Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Nightingale v. Caliber Holdings Corp.

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

October 16, 2017

Jennifer Nightingale, Plaintiff,
Caliber Holdings Corporation, d/b/a Caliber Collision, Defendant.


          Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jennifer Nightingale alleges a claim of sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”), and a state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Am. Compl. at 3, ECF No. 33 at 3). Defendant Caliber Holdings Corporation, d/b/a Caliber Collision, filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 23). Plaintiff filed a response opposing the motion (ECF No. 32), and Defendant filed a reply (ECF No. 35). This matter is before the court on the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (“Report”) recommending that the court grant the Defendant's summary judgment motion. (ECF No. 37). Plaintiff timely filed objections (ECF No. 38), and Defendant filed a reply (ECF No. 41).

         I. Background/Procedural History

         Plaintiff worked full-time for Defendant from October 2014 until May 2015. (Am. Compl. ¶ 4). During her employment, she began an extra-marital affair with her supervisor, Cory Caldwell. (Id. ¶ 6). Plaintiff alleges that when she refused to continue the affair, she was terminated. (Id. ¶ 7). On February 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). On August 31, 2016, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a Right to Sue Letter. Plaintiff then filed this action in state court on November 29, 2016. (ECF No. 1-1).

         On August 30, 2016, Plaintiff's husband filed for a divorce in the Family Court and, on that same date, Plaintiff and her husband entered into a marital settlement agreement. (ECF No. 23-3 at 44-50; ECF No. 23-3 at 44-61). In the divorce action, as part of the settlement agreement, Plaintiff filled in a financial declaration disclosing her income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. (ECF No. 23-3 at 22-27). Plaintiff did not list as an asset her claims against Defendant. The divorce became final on January 6, 2017. (ECF NO. 23-3 at 1-4).

         II. Applicable Law

         Summary judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows 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(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in his favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Id. at 248. A litigant “cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate.” Monahan v. County of Chesterfield, 95 F.3d 1263, 1265 (4th Cir. 1996).

         III. Discussion

         In its motion for summary judgment, Defendant contends that because Plaintiff failed to include the claims she alleges in this action as assets in her financial declaration in family court, she should be precluded through judicial estoppel from pursuing her claims. Plaintiff argues that she did not make a clearly inconsistent statement and there is no evidence that she intentionally mislead the family court. She contends the financial disclosure form used in South Carolina's family courts does not expressly require the disclosure of potential claims.

         “[J]udicial estoppel is an equitable doctrine invoked by a court at its discretion.” New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 750 (2001).[1] Judicial estoppel is “exists to prevent litigants from playing ‘fast and loose' with the courts - to deter improper manipulation of the judiciary.” Folio v. City of Clarksburg, W.Va., 134 F.3d 1211, 1217 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting John S. Clark Co. v. Faggert & Frieden, P.C., 65 F.3d 26, 28-29 (4th Cir. 1995)). “[W]here a party assumes a certain position in a legal proceeding, and succeeds in maintaining that position, he may not thereafter, simply because his interests have changed, assume a contrary position. . . .” New Hampshire, 532 U.S. at 749.

Judicial estoppel is an “extraordinary remed[y] to be invoked when a party's inconsistent behavior will otherwise result in a miscarriage of justice.” . . . It is not meant to be a technical defense for litigants seeking to derail potentially meritorious claims, especially when the alleged inconsistency is insignificant at best and there is no evidence of intent to manipulate or mislead the courts. Judicial estoppel is not a sword to be wielded by adversaries unless such tactics are necessary to “secure substantial equity.”

Ryan Operations G.P. v. Santiam-Midwest Lumber Co., 81 F.3d 355, 365 (3d Cir.1996) (internal citation omitted).

         The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has identified four elements that must be met before a court may apply judicial estoppel: (1) “the party sought to be estopped must be seeking to adopt a position that is inconsistent with a stance taken in prior litigation;” (2) “the position sought to be estopped must be one of fact rather than law or legal theory;” (3) “the prior inconsistent position must have been accepted by the court;” and (4) “the party sought to be estopped must have intentionally misled the court to gain unfair advantage.” Lowery v. Stovall, 92 F.3d 219, 223-24 (4th Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court has characterized the final element as determinative. Id. at 224 (internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, “[w]ithout bad faith, there can be no judicial estoppel.” Zinkand v. Brown, 478 F.3d 634, 639 (4th Cir. 2000).

         Defendant relies mostly on cases involving bankruptcy petitions. Along with many other circuits, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has recognized judicial estoppel when a party has failed to claim a pending lawsuit in a bankruptcy petition. See Whitten v. Fred's, Inc., 601 F.3d 231, 241-42 (4th Cir.2010), abrogated in part on other grounds by Vance v. Ball State Univ., __U.S.__, 133 S.Ct. 2434, 2443 (2013). However, in a bankruptcy petition, a debtor is required to list a schedule of assets, including “all personal property of the debtor of whatever kind, ” and property of a bankruptcy estate is broadly defined to include “all legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property as of the commencement of the case.” 11 U.S.C. §§ 521(1), 541(a)(1). This definition includes “all causes of action that could be brought by a debtor.” Ca ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.