United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
ORDER ADOPTING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND
GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION
GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an employment case. All parties are represented by counsel.
The matter is before the Court for review of the Report and
Recommendation (Report) of the United States Magistrate Judge
suggesting Defendants South Carolina Department of Revenue,
Shukura Ellison, Jackie Rogers, Jonte Colclough, and Allison
Corbitt's (collectively Defendants) motion to dismiss be
granted in part and denied in part. The Magistrate Judge
recommended Defendants' motion to dismiss be granted as
to Plaintiff Roselyn Wise's (Wise) claims for defamation
and civil conspiracy and denied as to Wise's claim under
the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Report was made in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Civil Rule
73.02 for the District of South Carolina.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of
those portions of the Report to which specific objection is
made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole
or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or
recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. §
Magistrate Judge filed the Report on November 16, 2018. ECF
No. 30. The Clerk of Court entered Defendants' objections
to the Report on November 30, 2018, ECF No. 31; Wise replied
on December 14, 2018, ECF No. 32. The Court has reviewed
Defendants' objections but holds them to be without
merit. Therefore, it will enter judgment accordingly.
object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation
Wise's FMLA claim is not barred by the doctrine of
res judicata. The Magistrate Judge recommended there
was no identity of subject matter between Wise's earlier
proceeding before the State Employee Grievance Committee
(Grievance Committee) and the instant case, and thus res
judicata does not bar Wise's FMLA claim. Defendants
advance res judicata bars Wise's FMLA claim
because: 1) the Grievance Committee had jurisdiction to hear
Wise's FMLA claim; 2) there was subject matter identity
between the Grievance Committee proceeding and this case
because both are based upon Wise's termination from
employment; and 3) the Magistrate Judge's recommendation
res judicata does not apply to this case contravenes
South Carolina res judicata rules. Wise replies the
Grievance Committee did not have jurisdiction over her FMLA
claim, there was no identity of subject matter between the
Grievance Committee litigation and the instant case, and the
Magistrate Judge properly applied res judicata
judicata bars the relitigation of claims decided, or
which might have been raised, in a previous adjudication.
Hilton Head Ctr. of S.C., Inc. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n
of S.C., 362 S.E.2d 176, 177 (S.C. 1987). Federal courts
must follow the res judicata rules of the State
where the prior decision was rendered. Kremer v. Chem.
Constr. Corp, 456 U.S. 461, 481-82 (1982).
South Carolina's res judicata rules, the prior
adjudication can include administrative proceedings, such as
the one at issue in the instant case. See Bennett v. S.C.
Dep't of Corrs., 408 S.E.2d 230, 231 (S.C. 1991).
For res judicata to apply in South Carolina, three
elements must be met: 1) the prior and current litigation
must involve the same parties; 2) the prior and current
litigation must involve the same subject matter; and 3) there
must have been a final decision on the merits in the prior
litigation. Latimer v. Farmer, 602 S.E.2d 32, 2007
(S.C. 2004); Plum Creek Dev. Co., Inc. v. City of
Conway, 512 S.E.2d 106, 109 (S.C. 1999).
Magistrate Judge's recommendation and Defendants'
objections focus on the second element of res
judicata, which is known as identity of subject matter.
South Carolina courts have found there is identity of subject
matter between the prior and current litigation where the
primary duties and rights at issue are the same in the two
proceedings. Plum Creek Dev. Co., Inc., 512 S.E.2d
argue the Grievance Committee had jurisdiction to hear
Wise's FMLA claim, and the rights and duties being
litigated before the Grievance Committee were the same as
those at issue in the current case. In making their
jurisdictional argument, Defendants concede had Wise raised
an FMLA claim before the Grievance Committee, “the
Grievance Committee would not have addressed the merits of an
FMLA claim . . . .” ECF No. 31 at 4. Thus, assuming
without deciding Defendants are correct the Grievance
Committee had jurisdiction over Wise's FMLA claim and
there is subject matter identity between the Grievance
Committee proceeding and this litigation, because the
Grievance Committee would not have rendered a decision on the
merits as to Wise's FMLA claim, the third element for
res judicata to apply in South Carolina would be
missing, and res judicata would, therefore, not bar
Wise's FMLA claim before this Court. Further, to the
extent Defendants argue the Magistrate Judge incorrectly
applied South Carolina res judicata rules, the Court
has reviewed the cases cited by Wise and Defendants and holds
the Magistrate Judge correctly applied South Carolina res
judicata rules. For those reasons, the Court will
overrule Defendants objections.
thorough review of the Report and the record in this case
pursuant to the standard set forth above, the Court overrules
Defendants' objections, adopts the Report, and
incorporates it herein. Therefore, it is the judgment of this
Court Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN
PART and DENIED IN PART.
Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED