United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
J.M., by and through his Guardian ad Litem, John D. Elliott, Plaintiff,
SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, SHALLIA BELTON, ALEX PEEBLES, and JENNIE MITCHELL-GREENE, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND
DISMISSING WITHOUT PREJUDICE IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action for damages arising out of child protective
services investigations Defendants conducted regarding
Plaintiff. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter under
28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367.
before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary
judgment. ECF No. 91. Having carefully considered
Defendants' motion, the response, the reply, the
supplemental response, the supplemental reply, the record,
and the applicable law, it is the judgment of the Court
Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted
in part and dismissed without prejudice in part.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
factual and procedural history of this matter is somewhat
extensive, but the Court need not recite it in full. Rather,
the Court will summarize only the points relevant to
Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
J.M. (Plaintiff) is a minor residing in Kershaw County, South
Carolina. ECF No. 73 ¶ 1. Defendant South Carolina
Department of Social Services (SCDSS) is an agency of the
State of South Carolina, and Defendants Shallia Belton (Ms.
Belton), Alex Peebles (Mr. Peebles), and Jennie
Mitchell-Greene (Ms. Mitchell-Greene) (collectively
Individual Defendants) are employees of SCDSS. Id.
January 17, 2015, SCDSS received an intake call from the
Kershaw County Sheriff's Department regarding Plaintiff
and his minor sister after their parents both died.
See ECF No. 91-4. Ms. Mitchell-Greene responded to
the intake call and met with law enforcement on the scene,
ECF No. 73 ¶ 14, at which time law enforcement declined
to place Plaintiff and his sister in emergency protective
custody, id. ¶ 15. A family acquaintance,
Angela Belote (Ms. Belote), executed a SCDSS Safety Plan and
agreed to care for Plaintiff and his sister. See ECF
No. 91-5. A few days later, Ms. Belton was assigned
Plaintiff's case. ECF No. 73 ¶ 22.
little over a week after Ms. Belote signed the Safety Plan,
law enforcement notified SCDSS that Plaintiff and his sister
were at the home of Jordan and Brenda Todd. See ECF
No. 91-6 at 3. Jordan and Brenda Todd then executed an
Affidavit of Alternative Placement with SCDSS indicating they
would serve as caregivers for Plaintiff and his sister.
See ECF No. 91-7. Several months later, SCDSS
received another intake call reporting Plaintiff was no
longer staying with the Todds and had not been seen in
several days. See ECF No. 91-8. This investigation
regarding Plaintiff was assigned to Mr. Peebles and Ms.
Belton. ECF No. 73 ¶ 42.
enforcement located Plaintiff and returned him to the Todd
home a few days later, but Plaintiff subsequently left the
household again. See ECF No. 91-1 at 4-5. Plaintiff
lived on the streets for a period of time and was not seen
again by law enforcement or SCDSS until he appeared before
the Kershaw County Family Court in September 2015. See
Id. at 5. Non-parties Jamie Gates and Ashley Osment
obtained permanent legal custody of Plaintiff in March 2016.
See ECF No. 91-10.
by and through his Guardian ad Litem, John D. Elliott, filed
his initial complaint in this matter in the Court of Common
Pleas for Kershaw County, South Carolina, ECF No. 1-3, and
Defendants removed the case to this Court, ECF No. 1. In his
Third Amended Complaint (Complaint), Plaintiff alleges he has
suffered damages as a result of his interactions with
Defendants and their handling of the investigations involving
him. The Complaint asserts a claim against SCDSS for
negligence/gross negligence under the South Carolina Tort
Claims Act, SC Code § 15-78-10, and claims against all
Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of
Plaintiff's substantive and procedural due process rights
under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
the filing of the Complaint, Plaintiff and Defendants filed a
stipulation of partial dismissal dismissing with prejudice
Plaintiff's constitutional claims against SCDSS. ECF No.
129. Thus, the remaining claims in this case are
Plaintiff's claim for negligence against SCDSS and his
constitutional claims against the Individual Defendants.
filed their motion for summary judgment on August 11, 2017.
ECF No. 91. Plaintiff responded, ECF No. 100, and Defendants
replied, ECF No. 121. Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion
to supplement his response with an attached supplemental
response, ECF Nos. 122, 122-1, and Defendants filed a
supplemental reply, ECF No. 126. On October 12, 2017, the
Court held a hearing on Defendants' motion for summary
judgment at which counsel for Plaintiff and Defendants were
present. The Court, having been fully briefed on the relevant
issues, is now prepared to discuss the merits of
Defendants' motion for summary judgment.