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Timpson v. Haley

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

June 26, 2018

Johnny Timpson, by and through his, Conservator, Sandra Timpson, and Sandra Timpson, in her individual capacity, Plaintiffs,
v.
Nikki Haley, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Donald C. Coggins, Jr. United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant Nikki Haley's Motion for Clarification, or Alternatively, for Other Relief, and Motion to Stay, ECF No. 133. The Motion has been briefed and is ripe for consideration.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs allege violations of numerous state and federal statutes related to the implementation and administration of South Carolina's Medicaid Program. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs name a number of defendants, including “Nikki Haley, Governor of the State of South Carolina.” ECF No. 41.

         On January 3, 2017, Defendant Nikki Haley, Governor of the State of South Carolina, filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6), in which she asked the Court to dismiss the action against her because, inter alia, Governor Haley is not a proper defendant because “[t]here is no allegation that the Governor was personally or individually involved in the Plaintiff's care or case.” ECF No. 66 at 3. Thereafter, on February 16, 2017, following Defendant Haley's confirmation as Ambassador to the United Nations but prior to her scheduled deposition, she “move[d] that she be removed as a party Defendant and her successor, Governor Henry McMaster, be substituted as a party Defendant.” ECF No. 78 at 2. Plaintiffs filed a response, in which they acknowledged that Governor Henry McMaster should automatically be substituted for the claims against Defendant Haley in her official capacity, but stated that they “are entitled to take the deposition of Nikki Haley[1] to establish facts alleged in their amended complaint and to determine whether she may be liable, in her individual capacity, for any of the claims alleged in the amended complaint.” ECF No. 80 at 1-2 (emphasis added).

         In response, on February 23, 2017, counsel for the Defendant Office of the Governor, moved for a protective order regarding Defendant Haley's deposition, claiming that the deposition notice was not served until February 9, 2017, which was after Defendant Haley left her position as Governor. ECF No. 82 at 4. Therefore, counsel asserted that it could not accept service of the deposition notice or produce her for a deposition. ECF No. 82 at 4. On February 24, 2017, counsel filed a Joint Status Report, in which they informed the Court that they could not reach an agreement regarding Defendant Haley's deposition. ECF No. 83. Thereafter, the parties filed responses and replies to the various pending motions, but Nikki Haley's deposition did not go forward. See, e.g., ECF Nos. 86, 98, 100-02, 104.

         On August 24, 2017, the Court[2] issued an Order in which it denied Defendant Haley's Motion to Dismiss, finding, inter alia, that “Plaintiffs allege Haley possessed personal knowledge of systemic abuse, neglect, and exploitation of mentally disabled adults such as [Plaintiff Johnny Timpson], failed to take reasonable action to protect them, and even retaliated against those who complained. In that the Court must accept Plaintiffs' allegations as true when considering Haley's motion to dismiss, the Court must deny this section of Haley's motion . . . .” ECF No. 113 at 6. The Court further granted in part and denied in part Defendant Haley's Motion to Substitute, finding that “McMaster should be substituted for Haley for any allegations made towards Haley in her official capacity in the office of the Governor. McMaster, however, is unable to be substituted for Haley as to the allegations against her individually.” Id. at 7. With respect to Defendant Haley's Motion for a Protective Order, the Court held that it “is of the opinion Haley has failed to establish she is an improper party to this lawsuit. Hence, the Court will deny her motion and order she make herself available to being deposed by Plaintiffs' counsel within sixty days of the filing of this Order.” Id. at 8.

         On August 31, 2017, Defendant McMaster filed a Motion to Clarify. ECF No. 118. The Motion to Clarify states that it “is filed on behalf of the Office of the Governor and not on behalf of Nikki Haley, individually, whom counsel does not represent.” Id. at 2. The Court found that, “[t]o the extent Defendant McMaster makes arguments on behalf of Defendant Haley regarding the effectiveness of service and whether Defendant Haley is being sued in her individual capacity, the Court rejects those contentions inasmuch as those issues must be raised, if at all, by Defendant Haley.” ECF No. 129. The Court further ordered that Plaintiffs file a certificate of service “showing they have personally served Defendant Haley with (1) a copy of the Court's August 24, 2017, Order as well as (2) their subpoena for Defendant Haley's deposition not later than Friday, October 6, 2017. Given the important duties and obligations Defendant Haley has as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, the Court directs Plaintiffs to make every reasonable accommodation in scheduling Defendant Haley's deposition.” Id. Thereafter, Plaintiffs attempted to serve Defendant Haley at her South Carolina residence as well as at the United Nations to no avail. ECF No. 132 at 2. However, on October 4, 2017, attorney James W. Fayssoux, Jr., contacted Plaintiffs, informed Plaintiffs that he represents Defendant Haley, and later accepted service of the subpoena. Id.

         On October 19, 2017, Defendant Haley filed a Motion for Clarification, or Alternatively, for Other Relief, and a Motion to Stay. ECF No. 133. In the Motion, Defendant Haley seeks a “declar[ation] that she is not a party to the above action.”[3] ECF No. 133 at 1. Defendant Haley argues that she “has never been served with a Complaint . . . [s]he has never received notice of a hearing . . . [and] [u]ntil now, she has never been represented.” ECF No. 133-1 at 2. Defendant Haley spends the bulk of this Motion arguing that the Court's prior ruling, which found that Plaintiffs had alleged claims against Defendant Haley in her individual capacity, was incorrect. However, in the alternative, Defendant Haley requests that the Court issue an Order requiring that she be served with a copy of the Complaint and be provided a meaningful opportunity to respond. Id. at 14. Finally, Defendant Haley moves the Court to stay enforcement of its prior Order requiring her to give a deposition until the matters raised in the Motion were resolved. Id. Plaintiffs filed a response, in which they contend that the Court's prior Order regarding Defendant Haley's individual capacity was correct, and arguing that Defendant Haley has had ample notice of the claims against her since the inception of the litigation. ECF No. 137. The Court issued an Order staying the case pending resolution of Defendant Haley's Motion for Clarification. ECF No. 135.

         On March 21, 2018, the Court issued an Order on Defendant Haley's Motion for Clarification, ECF No. 133, and Plaintiffs' Motion to Substitute and Depose, ECF No. 144. Relevant to the issue at bar, the Court found that Defendant Haley should not be initially required to submit to an oral deposition. ECF No. 170 at 6. Instead, the Court permitted Plaintiffs to ask Defendant ten written interrogatories and gave Defendant Haley thirty days to provide written responses under oath.[4] Id. Additionally, the Court directed the parties to file Defendant Haley's answers and brief whether summary judgment was appropriate as to Defendant Haley. Id. Therefore, the Court held Defendant Haley's Motion for Clarification in abeyance pending resolution of the summary judgment question. The parties have now filed Defendant Haley's responses and the issue of summary judgment is properly before the Court.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         One of the principal purposes of summary judgment “is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . . .” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is “not a disfavored procedural shortcut, ” but is instead the “principal tool by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources.” Id. at 327. To that end, Rule 56 states “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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 disposition of the case under applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence offered is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. at 257. When determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

         The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. Once the movant has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude granting the summary judgment motion. Ross v. Commc'ns Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 365 (4th Cir. 1985), overruled on other grounds, 490 U.S. 228 (1989). “Only ...


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