June 5, 2018
From Charleston County J. C. Nicholson, Jr., Circuit Court
Lewis Cromer and James Paul Porter, of Cromer Babb Porter
& Hicks, LLC, of Columbia, for Appellant.
Conley and Emmanuel Joseph Ferguson, of Cleveland &
Conley, LLC, of Charleston, for Respondents Charleston County
School District and Robert Bohnstengel.
Stuhr Dukes, of Rosen Rosen & Hagood, LLC, of Charleston,
for Respondents James Charter High School and Stephanie
civil case, Leisel Paradis appeals the circuit court's
order granting Charleston County School District's, James
Island Charter High School's, Robert Bohnstengel's,
and Stephanie Spann's (collectively, Respondents) motions
to dismiss her lawsuit asserting claims for defamation and
civil conspiracy. We affirm.
was employed as a teacher at James Island Charter High School
(JICHS), which is located within the Charleston County School
District. Bohnstengel was the principal at JICHS during part
of the 2013-14 school year and Spann was the assistant
principal at JICHS during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school
close of the 2012-13 school year, Paradis received notice she
would be placed on an evaluation protocol to correct
deficiencies identified by school administrators. After two
years of evaluations, Respondents determined Paradis did not
correct the identified deficiencies and terminated her.
Thereafter, Paradis filed this action alleging claims for
defamation and civil conspiracy. Respondents moved to dismiss
her complaint. The circuit court granted the motions. This
deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(6), SCRCP, the
trial court should consider only the allegations set forth on
the face of the plaintiff's complaint." Plyler
v. Burns, 373 S.C. 637, 645, 647 S.E.2d 188, 192 (2007).
"A 12(b)(6)[, SCRCP] motion should not be granted if
'facts alleged and inferences reasonably deducible
therefrom would entitle the plaintiff to any relief on any
theory of the case.'" Id. (quoting
Stiles v. Onorato, 318 S.C. 297, 300, 457 S.E.2d
601, 602 (1995)). "The question is whether, in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff, and with every doubt
resolved in his behalf, the complaint states any valid claim
for relief." Id.
tort of defamation permits a plaintiff to recover for injury
to her reputation as the result of the defendant's
communications to others of a false message about the
plaintiff." McBride v. School Dist. of Greenville
Cty., 389 S.C. 546, 559, 698 S.E.2d 845, 852 (Ct. App.
2010). The plaintiff in a defamation action must prove
"(1) a false and defamatory statement was made; (2) the
unprivileged publication was made to a third party; (3) the
publisher was at fault; and (4) either actionability of the
statement irrespective of special harm or the existence of
special harm caused by the publication." Id. at
559-60, 698 S.E.2d at 852 (quoting Fleming v. Rose,
350 S.C. 488, 494, 567 S.E.2d 857, 860 (2002)). "The
publication of a statement is defamatory if it tends to harm
the reputation of another as to lower him ...