United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on motions to dismiss filed by
Defendants Pamela Walden (ECF No. 4), Michael Hudson and W.
Kent Shields (ECF No. 15), Stephen D. Parker (ECF No. 40),
Lynn Ann Lichtenfeld (ECF. No. 44), Jacob R. Johnston (ECF
No. 54), and John Andreas and Amanda Fisk (ECF. No 71). For
the reasons set forth herein, the motions of Defendants
Walden, Hudson, Shields, Parker, and Johnston are granted;
the motions of Defendants Lichtenfeld, Andreas, and Fisk are
action arises out of a dispute over wages and benefits
allegedly owed to Plaintiff Stephen Rice. Plaintiff began
working for Defendant M-E-C Company, headquartered in Kansas,
in September 2012. Plaintiff alleges that he was tasked with
finding a location for a new M-E-C office and decided on
Charleston, South Carolina. Plaintiff relocated to South
Carolina and M-E-C's South Carolina office opened in
2014. Beginning in the fourth quarter of 2015, Plaintiff
alleges he was not paid commissions owed under his employment
contract. On May 9, 2016, Defendants Amanda Fisk and Lynn
Lichtenfeld met with Plaintiff in the South Carolina office.
The following day, Plaintiff alleges that his cell phone was
disconnected, the locks were changed on the office, and he
received an email from Defendant Lichtenfeld stating he was
terminated. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant M-E-C failed to
contribute to his retirement plan in violation of the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act, wrongfully
terminated him, and converted his intellectual and personal
property to their own use following his termination.
after his move to Charleston but before his termination,
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant M-E-C did not make timely
payments on Plaintiff's leased home in Charleston. In
this period, Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant John
Quick, M-E-C President, agreed that M-E-C would absorb the
lost value of Plaintiff's home in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Plaintiff purchased that home when he relocated to work for
M-E-C in Kansas, but then put it up for sale after relocating
to Charleston. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants
knowingly made false statements about him, intentionally
inflicted emotional distress, and conspired against him.
Plaintiff seeks damages based on these allegations.
removed this case on May 17, 2017. On May 19, Defendant
Pamela Walden moved to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. Plaintiff responded on June 18, and Walden
did not reply.
7, Defendants Michael Hudson and W. Kent Shields moved to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff
responded on June 29, and Hudson and Shields replied on July
3, Defendant Stephen D. Parker moved to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. Plaintiff responded on July 9, and
Parker replied on July 17.
7, Defendant Lynn Ann Lichtenfeld moved to dismiss for lack
of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff responded on July 14, and
Lichtenfeld did not reply.
August 4, Defendant Jacob R. Johnston moved to dismiss for
lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff responded on
August 13, and Johnston replied on August 21.
September 21, Defendants John Andreas and Amanda Fisk moved
to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff
responded on October 5, and Andreas and Fisk did not reply.
these motions are now ripe for review.
Walden, Hudson, Shields, Parker, Lichtenfeld, Johnston,
Andreas, and Fisk move to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction. The motions of Defendants Walden, Parker,
Johnston, Andreas, and Fisk also assert that Plaintiff has
failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The
Court turns first to the challenges to personal jurisdiction
and then to the remaining alleged failures to state a claim.
court of limited jurisdiction, Kokkonen v. Guardian Life
Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994), this Court
must remain mindful of the fact that “[t]he validity of
an order of a federal court depends upon that court's
having jurisdiction over both the subject matter and the
parties, ” Ins. Corp. of Ir. v. Compagnie des
Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 701 (1982) (citing
Stoll v. Gottlieb, 305 U.S. 165, 171-72 (1938);
Thompson v. Whitman, 85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 457, 465
personal jurisdiction is challenged by the defendant, the
plaintiff has the burden of showing that jurisdiction exists.
See In re Celotex Corp., 124 F.3d 619, 628 (4th Cir.
1997). When the court decides a pretrial personal
jurisdiction dismissal motion without an evidentiary hearing,
the plaintiff need only prove a prima facie case of personal
jurisdiction. Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 675
(4th Cir. 1989). In making this determination, “the
court must construe all relevant pleading allegations in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, assume credibility,
and draw the most favorable inferences for the existence of
jurisdiction.” Combs, 886 F.2d at 676.
However, the court need not “credit conclusory
allegations or draw farfetched inferences.”
Masselli & Lane, PC v. Miller & Schuh, PA,
215 F.3d 1320, (4th Cir. 2000) (unpublished table decision)
(per curiam) (quoting Ticketmaster-New York, Inc. v.
Alioto, 26 F.3d 201, 203 (1st Cir. 1994)). The
plaintiff's showing must be based on “specific
facts set forth in the record.” Magic Toyota, Inc.
v. Se. Toyota Distribs., Inc., 784 F.Supp. 306, 310
(D.S.C. 1992). Additionally, if “a defendant's
sworn affidavit contests the allegations in the complaint,
the plaintiff can no longer rest on those allegations.”
Callum v. CVS Health Corp., 137 F.Supp.3d 817, 835
(D.S.C. 2015) (citing Wolf v. Richmond Cty. Hosp.
Auth., 745 F.2d 904, 908 (4th Cir. 1984)). Instead, the
plaintiff must “present an affidavit or other evidence
showing jurisdiction exists over the nonresident defendant,
” with any continuing factual conflicts resolved in the
plaintiff's favor. Id.; see also Clark v.
Remark, 993 F.2d 228 (4th Cir. 1993) (unpublished table
decision) (per curiam). “In reviewing the record before
it, a court may consider pleadings, affidavits, and other
evidentiary materials without converting the motion to
dismiss to a motion for summary judgment.” Magic
Toyota, 784 F.Supp. at 310 (quotation omitted).
validly assert personal jurisdiction over a non-resident
defendant, two conditions must be satisfied.”
Christian Sci. Bd. of Dirs. of the First Church of
Christ, Scientist v. Nolan, 259 F.3d 209, 215 (4th Cir.
2001). First, the exercise of jurisdiction must be authorized
by the long-arm statute of the forum state, and second, the
exercise of personal jurisdiction must not “overstep
the bounds” of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due
Process Clause. Anita's N.M. Style Mexican Food, Inc.
v. Anita's Mexican Foods Corp., 201 F.3d 314, 317
(4th Cir. 2000). South Carolina's long-arm statute has
been construed to be coextensive with, and reach the outer
limits allowed by, the Due Process Clause. E.g.,
ESAB Grp. v. Zurich Ins. PLC, 685 F.3d 376, 391 (4th
Cir. 2012). Therefore, the dual jurisdictional requirements
collapse into the due-process analysis. See Id.
Accordingly, the scope of the inquiry is whether a defendant
has “certain minimum contacts” with the forum,
such that “maintenance of the suit does not offend