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Vennings v. Sigal

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

October 10, 2019

Earl Vennings, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Ryan Harris Sigal, Esquire, and Amelia Leeke, Esquire, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARY GORDON BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is a civil action filed by someone representing himself. Under Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), pretrial proceedings in this action have been referred to the assigned United States Magistrate Judge. Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c) (D.S.C.), the undersigned is authorized to review the filings and make a recommendation to the District Judge. For the following reasons, the undersigned recommends summarily dismissing this case.

         ALLEGATIONS IN THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

         This case arises out of a 2016 traffic accident in which Vennings was involved. (Dkt. No. 12 at 5.) Vennings retained Defendants Leeke and Sigal to represent him in connection with the accident. (See Id. at 4-6.) Vennings alleges Defendants pressured him into signing a settlement agreement that he did not want to sign. (Id. at 5-6.) He further alleges Defendants breached that contract, thereby violating his civil rights. (Id. at 4.) He is suing them for damages under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). (Id.)

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Vennings filed this action on September 10, 2019. (See Dkt. No. 1.) He submitted with his complaint an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Dkt. No. 3.) The undersigned granted that application and then screened his complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The undersigned then issued an order notifying Vennings his complaint failed to state any claims for which this Court could grant relief. (Dkt. No. 8.) After explaining the defects in the complaint, the undersigned gave Vennings leave to file an amended complaint that cured the original pleading's defects. (Id. at 2.) Vennings then filed the amended complaint at issue here. (Dkt. No. 12.) Thus, this matter is ripe for another round of initial screening.

         DISCUSSION

         The granting of in forma pauperis status in a case triggers a district court's duty to “sift out claims that Congress found not to warrant extended judicial treatment.” Nagy v. FMC Butner, 376 F.3d 252, 256 (4th Cir. 2004). The Court must dismiss any cases that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         As to failure to state a claim, a complaint filed in federal court “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). When a court analyzes a complaint for facial plausibility, it must accept the factual allegations as true. Id. The court need not, however, accept as true the complaint's legal conclusions. Id. When “it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations, ” Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), the complaint fails to state a claim.

         The undersigned has screened the amended complaint under § 1915(e)(2)(B), construing it liberally because Vennings is pro se. See, e.g., Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Nevertheless, even liberally construed, the amended complaint fails to state a claim for relief.

         Vennings states he is suing Defendants under Bivens. (Dkt. No. 12 at 4.) Bivens allows people to sue federal officials in certain limited scenarios. However, Defendants are attorneys in private practice who represented Vennings in a civil personal injury matter. Private lawyers with no connection to the federal government cannot be sued under Bivens. Guess v. Hipps, No. 3:19-cv-400-CMC, 2019 WL 2360868, at *2 (D.S.C. May 28, 2019); Boyd v. Angelica Textile Servs., No. 3:12-cv-334-JFA-PJG, 2012 WL 2260235, at *3 (D.S.C. May 18, 2012), report and recommendation adopted, 2012 WL 2237167 (D.S.C. June 15, 2012), affd, 491 Fed.Appx. 425 (4th Cir. 2012).

         For that reason, the amended complaint is subject to summary dismissal. When a complaint's defects can be remedied through amendment, a district court should allow the plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended pleading that fixes the defects. Here, however, the Court has already provided Vennings an opportunity to do that. The amended complaint fails to state a claim not merely because of pleading defects, but also because well-established legal principles plainly bar his claims. Because “it is clear that further amendment to the complaint would not cure the complaint's defects, ” Mateen-El v. Bell, 747 Fed.Appx. 169, 169 n.1 (4th Cir. 2019) (per curiam), the Court should dismiss this case with prejudice. See Guess, 2019 WL 2360868, at *2 (dismissing case with prejudice after plaintiff submitted amended complaint that did not cure original pleading's defects).

         CONCLUSION

         For the above reasons, the undersigned recommends summarily dismissing this case, with prejudice ...


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