Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. v. Holmes (In re Holmes), C/A No. 19-01644-DD

Decision Date07 January 2020
Docket NumberAdv. Pro. No. 19-80053-DD,C/A No. 19-01644-DD
Citation610 B.R. 541
CourtU.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of South Carolina
Parties IN RE, Cynthia Collie HOLMES, Debtor. Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A., Plaintiff, v. Cynthia Collie Holmes, Defendant.

Cynthia Collie Holmes, pro se.

Mary M. Caskey, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, PA, Columbia, SC, for Plaintiff.

Richard R. Gleissner, Gleissner Law Firm, LLC, Columbia, SC, for Defendant.


David R. Duncan, Chief US Bankruptcy Judge THIS MATTER is before the Court on Cynthia Holmes's ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss ("Motion") the complaint in this adversary proceeding. The complaint seeks a determination that the debt due the plaintiff, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. ("HSB"), by Defendant is not discharged by Defendant's bankruptcy pursuant to 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6). Defendant filed the original Motion on October 11, 2019 and amended the Motion on December 2, 2019. On December 3, 2019, HSB filed an objection to the Motion. On December 11, 2019, Defendant filed a memorandum to supplement her Motion. The Court held a hearing on December 17, 2019. For the reasons below, the Court grants Defendant's Motion.


This matter stems from litigation commenced by Defendant against East Cooper Community Hospital ("East Cooper"). Defendant is both an ophthalmologist and an attorney. On September 10, 1997, Defendant lost her privileges to treat patients at East Cooper. On May 5, 1998, HSB began representing Defendant and pursued an unsuccessful appeal for reinstatement of Defendant's privileges at East Cooper. At Defendant's behest, HSB filed a lawsuit in federal court and requested a temporary injunction to reinstate Defendant's privileges at East Cooper. On November 22, 1999, the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina granted the temporary injunction. The court's decision to grant the temporary injunction was based, in part, on Defendant's statement in an affidavit that her patients needed prompt surgeries and that her inability to perform such surgeries was causing her to lose patients. The district court dissolved the temporary injunction on January 25, 2000, finding that Defendant did not perform any surgeries subsequent to the temporary injunction. Thereafter, a fee dispute arose between Defendant and HSB, and the relationship between Defendant and HSB quickly deteriorated.

The district court granted summary judgment in East Cooper's favor on April 17, 2000. Defendant then sought the repayment of attorney's fees she remitted to HSB for legal services up to that point. HSB refused. On April 1, 2002, Defendant filed a complaint against HSB, alleging professional malpractice and several other claims.1 Defendant filed her summons and complaint in Charleston County. On July 2002, HSB successfully moved to transfer venue to Richland County. Litigation over various issues, including venue and Defendant's attempt to proceed under a pseudonym, continued for several years. On March 29, 2007, the circuit court transferred venue back to Charleston County, and the case proceeded. Trial began on June 8, 2009. On June 12, 2009, the circuit court granted HSB's directed verdict as to all causes of action. The court cited multiple reasons for its decisions. One such reason was Defendant's failure to present any evidence or expert testimony to establish the elements of her claims. The court signed the formal order to this effect on July 14, 2009.

Thereafter, HSB moved for sanctions against Defendant under Rule 11 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, the Frivolous Civil Proceedings Sanctions Act, S.C. Code Ann. § 15-36-10, and pursuant to the court's inherent authority to award attorneys' fees where the losing party has acted in bad faith. The circuit court granted HSB's motion for sanctions on November 18, 2009 in the amount of $200,000.00 (the "Judgment"). In its order granting HSB's motion for sanctions, the court expounded:

