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Capone v. City of Columbia

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

September 3, 2019

Terry H. Capone, Plaintiff
v.
City of Columbia, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO VACATE AND AMENDED MOTION TO VACATE ECF NOS. 55, 59

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE, Senior United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's “Motion to Vacate/Set Aside a Void Summary Judgment for Fraud Upon [t]he Court” and an amended motion seeking the same relief on expanded grounds. ECF No. 55 (“Original Motion” filed May 30, 2019); ECF No. 59 (“Amended Motion” filed Jul. 10, 2019).[1] The Original Motion consists of a cover letter and seven exhibits, but no explanatory memorandum. The Amended Motion includes a supporting memorandum and additional exhibits. Both motions are denied for reasons set forth below.

         I. CHALLENGED JUDGMENT

         The judgment in this action was entered on January 8, 2015. ECF Nos. 53 ([Original] Opinion and Order), 54 (Judgment), 55 (Corrected Opinion and Order). The basis for the judgment is set out in the [Original] Opinion and Order entered January 8, 2015, and Corrected Opinion and Order entered January 9, 2015, which differs from the original only in correcting a scrivener's error in one footnote. Compare ECF No. 52 at n. 3 with ECF No. 54 at n. 3 (removing incorrect reference to an “alternate ruling”). The Corrected Opinion and Order adopted the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 48) and granted summary judgment to Defendant, the City of Columbia (“the City”) on Plaintiff's claims for: (1) racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Discrimination and Retaliation Claims”); and (2) violation of the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq., and South Carolina Payment of Wages Act, SC Code Ann § 41-10-10, et seq. (“Wage Claims”).

         II. ORIGINAL MOTION

         A. Plaintiff's Motion

         Plaintiff's Original Motion consists of a cover letter and seven exhibits. Beyond an introductory sentence asking the court to consider the attached exhibits, the cover letter includes a list of the exhibits with a brief characterization or comment for some of them. Beyond the title of the motion and the words “Fraud Upon the Court” included in the description of the first two exhibits, there is little to suggest the basis for the allegation of fraud or any other ground that might support relief from judgment. The court has, nonetheless, carefully reviewed the letter and attachments which are summarized below.

         Exhibit 1.

         The cover letter describes Plaintiff's first exhibit as “C/A No. 3:12-3369-CMC-PJG VOID Opinion and [O]rder January 8, 2015 Sen. U.S. Dist. Judge Cameron McGowan Currie[:] Fraud Upon the Court[.]” ECF No. 55 at 1. The first exhibit is the Original Opinion and Order granting the City's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 52). ECF No. 55-1 at 1-15.[2]

         Exhibit 2.

         The cover letter describes the second exhibit as a “City of Columbia Internal Email Reference: Kronos/pay Check and Reporting Time Survey showing their Pay Calculation methods to include overtime where not correct and was release[d] prior to January 8, 2015 Void Opinion and Judgment Fraud Upon the Court.” ECF. No. 55 at 1. The attached exhibit (“Kronos Email”) indicates the email was sent on April 9, 2014. ECF No. 55-1 at 16-26. It purports to explain how the Kronos system works, including some limitations, and asserts a related process for figuring pay will “begin to simplify the long standing confusion on how shift fire employees are paid.” Id. at 22.

         Exhibit 3.

         The third exhibit is described as the “Affidavit of Dr. Tiona Praylow Envision Wellness Medical Group: Unsound mind Statute of limitations.” ECF No. 55 at 1. The attached exhibit is a letter dated April 30, 2019, “outlin[ing] the clinical imperatives warranting a full and unequivocal waiver of the statute of limitations in [Plaintiff's] claim for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [(“PTSD”)], an occupational injury incurred during his service in the City of Columbia fire battalion.” ECF No. 55-1 at 28.[3] Dr. Praylow asserts Plaintiff has been under her care since 2013 and was “of an ‘unsound mind, '” unable to file the related claim (presumably a workers compensation claim) during the time he would otherwise have been required to do so, which she identifies as running from September 15, 2015, to September 15, 2016.

         Exhibit 4.

         The fourth exhibit is described as the “Affidavit Mrs. Williams Agape Counseling addressing Altered medical Opinion.” ECF No. 55 at 1. The attached affidavit is dated May 14, 2019, asserts Plaintiff has been under the care of Agape Counseling and Training Services, Inc. since August 31, 2012, and opines Plaintiff suffers PTSD. ECF No. 55-1 at 32. It refers to a May 18, 2015 letter written by affiant to the Department of Veterans Affairs and later submitted by Plaintiff in support of a workers compensation claim and opines Plaintiff's preexisting PTSD was aggravated by his work for the City. Id.

         Exhibit 5.

