United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
GEIGER LEWIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a declaratory judgment action regarding an insurance policy
(the Policy) Plaintiff issued to Defendant Paul Capell (Mr.
Capell) and whether losses resulting from injuries Defendant
Thomas Blair (Mr. Blair) sustained on Mr. Capell's
property are covered under the Policy. Plaintiff and Mr.
Blair are represented by counsel, and Mr. Capell is
proceeding pro se. This matter is before the Court for review
of the Report and Recommendation (Report) of the United
States Magistrate Judge suggesting Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment, ECF No. 25, be granted. The Report was made
in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Civil Rule
73.02 for the District of South Carolina.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of
those portions of the Report to which specific objection is
made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole
or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or
recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. §
Magistrate Judge filed the Report on March 30, 2018. ECF No.
32. Mr. Blair filed objections to the Report, ECF No. 34, to
which Plaintiff replied, ECF No. 35. Mr. Capell failed to
object to the Report.
Report recommends the Court grant Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment because Mr. Blair was a resident relative
under the Policy, and losses resulting from the injuries Mr.
Blair sustained on Mr. Capell's property are therefore
excluded from coverage under the Policy. Mr. Blair sets forth
three objections to the Report, which the Court will address
Blair first objects to the referral of this matter to the
Magistrate Judge. Mr. Blair maintains he has not consented to
referral to a Magistrate Judge, and he insists he is entitled
to have all proceedings handled by a District Court Judge.
Mr. Blair misunderstands the procedure and requirements for
referring pretrial matters to a Magistrate Judge.
Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) provides that the Clerk of Court
shall refer all pretrial proceedings involving pro se
litigants to a Magistrate Judge. When pretrial matters in a
case have been referred to a Magistrate Judge, the Magistrate
Judge may submit to the District Court Judge proposed
findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition of a
motion for summary judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Consent
of all parties is needed to refer a case to a Magistrate
Judge for trial and final disposition, 28 U.S.C. §
636(c), but it is not needed to refer pretrial matters.
Because Mr. Capell is proceeding pro se, the Clerk of Court
properly referred all pretrial proceedings in this case to
the Magistrate Judge. ECF No. 19. Accordingly, the Magistrate
Judge had the authority to issue the Report on
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment to this Court.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Mr. Blair's first
objection is therefore without merit.
Blair next objects to the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation that the Court grant Plaintiff's motion
for summary judgment because Mr. Blair contends there is a
genuine issue of material fact as to whether he was a
resident relative under the Policy during the relevant time.
Specifically, Mr. Blair avers he was not a resident of Mr.
Capell's property because his living arrangement with Mr.
Capell was temporary, and there is a lack of evidence he and
Mr. Capell intended the arrangement to be substantial in
duration. The Court is unpersuaded.
Blair's second objection is simply a rehashing of one of
his arguments raised in opposition to Plaintiff's motion
for summary judgment. See ECF No. 29 at 5-7.
Moreover, the Magistrate Judge thoroughly analyzed whether
Mr. Blair constituted a resident relative under the Policy
pursuant to South Carolina law, see ECF No. 32 at
5-8, and the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's
well-reasoned conclusion. The Magistrate Judge explained Mr.
Blair lived on Mr. Capell's property for over six months
prior to the underlying incident causing Mr. Blair's
injuries, and he continued to live with Mr. Capell for three
months afterwards. See Id. at 6. The Magistrate
Judge further noted Mr. Blair had no other home or address on
the date of the incident and had made no alternative future
living arrangements. The Court agrees with the Magistrate
Judge that these facts reveal Mr. Blair was more than a
temporary visitor and was instead a resident relative under
the Policy at the time of the underlying incident. See
State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Breazell, 478 S.E.2d
831, 832 (S.C. 1996) (outlining the factors to be considered
in determining whether an individual qualifies as a resident
of a household under an insurance policy). Accordingly, the
Court will overrule Mr. Blair's second objection to the
third and final objection, Mr. Blair argues summary judgment
in favor of Plaintiff is inappropriate because there is a
genuine issue of material fact whether he qualified as a
resident of Mr. Capell's property under the Policy at the
time of the incident, and courts should interpret policies in
favor of coverage when there is a dispute regarding coverage.
Like Mr. Blair's second objection, this objection is
nothing more than a reiteration of an argument Mr. Blair
presented in opposition to Plaintiff's motion,
see ECF No. 29 at 7-9, which the Magistrate Judge
considered and rejected, see ECF No. 32 at 8.
Furthermore, as explained above, the Court rejects Mr.
Blair's assertion there is a genuine issue of material
fact regarding whether he constituted a resident relative
under the Policy. Thus, there is no reasonable dispute
concerning coverage that compels an interpretation in favor
of coverage in this case, and the Court will overrule Mr.
Blair's third objection.
thorough review of the Report and the record in this case
pursuant to the standard set forth above, the Court overrules
Mr. Blair's objections, adopts the Report, and
incorporates it herein. Therefore, it is the judgment of
Court Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is
GRANTED, and this case is DISMISSED
IS SO ORDERED.
OF RIGHT TO APPEAL
parties are hereby notified of the right to appeal this Order
within thirty days from the date hereof, pursuant to Rules 3