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Doe-3 v. Horry County

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

February 28, 2019

JANE DOE-3, Plaintiff,
v.
HORRY COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA, HORRY COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, SAUNDRA RHODES, SCOTT RUTHERFORD, THOMAS DELPERCIO, WILLIAM SQUIRES, and DALE BUCHANAN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Jane Doe-3 (Doe-3) filed this lawsuit against Defendants Horry County, South Carolina, the Horry County Police Department (HCPD), Troy Allen Large (Large), Saundra Rhodes (Rhodes), Scott Rutherford (Rutherford), Thomas Delpercio (Delpercio), William Squires (Squires), and Dale Buchanan (Buchanan), alleging violations of her constitutional rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a state law claim of negligence/gross negligence. The Court has federal-question jurisdiction over the federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction over the state claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

         Pending before the Court is Defendants Rhodes, Rutherford, Delpercio, Squires, and Buchanan's (collectively Defendants) motion for summary judgment. Having considered the motion, Doe-3's response, Defendants' reply, the record, and the relevant law, the Court will deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Doe-3 says she initially came into contact with Large, a detective with the HCPD, in 1996 when he was assigned to investigate her case after she made allegations her then-husband assaulted her. Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 23, Lines 11-Page 24, Line 2. Doe-3 encountered him again in March of 1998 when he was assigned to investigate another domestic violence incident in which she was shot once through the hip and four times through the hand by her then-husband. Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 24, Lines 12-20.

         Doe-3 stated she had no real concerns regarding her contact with Large during this time period, except he was “very flirty.” Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 26, Line 20-Page 27, Line 10. According to Doe-3, after the court proceedings were finalized leading to her then-husband's conviction, she left South Carolina in 2001 and moved to Tennessee. Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 25, Lines 11-21.

         After Doe-3 left South Carolina, she said she lost contact with Large for approximately ten years. Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 33, Lines 16-21. She moved back to South Carolina in 2005; but did not come into contact with him again until January 2015, after a third domestic violence incident in which she accused her then-husband of threatening her and members of her family with a firearm. Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 34, Line 19-Page 35, Line 12. Large came to her home in light of this report of domestic violence. Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 35, Lines 2-8.

         Doe-3 testified that Detective Large, after responding to the January 2015 domestic violence incident, began to visit her between two and three times a week. Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 40, Line 1-8. She stated that, between January of 2015 and December of 2015, Large assaulted her on fifty occasions, which included multiple instances of sexual assault. Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 127, Line 18-Page 128, Line 7; Page 123, Line 24-Page 125, Line 9. Doe-3 also attested Large coerced her into participating in a private wrestling match with another victim of domestic violence at a law enforcement officer's home in North Carolina. Confidential Exhibit 1, Doe-3 Depo. at Page 40, Line 22-Page 41, Line 3; Page 43, Lines 6-23; Page 118, Lines 21-24; Page 129, Lines 1-8.

         Doe-3 stated she felt restrained from leaving because of the presence of armed law enforcement officers at the fight. Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 118, Lines 21-24. Doe-3 testified her encounters with Large were not consensual and that she was repulsed by him; but she felt forced to engage in these activities as a result of his position of authority. Confidential Exhibit 1, Page 71, Line 10-Page 72, Line 5.

         The HCPD received a report in July 2015 of criminal sexual conduct by Large. Confidential Exhibit 4. After investigating the July 2015 allegations, the HCPD Office of Internal Affairs sustained the allegations. Id. The HCPD subsequently referred the case to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division in November 2015. Confidential Exhibit 2.

         The Horry County Grand Jury indicted Large on September 15, 2016, bringing eleven counts of criminal sexual conduct and misconduct in office against him. Confidential Exhibit 3. Two of the eleven counts specifically address his alleged criminal interactions with Plaintiff. Id.

         During the relevant period of time, “Rhodes was the duly appointed Chief of Police for the Horry Count Police Department. As such, she was the commanding officer of . . . Large, ” Complaint ¶ 4; and “Rutherford, Delpercio, Squires, and Buchanan were the supervising officers of . . . Large, ” Id. ¶ 5.

         Doe-3 filed this action in the Horry County Court of Common Pleas. Defendants thereafter removed the case to this Court. Defendants subsequently filed this motion for summary judgement, Doe-3 filed her response in opposition, and Defendants filed their reply. Afterwards, the case was reassigned to this Court.

         Large, who was initially a defendant in this case, died after Doe-3 filed this lawsuit. She dismissed Large and Delpercio from the action after Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The moving party has the burden of proving that summary judgment is appropriate. Once the moving party makes this showing, however, the opposing party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials, but rather must, by affidavits or other means permitted by the Rule, set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         A party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A litigant “cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). Therefore, “[m]ere unsupported speculation . . . is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ennis v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995).

         “[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate.” Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 v. Centra, Inc., 947 F.2d 115, 119 (4th Cir. 1996). “Summary judgment is proper only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts.” Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). The court must determine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         IV. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

         Defendants contend Doe-3's allegations of Defendants' actions and/or inactions fail to rise to the level of a violation of the constitution or federal law. In addition, according to Defendants, they are entitled to sovereign and qualified immunity. Defendants also claim they have no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as they are not “persons” as that term is defined in the statute.

         Doe-3 refutes each of Defendants' arguments.

         V. ...


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