United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff BlueLine's motion
for summary judgment (ECF No. 15). For the reasons set forth
herein, BlueLine's motion is granted in part and denied
action arises out of a fire that burned a Volvo excavator
while Defendants were renting it from BlueLine. The fire
caused a total loss of the excavator. BlueLine's rental
agreement offered optional insurance coverage on the
excavator, but Defendants waived their right to purchase
insurance through BlueLine and have not repaid BlueLine for
the excavator despite receiving a policy-limits settlement
from their own insurer based on the loss of the excavator.
filed its motion for summary judgment on August 30, 2017.
Defendants filed a two-page response on September 28, and
BlueLine replied on October 5. Accordingly, this matter is
ripe for consideration.
grant a motion for summary judgment, a court must find that
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The judge is not to weigh
the evidence but rather must determine if there is a genuine
issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). All evidence should be viewed in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Perini
Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 124 (4th
Cir. 1990). “[I]t is ultimately the nonmovant's
burden to persuade [the court] that there is indeed a dispute
of material fact. It must provide more than a scintilla of
evidence-and not merely conclusory allegations or
speculation-upon which a jury could properly find in its
favor.” CoreTel Va., LLC v. Verizon Va., LLC,
752 F.3d 364, 370 (4th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted).
“[W]here 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.”
Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 v. Centra, Inc., 947
F.2d 115, 119 (4th Cir. 1991). Summary judgment is not
“a disfavored procedural shortcut, ” but an
important mechanism for weeding out “claims and
defenses [that] have no factual basis.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986).
moved for summary judgment on all five of its claims against
both Lather Construction, Inc. (“LCI”) and Shawn
Lather. Defendants filed a joint response, with LCI admitting
liability and Shawn Lather contesting it. Both LCI and Lather
also oppose BlueLine's motion as to damages, arguing that
there are still genuine issues of material fact relating to
damages. The Court addresses each in turn.
Shawn Lather asserts that he is not individually liable to
BlueLine for the loss of the excavator because he never
signed a personal guarantee. As there is no evidence that
Lather signed a personal guarantee, the Court will not grant
summary judgment on that basis. However, that is not
BlueLine's theory as to why Lather is personally liable.
Instead, BlueLine argues that it is entitled to pierce
LCI's corporate veil as a result of the fraud that it
alleges LCI and Lather committed by failing to use the
policy-limits settlement from their own insurer to repay
BlueLine for the loss of the excavator.
the corporate entity may be disregarded in some situations,
piercing the corporate veil is not a doctrine to be applied
without substantial reflection.” Mid-South Mgmt.
Co. v. Sherwood Dev. Corp., 649 S.E.2d 135, 140 (S.C.
Ct. App. 2007) (citing Baker v. Equitable Leasing
Corp., 271 S.E.2d 596, 600 (S.C. 1980)). “[A]
corporation will be looked upon as a legal entity until
sufficient reason to the contrary appears; but when the
notion of legal entity is used to protect fraud, justify
wrong, or defeat public policy, the law will regard the
corporation as an association of persons.” Id.
(quoting Sturkie v. Sifly, 313 S.E.2d 316, 318 (S.C.
Ct. App. 1984)). “The burden of proof is on the party
asserting that the corporate veil should be pierced.”
Id. (citing Woodside v. Woodside, 350
S.E.2d 407, 410 (S.C. Ct. App. 1986)). South Carolina has a
“two-prong test to determine whether a corporate veil
should be pierced.” Id. First, courts look to
the eight factors relating to corporate formalities as
outlined in Sturkie, and then courts look to
determine whether it would be unjust or fundamentally unfair
to view the wrongful acts as acts of the corporation rather
than acts of the individuals. Id. Here, BlueLine has
provided substantial evidence relating to the second prong of
the Sturkie test, but has not provided any evidence
relating to LCI's observance of corporate formalities. As
a result, the Court denies their motion for summary judgment
as to Lather's liability based on piercing the corporate
Court next turns to the question of damages. The Court agrees
that the majority of BlueLine's damages are sum certain,
and Defendants have not produced any evidence demonstrating
that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to the
amount of BlueLine's claimed damages. Defendants'
only argument on damages is found in a short paragraph in
their brief, where they state that they continue to dispute
the amount of the principal balance, interest, attorney's
fees, other fees and costs, and whether Defendants were
properly credited for all payments. Defendants do not state
any basis for disputing BlueLine's claimed damages, nor
do they provide alternative damages. Defendants'
nonspecific argument as to damages is unsupported by any
affidavit or other evidence. See Midland Mortg. Co. v.
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 926 F.Supp.2d 780, 793 (D.S.C.
2013) (statements set forth in briefs, without supporting
evidence, are generally not enough to survive summary
judgment). Thus, the Court grants BlueLine's motion as to
the sum certain damages.
Court turns to BlueLine's request for punitive damages.
BlueLine requested a nonjury trial, and Defendants did not
object. Thus, the Court will make any factual determinations
necessary for an award of punitive damages. BlueLine asks
that the Court enter an amount of punitive damages without
specifying the amount of punitive damages it believes is
appropriate, and without providing much of the evidence
relevant to making such a determination. Without such