413 F.Supp. 1137 (D.S.C. 1976), Civ. A. 75-1138, Dennis v. Hein

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 75-1138
Citation:413 F.Supp. 1137
Party Name:Dennis v. Hein
Case Date:April 19, 1976
Court:United States District Courts, 4th Circuit, District of South Carolina

Page 1137

413 F.Supp. 1137 (D.S.C. 1976)

Randall Grady DENNIS, Plaintiff,


H. Ken HEIN, Individually, d/b/a Econo-Car of Columbia, and as agent for all of the corporate defendants hereinafter named, et al., Defendants.

Civ. A. No. 75--1138.

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

April 19, 1976

Page 1138

David J. Cooper, Jr., of Edens & Cooper and Calvo, Lee, Whitener & Graves, Columbia, S.C., for plaintiff.

Henry W. Kirkland of Kirkland, Aaron & Alley and Frank K. Sloan, Columbia, S.C., for H. Ken Hein, individually, d/b/a Econo-Car of Columbia and Columbia Leasing, Inc.

John U. Bell, III, of Nelson, Mullins, Grier & Scarborough, Columbia, S.C., for U-Haul Co. of S.C., Inc., U-Haul Co., and Amerco, Inc.

Hoover C. Blanton of Whaley, McCutchen & Blanton, Columbia, S.C., for Econo-Car Intern., Inc.


HEMPHILL, District Judge.

This action arose out of a dispute concerning payment for the use of a truck rented by plaintiff from defendant Hein's leasing operation, Econo-Car of Columbia. Plaintiff admittedly failed to pay the amount allegedly due because he considered it incorrect. According to the complaint, however, Hein attempted to coerce payment of the disputed amount by appearing before Richland County Magistrate Franchot A. Brown and swearing out a criminal warrant charging plaintiff with commission of breach of trust with fraudulent intent, a violation of S.C. Code Ann. s 16--365. Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested and imprisoned pursuant to the warrant and that, in order to secure his release, he was compelled to post bond in an amount approximately equal to that charged in the disputed bill. According to the complaint, the criminal proceedings against plaintiff were subsequently terminated in his favor when Magistrate Brown dismissed the charges at a preliminary hearing for lack of probable cause.

Page 1139

The complaint sets up three causes of action for abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and violation of 42 U.S.C. s 1983, the last apparently founded upon plaintiff's allegation that defendant Hein had established 'a method of operation or working relationship with the office and employees of the Columbia Magistrate' in order to effect collection of unpaid bills. Defendant Hein is sued individually, doing business as Econo-Car of Columbia, and the five corporate defendants are named as principals represented by Hein as their agent in the alleged illegal conduct. Defendant Econo-Car International, Inc. has moved to dismiss on the ground that the court lacks jurisdiction of any of the causes of action alleged. Resolution of the issues raised in this motion would appear to affect all defendants in an identical manner, but as only Econo-Car International, Inc. has filed a motion to dismiss, only that defendant will be directly affected by the decision herein.

It appears initially that the allegations of malicious prosecution and abuse of process are derived solely from state law and might be cognizable in this court, if at all, only because of their relationship to the alleged violation of 42 U.S.C. s 1983. The status of plaintiff's s 1983 claim is therefore most significant, and it appears that defendant should have moved under Rule 12(b) (6) for dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In its motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, defendant contends that the complaint fails to allege the necessary elements of a proper s 1983 claim and then urges the court to conclude that jurisdiction therefore exists under neither 28 U.S.C. s 1331 nor 28 U.S.C. s 1343. Similar arguments were made in York v. Story, 324 F.2d 450 (9th Cir. 1963), and the district court held that it lacked jurisdiction because the complaint failed to state a claim under s 1983. The Ninth Circuit regarded as 'surplusage' the holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction. Plaintiff had alleged jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. ss 1343(3) and (4) and the court stated:

In the amended complaint appellant, specifically invoking these subsections as a basis for jurisdiction, attempted to state a claim under section (1983). This was enough to establish district court jurisdiction, whether or not appellant succeeded in stating such a claim.

Where, as here, the Constitution and laws of the United States, if given the meaning ascribed to them by the plaintiff, establish a claim for relief in the federal courts on the basis of the facts alleged, the problem of determining whether the Constitution and laws have that meaning presents not a jurisdictional question but only one as to the sufficiency of the pleading to state a claim. The court in fact assumed jurisdiction when it decided, on the merits, that the amended complaint did not state a claim under section (1983).

324 F.2d at 453.

Defendant's motion to dismiss therefore must be considered as raising the issue of whether the complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted. There is no reason for the court not to proceed to decide the motion in that context, however, because the memoranda submitted by...

To continue reading