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Arora v. James

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

June 22, 2018

Naresh C. Arora and Sudha Arora, Plaintiffs,
v.
Captain James; Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg; Denmark Technical College, an agency of State of South Carolina, a governmental entity; Chief Wilbur Wallace; Donald Williams; Joann Boyd-Scotland; Ambrish Lavania, individually at their personal capacity and as agents and employees for Denmark Technical College; Does 1-100, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         Plaintiff Naresh C. Arora brings this action pro se against Defendant Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg[1] (“RMC”) alleging a claim for negligence. (ECF No. 65 at 11 ¶ 66-12 ¶ 73.)

         This matter is now before the court on RMC's unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as to the claim for negligence. (ECF No. 188.) For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS RMC's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND TO THE PENDING MOTION

         Denmark Technical College (“DTC”) allegedly employed Arora as an instructor in the College's Electronics Technology Program from January 4, 2010 until January 4, 2012. (ECF No. 65 at 2 ¶¶ 3, 4.)

         On December 31, 2011, Arora was admitted to RMC as a result of complications from a prior surgical procedure. (Id. at 4 ¶¶ 22-25.) On January 4, 2012, Arora communicated to his immediate supervisor, Dr. Ambrish Lavania, that he was in a private hospital room at RMC. (ECF No. 124-1 at 1 ¶ 5.) At around 7:30 p.m. on that same day, Chief Wilbur Wallace and Donald Williams of DTC's Police Department allegedly entered Arora's hospital room at RMC “without permission . . . [or] any warrant or court order.” (Id. ¶ 9; see also ECF No. 65 at 5 ¶ 28.) Wallace and Williams presented Arora with an envelope containing a letter (ECF No. 124-1 at 2 ¶¶ 22-27), which document was signed by Joann Boyd-Scotland on behalf of DTC and notified Arora that his job at DTC was terminated. (ECF No. 65 at 5 ¶ 28.) Wallace and Williams also searched Arora's belongings, demanded that he return his office keys and all college-related books, and refused to allow him to use the restroom. (ECF No. 124-1 at 2 ¶¶ 10- 29.) Arora further alleges that “Captain” Marion James, a security officer at RMC, observed Wallace and Williams' conduct while standing outside the hospital room and James did not take any action to stop Wallace and Williams alleged “criminal activity.” (ECF No. 65 at 5 ¶ 32.)

         Based on the foregoing events, Arora and his wife, Sudha Arora, (together “Plaintiffs”) filed a pro se Complaint on January 2, 2014, alleging violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654; false imprisonment and deprivation of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988.[2] (ECF No. 1 at 6-13.) On July 30, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Amend their Complaint. (ECF No. 48.) Substantively, in their proposed Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs sought to add a state-law claim labeled as a claim for medical malpractice against RMC. (See ECF No. 48-1 at 11 ¶ 66-12 ¶ 73.) On September 19, 2014, Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett entered an Order partially denying Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend to the extent it sought to add the new malpractice claim, concluding that such an amendment would be futile, because the Magistrate Judge determined under South Carolina law, a plaintiff asserting a medical malpractice claim is required to file an affidavit of an expert witness along with the proposed complaint. (ECF No. 62 at 3 (citing S.C. Code Ann. § 15-36-100(B) (2016); Martasin v. Hilton Head Health Sys. L.P., 613 S.E.2d 795, 799 (S.C. Ct. App. 2005); Jernigan v. King, 440 S.E.2d 379, 381 (S.C. Ct. App. 1993))); see also Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006) (en banc) (explaining that, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), a motion to amend a complaint may be denied because, inter alia, the amendment would be futile). The Magistrate Judge granted the Motion to Amend in all other respects. (See ECF No. 62 at 3- 4.) Subsequently, on September 23, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint alleging violation of the FMLA, deprivation of civil rights regarding Arora's termination, medical malpractice, [3] deprivation of civil rights regarding an unreasonable search, [4] deprivation of civil rights in a conspiracy to interfere with equal protection rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress, [5] and false imprisonment. (ECF No. 65.)

         In an October 6, 2014 filing, Plaintiffs timely objected to the Magistrate Judge's decision to partially deny their Motion to Amend as to the medical malpractice claim. (ECF No. 73 at 8- 9.) In a subsequent Order, the court concluded that Plaintiffs' objections regarding the denial of their Motion to Amend were too generalized. (See ECF No. 112 at 7.) By a later Text Order, the court clarified that it expressly overruled Plaintiffs' objection to the Magistrate Judge's partial denial of their Motion to Amend as to the medical malpractice claim. (ECF No. 128.)

         On February 20, 2015, James and RMC filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that Plaintiffs' claims lacked merit and that James and RMC were immune from suit pursuant to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 95.) Plaintiffs filed opposition to James and RMC's Motion for Summary Judgment on April 17, 2015. (ECF No. 124.) On June 29, 2015, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”), recommending that the court grant summary judgment to James and RMC. (ECF No. 142 at 10-16.) On September 24, 2015, over Plaintiffs' timely objections (see ECF Nos. 144, 145), the court accepted the Report and granted summary judgment to James and RMC on the then pending claims. (ECF No. 149 at 18-22.)

         Plaintiffs timely appealed the court's ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on October 16, 2015. (ECF No. 152.) On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the court's decisions to grant summary judgment to James and RMC on Plaintiffs' claims against them. See Arora v. James, 689 Fed.Appx. 190 (4th Cir. May 12, 2017) (per curiam). However, the Fourth Circuit vacated the court's order overruling Plaintiffs' objections to the Magistrate Judge's Order denying Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend the Complaint. See Id. The Fourth Circuit concluded that, although Plaintiffs labeled the claim they sought to add as one for medical malpractice, the substance of their allegations “sound[ed] in ordinary negligence, not medical malpractice.” Id. at 191. Because the proposed claim was for ordinary negligence, rather than medical malpractice, the Fourth Circuit concluded that South Carolina's requirement that the proposed amended complaint be accompanied by an expert witness' affidavit did not apply and that the amendment Plaintiffs sought was not futile. See Id. (citing Dawkins v. Union Hosp. Dist., 758 S.E.2d 501, 503-04 (S.C. 2014)). Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit “vacate[d] the . . . court['s] order adopting the magistrate judge's ruling and remand[ed] for further proceedings.” Id.

         Thereafter, on April 12, 2018, the court exercised its discretion to “retain supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law negligence claim” and announced “a dispositive motion briefing schedule.” (ECF No. 186 at 3.) On April 25, 2018, RMC filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 188.)

         II. JURISDICTION

         This court has jurisdiction over Arora's state law negligence claim based on supplemental jurisdiction since it is “so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that . . . it form[s] part of the same case or controversy . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Even though it granted summary judgment on the federal claim against RMC, the court has the authority to retain jurisdiction over the state law negligence claim that was closely related to the original federal claim. Id.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or non-existence would affect the disposition of the case under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). A genuine question of material fact exists where, after reviewing the record as a whole, the court finds that a ...


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