United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Ronald Dorrestein and Christine S. Dorrestein, Plaintiffs,
William E. Schuiling and Karen Schuiling, Defendants.
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on defendants William and Karen
Schuiling's (the “Schuilings”) motion for
summary judgment, ECF No. 22. For the reasons set forth
below, the court grants the motion.
litigation arises out of a real estate sales contract, under
which the Schuilings contracted to purchase a house and lot
on Kiawah Island, South Carolina (“the Property”)
from the Dorresteins for $4, 822, 500. Compl. ¶ 3. The
Dorresteins are husband and wife, and are residents of South
Carolina. Id. ¶ 1. The Schuilings are also
husband and wife, and are residents of Virginia. Id.
¶ 2. The parties entered into a written contract for the
Property on February 1, 2017, at which point the Schuilings
paid a $200, 000 down payment, currently held in trust by the
Dorresteins's real estate company, Kiawah Island Real
Estate, LLC (“KIRE”). Id. ¶¶
8-10. The Dorresteins chose not to complete the sale before
it closed. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.
Dorresteins allege that the Schuilings anticipatorily
repudiated the contract, and that their reasons for not
closing on the property are not justified under the terms of
the contract. Id. ¶ 18. The Dorresteins request
specific performance of the contract, or alternatively, the
$200, 000 down payment in liquidated damages plus
consequential damages. Id. ¶¶ 23-33. The
Schuilings deny the allegations and argue that the contract
was rendered null and void pursuant to the terms of ¶ 3,
which requires membership in the Kiawah Island Club
(“the Club”) as a condition of purchasing the
property. Def.'s Ans. ¶ 40. The Schuilings contend
that their failure to make the deposit to the Club within
five days of executing the contract rendered it null and void
and excused them from having to close on the sale of the
Schuilings also bring a counterclaim against the Dorresteins
for breach of contract, arguing that the Dorresteins provided
them with inaccurate information that fundamentally informed
their decision to enter into the contract to purchase the
Property. Id. ¶¶ 42-43. This purportedly
inaccurate information included: the amount of traffic and
construction in the immediate area around the Property; that
the Property was built in compliance with Kiawah regulations
and in line with the design plans and specifications; and
that the property's dock was constructed pursuant to OCRM
regulations. Id. ¶ 44. The Schuilings request
the return of their down payment and consequential damages.
Id. ¶ 48. The Schuilings also raise the
affirmative defenses of unclean hands and mutual mistake,
unilateral mistake, and/or recision. Defs.' Ans.
Dorresteins originally filed suit in this court on May 5,
2017. ECF No. 1. On October 18, 2017, the Schuilings filed a
motion for summary judgment, ECF No.22, to which the
Dorresteins responded on November 13, 2017, ECF No. 31, and
the Schuilings replied on November 17, 2017, ECF No. 32. The
court held a hearing on this motion on November 27, 2017. ECF
No. 36. This matter is now ripe for the court's review.
judgment shall be granted “if the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show 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(c). Rule 56(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that the district
court enter judgment against a party who, ‘after
adequate time for discovery . . . fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.'” Stone v.
Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 188, 190 (4th Cir. 1997)
(quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986)). “By its very terms, this standard provides
that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is
that there be no genuine issue of material fact.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247-48 (1986). “Only disputes over facts that might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Id. at 248. “[S]ummary judgment will not lie
if the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, '
that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not
himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Id. at 249. When the party moving for
summary judgment does not bear the ultimate burden of
persuasion at trial, it may discharge its burden by
demonstrating to the court that there is an absence of
evidence to support the non-moving party's case.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).
The non-movant must then “make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Id. at 322.
reasonable inferences are to be drawn in favor of the
nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255,
Webster v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 685 F.3d 411,
421 (4th Cir. 2012). However, to defeat summary judgment, the
nonmoving party must rely on more than conclusory
allegations, mere speculation, the building of one inference
upon another, or the mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252;
Stone, 105 F.3d at 191. Rather, “a party
opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment . .
. must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat, 346
F.3d at 522 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (2002) (amended
2010)). If the adverse party fails to provide evidence
establishing that the fact-finder could reasonably decide in
his favor, then summary judgment shall be entered
“regardless of ‘[a]ny proof or evidentiary
requirements imposed by the substantive law.'”
Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
Schuilings filed a motion for summary judgment on both causes
of action in the Dorresteins's complaint-specific
performance and breach of contract. Defs.' Mot. Sum.
Judg., 1. The Schuilings request summary judgment on both
counts, arguing that “under the plain reading of the
contract, it became null and void.” Id. at 3.
While parties may bring an action for specific performance of
a contract under South Carolina law, Ingram v.
Kasey's Assocs., 531 S.E.2d 287, 291 (S.C. 2000),
specific performance is a potential remedy that the court
could impose if it finds that a party breached a contract.
Thus, the first task before the court is to determine whether
to grant either party summary judgment on the
Dorresteins's breach of contract claim against the
Schuilings. The court will then determine whether to order
the remedy of specific performance, as requested by the
Dorresteins, or to order traditional damages, as requested by
the Schuilings. Notably, neither party has requested summary
judgment on the Schuilings's counterclaim against the
Dorresteins for breach of contract.
Dorresteins claim that the Schuilings breached the contract
for sale by providing “unequivocal and written notice
of their intent not to close” on the sale approximately
four months after signing the contract. Compl. ¶¶
29-33. The Schuilings argue in their motion for summary
judgment that the lawsuit should be dismissed because of
their failure to meet the requirements of § 3 of the
contract, which they contend automatically rendered the
contract null and void and of no further force and effect.
Defs.' Mot. Sum. Judg., 3. Section 3 of the contract
requires that the Schuilings, as the purchasers, obtain
membership at the Club in the same classification of
membership that the Dorresteins hold. This section requires
that new purchasers of property in the neighborhood obtain
membership to the Club by submitting a “Conditional
Application for ...