         The fifth exhibit is described as “5/28/2019 EEOC Charge of Discrimination #436-2019-00954[.]” ECF No. 55-1 (“EEOC Charge”). The attached exhibit names the City in the box designated for the employer or agency that allegedly discriminated against Plaintiff. ECF No. 55-1 at 34. However, subsequent text, in a section titled “Verified Complaint, ” directs the allegations of discrimination to the South Carolina Workers Compensation Commission (“SCWCC”) as follows:

The [SCWCC] is Unconstitutional. This is based on the [SCWCC's] and this Court's Long history & practicing racism (White Supremacy) which functions in all areas of human activity[.] . . . The decisions had disparate impacts, because despite all irrefutable evidence provided to the [SCWCC], the State of South Carolina failed to provide equal protection under the color of law, there is a history of favorable outcomes to Whites under your system of misogyny and racism (White Supremacy).”).

Id. at 35 (also stating Plaintiff “has been unable to retain an Attorney/Law firm to represent him [before the SCWCC] due to Racism” and listing three workers compensation claims filed in 2013).

         Following this introduction, the EEOC Charge provides a chronology of events that appears to relate primarily to Plaintiff's workers compensation claims, pursuit of disability or retirement benefits, and related medical records. Id. at 36-43. For example, events between January and February 2014 refer to three communications between Plaintiff and the SCWCC's third-party claims administrator and two communications between Plaintiff and his employer. The latter include one communication advising Plaintiff he is eligible for restricted duty due to a wrist injury and one addressing disability benefits under a retirement plan. Id. at 36, 37.

         An April 9, 2014 email regarding the Kronos pay system (presumably the Kronos Email discussed above) is referenced next, along with a statement the employer provided “incorrect wage information” in connection with the “South Carolina Retirement System Final Payroll Certification.” Id. at 37.

         The next entry refers to medical records created on November 11, 2014, and March 15, 2015, indicating Plaintiff's “history and symptoms warrant a surgical decompression” of his “left ulnar nerve.” Id. After quoting the record, the EEOC Charge characterizes several notations on the medical forms as “forged” and concludes as follows: “Plaintiff asserts these fraudulent documents and statement were sent via electronically and through the U.S. mail and used in furtherance of the Insurance Fraud scheme to deny workers compensation disability benefits (property).” Id. at 38.

         The next entry refers to this court's January 8, 2015 Opinion and Order granting summary judgment, characterizing the order as “produced by Fraud Upon the Court by The City of Columbia and their Attorney[.]”. Id. at 38. This paragraph quotes an introductory paragraph from the order, which summarizes the nature of the City's motion and the court's ruling.

         The remaining twenty-seven items in the chronology all post-date entry of judgment in this action. Id. at 38-43 (referring to events from March 15, 2015, through May 8, 2019). These entries refer to the following: (1) medical records relating to workers compensation claims; (2) communications between Plaintiff and the SCWCC or the City relating to workers compensation claims; (3) proceedings, motions and orders relating to workers compensation claims (and state-court appeals of SCWCC decisions); (4) Freedom of Information Act requests (apparently relating to Plaintiff's workers compensation claims), and (5) two communications addressing Plaintiff's belief his retirement benefits were calculated based on incorrect information transmitted by the City. The retirement-related communications are both dated in October 2018. Id. at 43.

         Following this chronology, the EEOC Charge (1) asserts the SCWCC, City of Columbia, and third-party claims administrator acted in concert in making claims-related decisions and (2) purports to assert various causes of action, including for violation of “RICO, ” due process and equal protection. Id. These “causes of action” appear, primarily, to challenge handling of Plaintiff's workers compensation claims, though a generous reading might encompass retirement/disability claims. Id.; see also Id. at 45-47 (proffering four comparators and describing their workers compensation claims). Ultimately, the EEOC Charge seeks “judgment against defendants for violations of Title VII[, and the] Americans with [D]isabilities Act of 1990” and asserts the damges should be “tripled in accordance with RICO[.]”

         Exhibit 6. The sixth exhibit is described as “TCAPONE S.C. Police Retirement Final Pay Certification, [C]ity of Columbia transmitted electronic incorrect pay information to include overtime.” ECF No. 55 at 1. The attached exhibit includes a “Final Payroll Certification” with a “Date Received” of April 22, 2014. ECF No. 55-1 at 51. It also includes Plaintiff's W-2 Wage and Tax Statements for 2011-14 and what appears to be a payroll summary covering multiple pay periods in 2011 and 2012.

         Exhibit 7. The last exhibit is described as follows on the cover letter: “City of Columbia submitted incorrect pay for Guardian long term disability and to the S.C. Workers Compensation Commission.” ECF No. 55-1. The attached exhibit consists of the “Employer Section” of what is presumably a large document. ECF No. 61. It includes a workers compensation claim No. and is signed on behalf of the City by the “Health and Safety Chief.” Id.

         B. Defendant's Response

         The City construes Plaintiff's motion as asserting two grounds for relief from judgment: (1) an argument Plaintiff's “overtime compensation was calculated improperly, resulting in a diminished retirement income”; and (2) an assertion Plaintiff “was mentally unfit to understand and to participate in the exercise of his legal rights.” ECF No. 56 at 1. The City argues the motion is untimely because brought more than one year after entry of judgment and fails in any event because “[n]either Plaintiff's allegations of a ...


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