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Evans v. Exel Inc.

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

December 6, 2017

Reginald D. Evans, Plaintiff,
v.
Exel Inc., Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          RICHARD MARK GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, recommending that Defendant's motion to dismiss, which the Court converted into a motion for summary judgment, be granted. For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation and grants summary judgment for Defendant.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, formerly a forklift operator employed by Defendant, suffered a workplace injury on February 21, 2015. On January 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed an employment discrimination action against Defendant, asserting claims of discrimination based on age and disability. Evans v. Exel Inc., No. 0:16-cv-00215-TLW-JDA (D.S.C.). On May 16, 2016, the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission found Plaintiff had a "permanent partial disability." (Dkt. No. 81-1 ¶ 10.) On August 12, 2016, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, settled his employment discrimination claims against Defendant. (Dkt. No. 95-2 at 3-8.) Plaintiff agreed to release Defendant from any claims arising from or relating to his employment with Defendant in consideration of $10, 000.

         On June 1, 2017, Plaintiff, now proceeding pro se, filed an amended complaint in the present action, which commenced as an action against the Commissioner of Social Security for disabilty benefits. The amended complaint asserts ERISA claims against defendant . Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that his claim for long-term disability benefits was improperly denied, that Defendant did not pay social security payroll taxes while Plaintiff was on medical leave, and that Defendant improperly terminated Plaintiffs medical insurance. (See Dkt. No. 81-1.) Defendant moved to dismiss based on the release contained in the settlement agreement. After notice to the parties, the Court converted the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment. (See Dkt. No. 101). The Magistrate Judge recommended granting the converted motion for summary judgment on September 29, 2017. Plaintiff filed timely objections to the Report and Recommendation.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         When a proper objection is made to a particular issue, "a district court is required to consider all arguments directed to that issue, regardless of whether they were raised before the magistrate." United States v. George, 971 F.2d 1113, 1118 (4th Cir. 1992). However, "[f]he district court's decision whether to consider additional evidence is committed to its discretion, and any refusal will be reviewed for abuse." Doe v. Chao, 306 F.3d 170, 183 & n.9 (4th Cir. 2002). "[A]ttempts to introduce new evidence after the magistrate judge has acted are disfavored, " though the district court may allow it "when a party offers sufficient reasons for so doing." Caldwell v. Jackson, 831 F.Supp.2d 911, 914 (M.D. N.C. 2010) (listing cases).

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate if a party "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 other words, summary judgment should be granted "only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323(1986).

         Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a 'mere scintilla of evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         III. ...


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