United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
Cheryl Inabinet, personally and as Personal Representative for the Estate of Joseph Inabinet, Brittany Inabinet, Valerie Inabinet, and Seth Inabinet, Plaintiffs,
The Greenville County Sheriff's Office, Former Sheriff Will Lewis, Greenville County, Master Deputy Kevin James Azzara, Master Deputy Ivan Rodriguez, Deputy Jared Randall Oliver, and Deputy Juan Jose Olalde, Defendants.
TIMOTHY M. CAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss and Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, or in the
alternative, Motion for a More Definite Statement. (ECF No.
4). Plaintiffs' complaint alleges various state law
claims as well as a federal claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, arguing that the Defendants violated the
constitutional rights of the decedent and Plaintiffs. (ECF
No. 1-1). The action was originally filed in the Court of
Common Pleas for Greenville County, and Defendants removed
the case to this court based on federal question
jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1). All parties are represented by
counsel. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and
Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d), D.S.C., this matter was
referred to a magistrate judge for pretrial handling. Before
the court is the magistrate judge's Report and
Recommendation (“Report”), which recommends that
the court construe Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as a
motion for summary judgment and that the court grant summary
judgment as to Plaintiffs' state law claims. (ECF No.
17). The magistrate judge notified the parties of their right
to file objections to the Report. Id. at 7.
Plaintiffs filed timely objections to the Report. (ECF No.
18). Defendants did not file objections, but they responded
to Plaintiff's objections. (ECF No. 21). The time for
objections has now run, and the matter is now ripe for
recommendations set forth in the Report have no presumptive
weight, and this court remains responsible for making a final
determination in this matter. See Mathews v. Weber,
423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court is charged with making
a de novo determination of those portions of the
Report to which a specific objection is made, and the court
may accept, reject, modify, in whole or in part, the
recommendation of the magistrate judge or recommit the matter
with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, the
court need not conduct a de novo review when a party
makes only “general and conclusory objections that do
not direct the court to a specific error in the
magistrate's proposed findings and
recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d
44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of a timely filed,
specific objection, the magistrate judge's conclusions
are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v.
Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315
(4th Cir. 2005).
filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas for Greenville
County on March 25, 2019. Plaintiffs then filed an Amended
Complaint alleging claims for (1) common law liability for
negligence, gross negligence, and recklessness as to all
Defendants; (2) negligent hiring, supervision, and retention
as to Defendants Greenville County, Greenville County
Sheriff's Office, and Former Sheriff Will Lewis; (3)
violation of constitutional rights as to the U.S.
Constitution and South Carolina Constitution pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, as to all Defendants; (4) survival action
pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 15-5-90 as to all
Defendants; and (5) wrongful death as to all Defendants. (ECF
magistrate judge set forth a detailed account of the factual
allegations in Plaintiffs' complaint. (ECF No. 17 at
2-3). Briefly, Plaintiffs allege that Greenville County
deputies shot and killed the decedent, Joseph Inabinet, at
the residence of his estranged wife, Plaintiff Cheryl
Inabinet (“Cheyrl”). (ECF No. 1-1 at 3-4).
Plaintiffs allege the deputies knew or should have known that
the decedent did not pose a danger to them based on the
deputies' previous encounters with the decedent.
occasion, Cheryl called law enforcement after the decedent
came to her house, began knocking on her doors and windows,
and told Cheryl to call the police. Id. at 3. Cheryl
told the police dispatcher that her husband wanted to commit
“suicide by cop, ” and explained his mental
instability. Id. The Complaint asserts that when
deputies arrived, the decedent began to yell “I'm
armed! Why aren't y'all firing?” Id.
Plaintiffs allege that at that time, instead of trying to
resolve the dispute peacefully, the deputies “pulled
their firearms and fired at least 29 times” at
decedent, killing him. Id. Plaintiffs claim that
Defendants drove them to the station immediately thereafter
and insisted that they give statements regarding the events.
Id. at 4. Plaintiffs allege that the police took
Cheryl's phone and downloaded its contents prior to
letting them leave the station. Id. According to the
complaint, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division later
determined that “the decedent was unarmed at the time
the defendants killed him and the decedent only had a BB
gun.” Id. Plaintiffs claim that Cheryl tried
many times to obtain police reports regarding the incident,
but her requests have been denied. Id.
filed the instant motion, moving for dismissal of
Plaintiffs' state law claims pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) and for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule
12(c), or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement
pursuant to 12(e). (ECF Nos. 4; 4-1). Defendants claim that
Plaintiffs' state law claims are barred by the two-year
statute of limitation (“SOL”) set forth in the
South Carolina Tort Claims Act (“SCTCA”), SC Code
Ann. § 15-78-110. (ECF No. 4-1 at 2-4). Plaintiffs argue
the SOL provision in SCTCA applies but assert that the claims
were timely under such provision. (ECF No. 11). The parties
disagree on when the SOL began to run. See (ECF Nos.
4-1; 11) The magistrate judge filed a Report, which
recommended that this court grant Defendants summary judgment
as to Plaintiffs state law claims because the claims are
barred by the SOL. (ECF No. 17). Plaintiffs filed timely
objections (ECF No. 18), and Defendants replied (ECF No. 21).
The matter is now ripe for review.
Defendants' motion was initially filed as a Motion to
Dismiss, in considering the motion, the court has relied on
various affidavits that were not attached to the pleadings.
When “matters outside the pleadings are presented and
not excluded by the court, ” a motion to dismiss
“must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule
56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Summary judgment is
appropriate only if the moving party “shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the [moving
party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party may support or refute that a
material fact is not disputed by “citing to particular
parts of materials in the record” or by “showing
that the materials cited do not establish the absence or
presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party
cannot produce admissible evidence to support the
fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Rule 56 mandates entry of
summary judgment “against a party who fails to make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case.” Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
deciding whether there is a genuine issue of material fact,
the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and
all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the
non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of
summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or
unnecessary will not be counted.” Id. at 248.
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(c), (e); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S.
parties agree that the two-year SOL period in the SCTCA
applies to Plaintiffs' state law claims. However, the
parties disagree on when the two-year SOL period began to
run. Additionally, the parties agree that the incident
occurred on March 4, 2017, which is the date listed in the
Coroner's Report. (ECF Nos. 4-1 at 3-9; 11 at 1).
Defendants argue that the SOL period began to run on the date
of decedent's death, March 4, 2017. (ECF No. 21 at 3).
Plaintiffs contend that the SOL period did not begin to run
until they “were able to conduct a reasonable inquiry
into the shooting” and that the fact that Cheryl was
unable to obtain any documents regarding the incident
precluded any such inquiry. (ECF No. 11 at 4-5).
magistrate judge determined that the SOL “began to run
on March 4, 2017, the date of the incident, as Cheryl . . .
was on notice that she had a claim when the decedent was shot
and killed.” (ECF No. 17 at 6). Accordingly, the
magistrate judge recommended that this court grant
Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to
Plaintiffs' state law claims. Id. In their
objections, Plaintiffs argue that Defendants should not
benefit from withholding documents from Plaintiffs and that
it was only through reasonable inquiry into those documents
that Plaintiffs could have known ...