United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Marvin Quattlebaum, Jr., United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss filed
by Defendants Coastal Carolina University, J. Ralph Byington
and Daniel J. Ennis (ECF No. 5) and the Motion to Dismiss
filed by Defendant Kate Faber Oestreich (ECF No. 15) pursuant
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The matter has been
fully briefed, and the Court heard argument from counsel on
June 7, 2018. For the following reasons, the Court hereby
denies Defendants' motions to dismiss.
Daniel Turner (“Plaintiff”) filed this action on
January 8 2018, in the Horry County Court of Common Pleas.
(ECF No. 1-2.) Defendants Coastal Carolina University
(“CCU”), J. Ralph Byington (“Defendant
Byington”) and Daniel J. Ennis (“Defendant
Ennis”), with the consent of Kate Faber Oestreich
(“Defendant Oestreich”), removed the case to this
Court on February 9, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff's
complaint sets forth ten causes of action against CCU and the
individually named defendants alleging breach of contract,
negligence, public policy discharge, violation of the South
Carolina Freedom of Information Act, violations of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, defamation and civil conspiracy, among others.
(ECF No. 1-1.)
CCU, Byington and Ennis filed their Motion to Dismiss on
February 9, 2018. (ECF 5.) Defendants' motion seeks
partial dismissal of the complaint, specifically requesting
that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's claims under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and remand this case to state court. Id.
Alternatively, Defendants ask the Court to dismiss
Plaintiff's negligence cause of action against CCU,
Plaintiff's cause of action for public policy discharge
against CCU and Plaintiff's cause of action for civil
conspiracy if the court refuses to dismiss the § 1983
Oestreich filed her Motion to Dismiss on March 8, 2018. (ECF
No. 15.) Defendant Oestreich's motion seeks to dismiss
the single civil conspiracy claim in which she is named.
Id. In her motion, she incorporates the argument
made by Defendants CCU, Byington and Ennis in their Motion to
Dismiss. Id. Defendant Oestreich also argues that
Plaintiff failed to plead sufficient factual content to meet
the minimum pleading requirements in order state a claim for
filed a motion to amend his complaint on May 11, 2018. (ECF
No. 29.) In the motion, Plaintiff requested amendment of the
complaint to: (1) effectuate joinder of CCU president, David
DeCenzo (“DeCenzo”), as a Defendant in the 42
U.S.C § 1983 claims (speech and due process); (2)
replace the previous public policy discharge allegation with
a citation and reference to S.C. Code Ann., § 8-17-380;
and (3) remove Defendant CCU from Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 claims. (ECF No. 29.) Originally, the Court did
not intend to hear argument on Plaintiff's motion at the
hearing on June 7, 2018. However, at the hearing, all parties
asked the court to grant Plaintiff's motion to amend (ECF
No. 29) and consider Defendants' motions to dismiss in
light of the amended complaint. The Court granted the request
of the parties.
the Court considers these motions as they pertain to
Plaintiff's amended complaint.See (ECF No. 33.)
2010, Defendant CCU hired Plaintiff for a tenure-track
professorship in its English Department focusing on 20th
Century American Literature. (ECF No. 33.) Plaintiff's
evaluations reflect that he consistently met the performance
requirements established by CCU. Id. As a result,
CCU granted Plaintiff tenure and promotion to Associate
Professor in 2013. Id. During his time at CCU,
Plaintiff was an outspoken advocate for transparency,
academic freedom and shared faculty governance. Id.
Ennis served as the Dean of the College of Humanities and
Fine Arts while Plaintiff taught in the English Department.
Id. In that role, Defendant Ennis exercised
oversight over Plaintiff and other faculty in the College of
Humanities and Fine Arts, including the English Department.
Id. Over the years, Plaintiff and Defendant Ennis
clashed due to Plaintiff's insistence on transparency,
academic freedom and shared faculty governance versus
Defendant Ennis' penchant for nepotism and control.
October 18, 2016, Defendant Ennis participated in an English
Department meeting attended by Plaintiff and other members of
the English Department. Id. The purpose of the
meeting was to appoint the successor of the English
Department Chair Dan Albergotti. Id. Defendant Ennis
suggested an informal method of selecting the new Department
Chair, while Plaintiff demanded that the faculty adhere to
English Department bylaws in selecting the new Chair.
Id. After further discussion about the bylaws and
faculty reimbursement for professional expenses, Defendant
Ennis left the meeting without addressing Plaintiff's
concerns. Id. Plaintiff followed Defendant Ennis out
of the meeting and patted Defendant Ennis on the back to get
his attention. Id. Defendant Ennis then asked
Plaintiff if he had hit him. Id. Plaintiff responded
that he had not hit him and simply patted him on the back to
get his attention. Id. Defendant Ennis then left the
area, and Plaintiff returned to the English Department
this interaction, Defendant Ennis reported Plaintiff for
assault and battery. Id. As a result, CCU suspended
Plaintiff without pay effective October 18, 2016.
Id. Months later, on December 14, 2016, Plaintiff
received a letter from Defendant Byington notifying him that
he was being recommended for termination. Id.
However, the letter did not state the underlying conduct
forming the basis for termination. Id. Defendant
Byington eventually referred the matter to the CCU Promotion
and Tenure Committee, which voted 8-0 against the University
in finding that revocation of Plaintiff's tenure was
inappropriate. Id. The next day, on October 9,
2017, CCU President, Defendant DeCenzo, reversed the
unanimous decision of the Promotion and Tenure Committee.
Id. CCU later terminated Plaintiff effective
November 29, 2017, after the CCU Board of Trustees denied
Plaintiff's appeal of the Termination decision.