence; (3) gross negligence; (4)
intentional infliction of emotional distress; (5) negligent
supervision; (6) negligent entrustment; (7) assault; and (8)
battery. ECF No. 1.
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02,
D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate
Judge Shiva V. Hodges for pretrial handling. Defendants filed
a motion to dismiss on October 10, 2016. ECF No. 21. On
October 11, 2016, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison,
528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Plaintiff was advised of the
dismissal procedures and the possible consequences if she
failed to respond properly. ECF No. 22. Plaintiff filed a
response on November 17, 2016, to which Defendants filed a
reply on December 1, 2016. ECF No. 24, ECF No. 25. Plaintiff
filed a sur reply on December 12, 2016, and Defendants filed
a response to the sur reply on December 22, 2016. ECF No. 27,
ECF No. 28. On January 18, 2017, the Magistrate Judge advised
the parties that she was inclined to treat Defendants'
motion to dismiss as a summary judgment motion pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d) and provided them the opportunity to
supplement the record with additional material pertinent to
the motion. ECF No. 29. Plaintiff filed supplemental
documentation on June 20, 2017. ECF No. 48. This matter is
now before the court on Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation (“Report”) filed on May 4, 2017,
recommending the court grant Defendants' motion for
summary judgment. ECF No. 40.
RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
October 13, 2009, Richard Guest attacked Plaintiff near
Guest's apartment on Devine Street in Columbia, South
Carolina. Compl. at ¶¶ 6-7. Plaintiff was visiting
her then-boyfriend who resided in the apartment above
Guest's apartment. Id. at ¶ 7. Joel Wier
and Diane Wier owned the apartment where Guest resided at the
time of the attack. Id. at ¶ 8. Guest was
charged with kidnapping and assault and battery with intent
to kill in October 2009. Id. at ¶ 10. On or
about June 20, 2012, Plaintiff learned Guest was incompetent
to stand trial and began exploring options for a civil
lawsuit against Guest and the Wiers. Id. at
¶¶ 14, 16.
Plaintiff explored her options, she had a telephone
conversation with Joel Wier. Id. at ¶ 18. Mr.
Wier purportedly represented to Plaintiff that neither he nor
Diane Wier had “any reason” to know Guest was
mentally ill or dangerous. Id. at ¶ 19.
Plaintiff alleges Mr. Wier stated that the only relationship
he and Diane Wier had with Richard Guest was “landlords
just like any other landlord.” Id. at ¶
21. Although she was represented by counsel, Plaintiff
contends the Weirs' representations led her to believe
that they “could not be held liable for negligence or
negligent entrustment[.]”Id. at ¶ 22.
Plaintiff states she relied on these representations and
signed a Settlement Agreement and Release on October 22,
2012, for potential claims against the Wiers and Guest.
Id. at ¶ 23, ECF No. 21-1 at 4.
December 30, 2013, Plaintiff discovered additional documents
that indicated the Wiers had significant knowledge of
Guest's decades-long history of mental illness and
purported dangerousness. Id. at ¶ 24-25.
Plaintiff claims Diane Wier was a trustee of a “mental
health trust” for Guest. Id. at ¶ 25.
Plaintiff claims the Weirs must have also known of
Guest's dangerousness because of “involuntary civil
commitments and poems they discovered about bloody
stabbings.” Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiff
alleges Diane Wier allowed Guest to live in an unsupervised
apartment building without ensuring that he take medication
or undergo treatment. Id. at ¶ 26.
filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on June 29, 2015, in the
Middle District of Pennsylvania. See In re Paige
Jacqueline Martineau, C/A No. 4:15-bk-02767-JJT
(“Bankruptcy Case”). On July 26, 2016, Plaintiff
filed this lawsuit against Guest and the Weirs. ECF No. 1.
Although Plaintiff was aware of facts to support this claim
against Defendants in December 2013, she did not list this
potential lawsuit in her Bankruptcy Case. ECF No. 21-3 at 8.
Plaintiff also did not list this potential lawsuit as
non-exempt property before her debts were discharged on
October 6, 2015. ECF No. 21-3 at 11, ECF No. 21-4.
October 10, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss
contending, that Plaintiff lacks standing because the claims
are property of the Bankruptcy Case and, alternatively,
because the claims are barred by the statute of limitations.
ECF No. 21 at 1. In addition, Defendants contend Plaintiff
fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted on the
fraud in the inducement, negligent supervision, and negligent
entrustment claims because Defendants owe no duties to
Plaintiff. ECF No. 21-1 at 11-20. On November 14, 2016,
Plaintiff filed a motion in bankruptcy court to reopen the
case to administer an omitted asset. ECF No. 25-1, 2. On
November 17, 2016, the bankruptcy court granted
Plaintiff's motion. Plaintiff attached an amended summary
of schedules to her motion. ECF No. 25-2, 2. The amended
schedule included a $50, 000 unliquidated claim against
Defendants. ECF No. 25-2, 5. She also claimed the property as
exempt. ECF No. 25-2, 7.
November 17, 2016, Plaintiff filed her response to
Defendants' motion, asserting she obtained standing after
amending her Bankruptcy Case schedules to claim an exemption
as to the present lawsuit. ECF No. 24 at 25-26.
Plaintiff's asserts that “exemption alone is
sufficient” if the exemption occurred prior to the
expiration of the statute of limitations. ECF No. 42 at 16.
However, Plaintiff provides no case law to support this
argument. ECF No. 42 at 16. Plaintiff further argues that the
fraudulent inducement claim is within the statute of
limitations and that Defendants' fraud tolls the
remaining claims. ECF No. 24 at 10. To support this
statement, Plaintiff argues that, under South Carolina law,
boilerplate releases do not bar fraudulent inducement claims.
ECF No. 24 at 12.
filed a reply on December 1, 2016, asserting Plaintiff had
not been given permission by the bankruptcy court to exempt
this lawsuit at the time she filed the complaint and as a
result Plaintiff's claims remain property of the
Bankruptcy trustee. ECF No. 25 at 4. Further, Defendants
state Plaintiff should be judicially estopped from asserting
the present lawsuit. To support this argument, Defendants
argue that judicial estoppel applies “when debtors fail
to list a lawsuit in his or her bankruptcy schedules and then
try to assert their civil claims.” ECF No. 25 at 5.
4, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and
Recommendation in which she determined that Plaintiff lacks
standing to maintain this action, or alternatively, the court
should exercise its discretion to invoke the doctrine of
judicial estoppel. ECF No. 40 at 13.Plaintiff filed objections to
the Report and Recommendation on May 22, 2017. ECF No. 42.
Defendants filed their reply to Plaintiff's objections on
June 5, 2017. ECF No. 46.
20, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Extension of Time to
File Exhibits to Objections that included affidavits from
family and friends to support her contention that she
suffered from PSTD during 2016. ECF No. 48. Defendants filed
a reply on July 5, 2017, contending that Plaintiff's
financial and mental health are irrelevant to the Magistrate
Judge's findings and conclusions in the Report and
Recommendation. This matter is now before the court for
review of the Magistrate's Judge Report and
judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if proof
of its existence or non-existence would affect the
disposition of the case under the applicable law.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248-49 (1986). A genuine question of material fact exists
where, after reviewing the record as a whole, the court finds
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party. Newsport News Holdings Corp. v. Virtual
City Vision, 650 F.3d 423, 434 (4th Cir. 2011).
inference drawn from the facts should be viewed in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party. United States v.
Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). The party
seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
demonstrating to the district court that there is no genuine
issue of material fact. Celotox Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317-23 (1986). Once the moving party ...