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Hawkins v. Suntrust Bank

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

August 10, 2018

Flordeliza A. Hawkins, Plaintiff,
v.
Suntrust Bank, South Carolina Department of Social Services, Anderson County Sheriff's Office, Defendants.[1]

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Jacquelyn D. Austin United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Suntrust Bank (“Suntrust”) [Doc. 33]; and a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants South Carolina Department of Social Services (“SCDSS”) and Anderson County Sheriff's Office (“ACSO”) (collectively, “the Agency Defendants”) [Doc. 38].[2] Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in this case and to submit findings and recommendations to the District Court.

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed this action on January 22, 2018, alleging violations of her constitutional rights. [Doc. 1.] On April 6, 2018, Suntrust filed a motion to dismiss. [Doc. 33.] On April 11, 2018, the Agency Defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss. [Doc. 38.] On April 9, 2018, and April 12, 2018, the Court issued Orders in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Plaintiff of the summary judgment/dismissal procedure and of the possible consequences if she failed to adequately respond to the motions. [Docs. 34; 40.] The Court also issued an Amended Roseboro Order on April 20, 2018 [Doc. 57], after the Agency Defendants filed a supplemental memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss [Doc. 55]. Plaintiff filed several documents in response to the motions to dismiss filed by Suntrust and the Agency Defendants. [Docs. 51; 59; 60; 64; 68; 70; 78; 80; 87-1[3]; 94; 97.] Suntrust replied to Plaintiff's responses on May 9, 2018 [Doc. 71], and the Agency Defendants replied on May 11, 2018 [Doc. 74]. Accordingly, the motions to dismiss are ripe for review.

         BACKGROUND [4]

         The precise nature of Plaintiff's claims are difficult to decipher; however, it appears Plaintiff's allegations relate to an eviction that took place on January 15, 2013. [See Docs. 1 at 4-5; 1-1.] Plaintiff contends that she and her husband lived at 2130 Cheddar Road in Belton, South Carolina, for more than thirty years. [Doc. 1 at 4.] Plaintiff contends that on January 15, 2013, ACSO wrongfully evicted her and her husband from their home. [Id.] She alleges that she and her bedridden husband were forced into the yard even though the weather was cold and rainy. [Id.] Plaintiff contends that Suntrust was responsible for the unlawful removal because it evicted them pursuant to an unenforceable contract. [Id.]

         Plaintiff also alleges that ACSO called the rescue squad of Williamston to take her husband to the hospital even though Plaintiff was her husband's power of attorney. [Doc. 1-1 at 1.] Plaintiff contends that-without her permission as his power of attorney-SCDSS took over custody of her husband, allowed a feeding tube to be inserted, and allowed Plaintiff to visit with him only one hour. [Doc. 1 at 4.] Plaintiff contends that the next contact she had regarding her husband was to take him to hospice care. [Doc. 1-1 at 1.] Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' actions caused her husband's death a few days later. [Doc. 1 at 4.]

         Although difficult to decipher, Plaintiff appears to allege violations of her Fourth, Tenth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well as her human and disability rights as a result of being evicted from her house on January 15, 2013. [Id. at 3.] Plaintiff seeks $3, 000, 000.00 in damages and the return of her house.[5] [Id. at 4-5.]

         APPLICABLE LAW

         Liberal Construction of Pro Se Complaint

         Plaintiff brought this action pro se, which requires the Court to liberally construe her pleadings. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. The mandated liberal construction means only that, if the Court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999). A court may not construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for her. Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993). Nor should a court “conjure up questions never squarely presented.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         Requirements for a Cause of Action Under § 1983

         This action is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a private cause of action for constitutional violations by persons acting under color of state law. Section 1983 “‘is not itself a source of substantive rights,' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). Accordingly, a civil action under § 1983 allows “a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief.” City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999).

         Section 1983 provides, in relevant part,

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or any person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party ...

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