United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
ORDER AND OPINION
RICHARD M. GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Third-Party Defendant Reel
Enterprises, Inc.'s partial motion to dismiss. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion.
Chapman Coyle Chapman & Associates Architects, AIA was
responsible for the design and oversight of the construction
of amenity facilities for Plaintiff Hampton Hall LLC,
including a golf clubhouse, sports center, and community
clubhouse. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at ¶ 3.) Defendant Choate
Construction Company ("Choate") was the general
contractor. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff filed the
present action on May 12, 2017, alleging defective
construction and asserting claims for breach of contract,
negligence, gross negligence, and breach of express and
implied warranties. (Dkt. No. 1-1.)
February 14, 2018, Choate filed a third-party complaint
against several of its subcontractors involved with the
construction at issue, including Reel Enterprises, Inc. (Dkt.
No. 38.) The third-party complaint asserts claims for
negligence, gross negligence, breach of warranty, breach of
contract, indemnification, strict products liability, and
apportionment of damages against the subcontractors. (Dkt.
No. 38.) Reel Enterprises Inc. ("Reel Enterprises")
has moved to dismiss the claims of negligence, gross
negligence, breach of warranty, breach of contract, strict
products liability, and apportionment of damages. Reel
Enterprises has not moved to dismiss Choate's claim for
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits the
dismissal of an action if the complaint fails "to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted." Such a motion
tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint and "does
not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of the
claim, or the applicability of defenses.... Our inquiry then
is limited to whether the allegations constitute 'a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief" Republican Party of N.C. v.
Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (quotation
marks and citation omitted). In a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the
Court is obligated to "assume the truth of all facts
alleged in the complaint and the existence of any fact that
can be proved, consistent with the complaint's
allegations." E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs.
Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000).
However, while the Court must accept the facts in a light
most favorable to the non-moving party, it "need not
accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable
conclusions, or arguments." Id
survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state
"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Bell Ail. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the
requirement of plausibility does not impose a probability
requirement at this stage, the complaint must show more than
a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009). A complaint has "facial plausibility"
where the pleading "allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged." Id.
Claims for Negligence, Gross Negligence, Breach of Warranty,
Breach of Contract and Strict Liability
third-party complaint alleges claims for negligence, gross
negligence, breach of warranty, breach of contract and strict
liability. Reel Enterprises argues that these claims are
duplicative of Choate's claim for indemnification. (Dkt.
No. 101-1 at 5.)
South Carolina law, a third-party plaintiff cannot proceed
with claims that are merely disguised claims for equitable
indemnity. The South Carolina Court of Appeals squarely
addressed the issue in the pair of cases Stoneledge at
Lake Keowee Owners' Ass 'n, Inc. v. Clear View
Const., LLC, 413 S.C. 615, 776 S.E.2d 426 (Ct. App.
2015) and Stoneledge at Lake Keowee Owners' Ass'
n, Inc. v. Builders FirstSource-Se. Grp., 413 S.C. 630,
776 S.E.2d 434 (Ct. App. 2015) (the "Stoneledge
cases"). In the Stoneledge cases, a
homeowners' association sued a general contractor and its
subcontractors for construction defects. The general
contractor filed cross claims against its subcontractors for
negligence, breach of contract, and breach of warranty.
Stoneledge, 413 S.C. at 619; Stoneledge,
413 S.C. at 634. Importantly, each of those claims were
contingent on whether the plaintiff homeowners'
association prevailed against the third-party plaintiff
general contractor. See, e.g., Stoneledge, 413 S.C.
at 636 ("If [Stoneledge's] allegations are true...
[the third-party defendants] breached their express and/or
implied warranties...."). The court noted that the
plaintiffs "could not identify any damages.. .that did
not arise exclusively from the claims" made by the
plaintiff. Stoneledge, 413 S.C. at 636.
Court of Appeals therefore ruled that the "cross-claims
arose only when it faced potential liability for
Stoneledge's damages and incurred fees and costs
defending against Stoneledge's lawsuit. [The third-party
plaintiffs] breach of contract and breach of warranty
cross-claims are nothing more than claims for equitable
indemnity." Stoneledge, 413 S.C. at 636. This
Court has previously adopted the rational of the
Stoneledge cases. See Holland v. Hucks Pool Co.,
Inc., "No. 4:15-CV-00141-RBH, 2016 WL 6157491, at
*4 (D.S.C. Oct. 24, 2016) ("Here, as in
Stoneledge, [the third-party plaintiffs] breach of
contract/warranty crossclaim is not viable as a cause of
action separate from its equitable indemnity
reasoning in Stoneledge applies here as well. The
claims for negligence, gross negligence, breach of warranty,
breach of contract and strict liability brought by
Third-Party Plaintiff Choate are each dependent solely on the
potential liability that may arise from Plaintiff Hampton
Hall, LLC's claims against Choate, and Choate has
identified no damages that arose separate from Plaintiffs
claims. Most tellingly, as in the Stoneledge cases,
each of Choate's ...