[Defendant] filed a non-meritorious and baseless lawsuit. Prior to filing suit, [Defendant] obviously conducted no serious investigation of the facts she would be required to prove to substantiate her wide-ranging claim. Rather, the entire tenor of Dr. Holmes' case appears to be her belief that she is right and her former lawyers and 4 other courts are all wrong. [Defendant] failed to develop any evidence that could satisfy her burden of proof at trial. Any reasonable attorney would conclude that [Defendant's] entire case was completely frivolous and was brought, and continued for seven years, without any reasonable basis.
[Defendant] engaged in dilatory litigation tactics and appealed numerous interlocutory matters, including orders regarding venue and several orders on discovery matters. These appeals were likewise frivolous and dilatory. [Defendant] also has submitted numerous affidavits and memoranda accusing [HSB] and defense counsel of engaging in all manner of inappropriate and abusive conduct, each of which has been dismissed and discounted by the Court, and all of which were submitted without reasonable basis. [Defendant] has never accepted the rulings of the Court and has moved for reconsideration on each and every order denying whatever relief she sought, sometimes multiple times.
.... [Defendant] presented no expert testimony regarding the essential elements of her attorney malpractice claim and presented no testimony or evidence that anything done by [HSB] or not done by [HSB] was wrong. Furthermore, the record contains no evidence that [Defendant] suffered any damages as a proximate result of anything [HSB] either did or did not do. In short, [Defendant's] claims were so utterly baseless and lacking in any evidentiary support that no reasonable lawyer, judge, or jury could conceivably think her claims had any merit whatsoever.
.... Given my opportunities to observe and hear [Defendant], I have no doubt she is sincere in her beliefs about this case. It is just that her beliefs are not reasonable. Any competent, reasonable attorney would reach this conclusion. Some of her unreasonable conclusions can be attributed to the fact that she has never really practiced law in any real sense of those words ... [H]er entire case consisted of a belief that everything bad that has happened in her career was the fault of [HSB]. Sadly, her blame was, and is, totally misplaced. This case never should have been brought in the first place.
.... I find that [Defendant's] case against [HSB] was completely baseless and that she is subject to sanction based upon the inherent authority of courts to sanction litigants who act in bad faith, vexatiously, that is, without proper grounds, or for oppressive and improper purposes. It is not her actual intent to harm, but harm is the reasonably foreseeable outcome .

Holmes v. Haynsworth, Sinkler & Boyd, P.A. , No. 07-cp-10-1444 (S.C. Ct. Com. Pl. Nov. 18, 2009) (emphasis added). On June 4, 2014, the Supreme Court of South Carolina affirmed the circuit court's decision in Holmes v. Haynsworth, Sinkler & Boyd, P.A. , 408 S.C. 620, 760 S.E.2d 399 (2014), finding on claims against other defendants abrogated by Stokes-Craven Holding Corp. v. Robinson , 416 S.C. 517, 787 S.E.2d 485 (2016).

In 2017, HSB commenced formal efforts to collect the Judgment, filing its Verified Petition on January 3, 2017 in the Court of Common Pleas for Charleston County. In response, Defendant filed two motions for sanctions, two motions to set aside the Judgment, and a motion to dismiss. The court entered an order striking all motions filed by Defendant. Defendant subsequently filed three appeals with the South Carolina Court of Appeals and a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the South Carolina Supreme Court. All appeals were dismissed, and the Supreme Court of South Carolina denied Defendant's Petition.

On November 1, 2017, Defendant filed a complaint against HSB and other defendants in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina (the "District Court case"), asserting a cause of action for HSB's alleged violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. , ("FDCPA"), along with other causes of action.2 On July 11, 2018, HSB filed a motion to dismiss. On October 31, 2018, the United States Magistrate Judge issued a report and recommendation ("R & R"), recommending that one of the defendants, Judge Mikell Scarborough, a state court judicial officer, be dismissed as a party-defendant; that Defendant's federal causes of action be dismissed; and that Defendant's remaining state law causes of action be dismissed without prejudice. [Docket No. 71 in the District Court case]. The district court entered an order adopting the R & R and granting HSB's Motion to Dismiss on March 29, 2019.3 [Docket No. 95 in the District Court case].

The Magistrate entered a text order denying Defendant's motion to strike and motion to stay on June 13, 2018. [Docket No. 24 in the District Court case]. On September 7, 2018, Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of the Magistrate's order. [Docket No. 50 in the District Court case]. The Magistrate entered a text order denying Defendant's motion for reconsideration on September 24, 2018. [Docket No. 59 in the District Court case]. Defendant then appealed the Magistrate's text order denying her motion to reconsider to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit granted HSB's motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the Magistrate's order was neither a final order nor an appealable interlocutory or collateral order. The Fourth Circuit also denied Defendant's motion for an enlargement of time. Prior to the district court's dismissal of her case and while the district court was considering the Magistrate's R & R, Defendant filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy petition on March 22, 2019.

HSB filed its adversary complaint (the "Complaint") on August 12, 2019, asking this Court to deny Defendant a discharge on the Judgment....

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  • Milledge v. Carolina Acceptance (In re Milledge)
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    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of South Carolina
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    ...to the plaintiff." In re Jones , 618 B.R. 757, 762-63 (Bankr. D.S.C. 2020) (citing Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. v. Holmes (In re Holmes) , 610 B.R. 541, 546 (Bankr. D.S.C. 2020) ). When resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may consider documents beyond the complaint without converting......
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