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Doe v. McGowan

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

February 15, 2018

Jane Doe 202a, Plaintiff,
v.
Leigh Ann McGowan, individually; Charles Francis Wohlleb, individually; Anthony M. Doxey, individually; Michael Kouris, individually; City of North Charleston; Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R. & R.") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 81) recommending that the Court grant in part, deny in part, and find moot in part Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 57). Plaintiff filed objections to the R. & R., and Defendants filed a reply. (Dkt. Nos. 83, 86.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the R. & R. as the order of the Court. Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 57) is GRANTED as to Plaintiffs Eleventh and Sixteenth Causes of Action, DENIED as to Plaintiffs Fourth Cause of Action, and found to be MOOT as to Plaintiffs First and Fifteenth Causes of Action.

         I. Background and Relevant Facts

         The Court adopts the relevant facts as outlined in the R. & R. (Dkt. No. 81 at 1-4.)

         II. Legal Standard

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. Additionally, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of any specific objections, "a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation omitted).

         III. Discussion

         A. First and Fifteenth Causes of Action

         Plaintiffs First and Fifteenth Causes of Action seek injunctive and declaratory relief, respectively, against the City of North Charleston under Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983. Plaintiff has clarified that her requests for injunctive and declaratory relief pertain to "post-verdict relief." (Dkt. No. 61 at 1.) The Magistrate Judge has therefore recommended that the Court deny Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss as moot with respect to Plaintiffs First and Fifteenth Causes of Action. No. party has objected to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation, and the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge has correctly applied the controlling law to the relevant facts. Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss is therefore denied as moot with respect to Plaintiffs First and Fifteenth Causes of Action.

         B. Fourth Cause of Action

         Plaintiffs Fourth Cause of Action alleges that Defendants McGowan, Doxey, Wohlleb, and the City of North Charleston are liable for invasion of privacy under Section 1983 and under state law for their warrantless entry into Plaintiffs residence.[1] Defendants argue in their Partial Motion to Dismiss that Plaintiffs Fourth Cause of Action is duplicative because it is subsumed within Plaintiffs Second Cause of Action, which is a Section 1983 claim against Defendants McGowan, Wohlleb, and Doxey for warrantless entry into her home. As the Magistrate Judge explained, while Plaintiffs Second and Fourth Causes of Action may be duplicative, that is not sufficient grounds to dismiss the Fourth Cause of Action, and allowing both claims to proceed at this time will not lead to excess discovery. (Dkt. No. 81 at 8.) The Magistrate Judge also explained that Plaintiffs allegations about Defendants' warrantless entry into her home are sufficient to state a state law claim for invasion of privacy. (Dkt. No. 81 at 16.) The Magistrate Judge therefore recommended that this Court deny Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss as to Plaintiffs Fourth Cause of Action. No. party has objected to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation, and the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge has correctly applied the controlling law to the relevant facts. Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss is denied as to Plaintiffs Fourth Cause of Action.

         C. Sixteenth Cause of Action

         Plaintiffs Sixteenth Cause of Action alleges that the City is liable under Section 1983 or, in the alternative, under state law for unauthorized surveillance of Plaintiff and her home through attorney Sandra J. Senn. Plaintiff claims that Senn's actions violated the City's official policy which forbids police from conducting surveillance that is not directly related to suspected criminal activity. As the Magistrate Judge explained in the R. & R., the law is well-settled that a breach of internal policy alone cannot be the basis for a Section 1983 claim. (Dkt. No. 81 at 14.) The Magistrate Judge therefore recommended that Plaintiffs Section 1983 claim for unauthorized surveillance in the Sixteenth Cause of Action be dismissed because Plaintiff has not sufficiently pleaded that the City has a policy or custom to unconstitutionally surveil the Plaintiff through its attorney, Sandra Senn.

         The Magistrate Judge also recommended that this Court dismiss the state law invasion of privacy claim within Plaintiffs Sixteenth Cause of Action because Plaintiffs vague allegations about Sandra Senn's surveillance of her residence do not include factual allegations sufficient to maintain a claim against the City for unlawful surveillance, not least because Senn was not an employee of the city, and Plaintiff has not alleged that any Defendant in this case intentionally committed an invasion of privacy. No. party objected to the Magistrate Judge's recommendations, and the Court finds that the Magistrate Judge has ...


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