Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Smith v. Palmetto Denture Care, P.A.

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

July 27, 2018

Tonda Y. Smith, Plaintiff,
v.
Palmetto Denture Care, P.A., Chris Just, Jim Fields, and Charles McNutt, II, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          A. Marvin Quattlebaum, Jr. United States District Judge.

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Tonda Y. Smith (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against Palmetto Denture Care, P.A. (“Palmetto Denture”), Chris Just, Jim Fields and Charles McNutt, II (collectively “Defendants”) alleging the following causes of action: (1) race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as to Palmetto Denture; (2) retaliation as to Palmetto Denture; (3) sexually hostile work environment in violation of the “South Carolina Human Rights Act of 1964” as to Palmetto Denture; (4) breach of contract as to Palmetto Denture; (5) breach of contract with fraudulent intent as to Palmetto Denture; and (6) civil conspiracy as to Just, Fields and McNutt, II. (ECF No. 38.)[1]

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 D.S.C., this employment discrimination matter was referred to the United States Magistrate Judge for consideration of pretrial matters. On October 30, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's causes of action for breach of contract, breach of contract with fraudulent intent and civil conspiracy pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 45.) Defendants' motion does not challenge Plaintiff's claims for race discrimination, retaliation or a sexually hostile work environment in violation of the South Carolina Human Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition on November 27, 2017 (ECF No. 53) and Defendants filed a reply on December 4, 2017. (ECF No. 55.)

         The Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) recommending that Defendants' to Motion be granted. (ECF No. 62.) Plaintiff filed objections to the Report (ECF No. 65) on March 28, 2018, and Defendants filed a reply to Plaintiff's objections (ECF No. 67) on April 17, 2018.

         For the reasons set forth herein, this Court adopts the Report to the extent consistent with this Order and Opinion and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 45) is GRANTED.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976). The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the report or may recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Parties are allowed to make a written objection to a Magistrate Judge's report within fourteen (14) days after being served a copy of the Report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portions of the report to which a specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or may recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         The Magistrate Judge properly set forth the standard of review for Rule 12(b)(6) Motions. As noted by the Magistrate Judge, “[t]he purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of a complaint.” Williams v. Preiss-Wal Pat III, LLC, 17 F.Supp.3d 528, 531 (D.S.C. 2014) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999)). Rule 8(a) sets forth a liberal pleading standard, which requires only a" ‘short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what . . . the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “[T]he facts alleged ‘must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level' and must provide ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Robinson v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 551 F.3d 218, 222 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 569). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's findings that: (1) Plaintiff failed to make sufficient allegations establishing a plausible claim that Palmetto Denture's employee handbook altered her at-will employment status; (2) Plaintiff failed to state a claim that Palmetto Denture breached its contract with Plaintiff with fraudulent intent; and (3) Plaintiff's civil conspiracy claim arises out of her termination from employment. (ECF No. 48 at 10.) The Court addresses these objections in turn.

         A. Breach of Contract

         Plaintiff claims that the Magistrate Judge erred by finding that Plaintiff failed to establish that her at-will employment contract was altered. (ECF No. 65, at 5.) Plaintiff asserts that “(1) a contract existed between Palmetto Denture and Plaintiff, (2) Palmetto Denture's policies are more than ‘typical anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies,' and (3) Palmetto Denture must be bound, like Plaintiff, to the mandatory language of the governing policies.” Id. at 6. Plaintiff argues that she has alleged all of the elements of a valid contract and that Palmetto Denture's Employee Handbook formed a binding contract that overcomes the presumption of at-will employment.

         The Magistrate Judge correctly set forth the applicable law in South Carolina regarding the presumption of at-will employment. South Carolina has long followed the doctrine of employment at-will. Mathis v. Brown & Brown of S.C., Inc., 698 S.E.2d 773, 778 (S.C. 2010). Generally, an at-will employee may be terminated with or without cause. Stiles v. Am. Gen. Life Ins. Co., 516 S.E.2d 449, 450 (S.C. 1999). “Because employment is presumed to be at-will, in order to survive a motion to dismiss on a claim for breach of contract of employment, a plaintiff must plead sufficient factual allegations to establish the existence of an employment contract beyond the at-will relationship.” Brailsford v. Fresenius Med. Ctr. CNA Kidney Ctrs. LLC, No. 2:15-CV-4012-DCN, 2017 WL 1214337 at *16-17 (D.S.C. April 3, 2017) (unpublished) (citing Weaver v. John Lucas Tree Expert Co., No. 2:13-CV-01698-PMD, 2013 WL 5587854, at *4 (D.S.C. Oct. 10, 2013) (unpublished))[2 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.