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Kerr v. Hammond School

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

April 11, 2018

June Kerr, Plaintiff,
v.
Hammond School, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Hammond School's (“Defendant” or “Hammond”) Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5). Plaintiff June Kerr (“Plaintiff” or “Kerr”) brought this action, alleging violations of the Equal Pay Act, negligence, and breach of contract. (ECF No. 1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 626(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), this matter was referred to a Magistrate Judge for review.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiff served as the Director of Operations and Human Resources for Defendant for the 2016-2017 school year until her termination on May 16, 2017. (ECF No. 24 p. 1). Plaintiff filed a complaint on October 27, 2017, alleging breach of contract, negligence and a violation of the Equal Pay Act. Id. On November 16, 2017, Defendant filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 5). On November 30, 2017, Plaintiff responded to the Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 11), and Plaintiff filed a reply on December 7, 2017 (ECF No. 13).

         After reviewing the pleadings, the Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[1]prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) on February 22, 2018. (ECF No. 23). The Magistrate opines that Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) should be granted. (ECF No. 23). The Report sets forth, in detail, the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter, and this Court incorporates those facts and standards without a recitation. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report on March 8, 2018. (ECF No. 24). Therefore, this matter is ripe for review.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A district court is only required to conduct a de novo review of the specific portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report to which an objection is made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Carniewski v. W. Virginia Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 974 F.2d 1330 (4th Cir. 1992). In the absence of specific objections to portions of the Magistrate's Report, this Court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Thus, the Court must only review those portions of the Report to which Plaintiff has made a specific written objection. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316 (4th Cir. 2005).

         “An objection is specific if it ‘enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues-factual and legal-that are at the heart of the parties' dispute.'” Dunlap v. TM Trucking of the Carolinas, LLC, No., 2017 WL 6345402, at *5 n.6 (D.S.C. Dec. 12, 2017) (citing One Parcel of Real Prop. Known As 2121 E. 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996)). A specific objection to the Magistrate's Report thus requires more than a reassertion of arguments from the Complaint or a mere citation to legal authorities. See Workman v. Perry, No. 6:17-cv-00765-RBH, 2017 WL 4791150, at *1 (D.S.C. Oct. 23, 2017). A specific objection must “direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982).

         “Generally stated, nonspecific objections have the same effect as would a failure to object.” Staley v. Norton, No. 9:07-0288-PMD, 2007 WL 821181, at *1 (D.S.C. Mar. 2, 2007) (citing Howard v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir.1991)). The Court reviews portions “not objected to-including those portions to which only ‘general and conclusory' objections have been made-for clear error.” Id. (citing Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315; Camby, 718 F.2d at 200; Orpiano, 687 F.2d at 47) (emphasis added).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Objection 1

         In Plaintiff's first objection, she argues that her “negligence claim, in so much as it concerns her termination, falls outside of the exclusivity provision” of the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act (the “Act”). (ECF No. 24 p. 3). The Act provides the following:

Employee's rights and remedies under title exclude all others against employer.
The rights and remedies granted by this title to an employee when he and his employer have accepted the provisions of this title, respectively, to pay and accept compensation on account of personal injury or death by accident, shall exclude all other rights and remedies of such employee, his personal representative, parents, dependents or next of kin as against his employer, at common law or otherwise, on account of such injury, loss of service or death. Provided, however, this limitation of actions shall not apply to injuries resulting from acts of a subcontractor of the employer or his employees or bar actions by an employee of one subcontractor against another subcontractor or his employees when both subcontractors are hired by a common employer.

S.C. Code Ann. § 42-1-540 (West 2018) (emphasis added). Thus, if Plaintiff suffered a personal injury, she cannot seek damages from her employer under the Act. The Act defines “personal injury” in the following way:

(A) “Injury” and “personal injury” mean only injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment and shall not include a disease in any form, except when it results naturally and unavoidably from the accident and except such diseases as are compensable under the provisions of Chapter 11 of this title. In construing this section, an accident arising out of and in the course of employment includes employment of an employee of a municipality outside the ...

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