McCree v. Chester Police Dep't, Civil Action 0:20-cv-00867-JMC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
PartiesVickie J. McCree, As Personal Representative of the Estate of Ariane L. McCree, Plaintiff, v. Chester Police Department; City of Chester; Walmart Inc.; Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.; Justin M. Baker, in his individual capacity; Nicholas Harris, in his individual capacity, Defendants.
Decision Date20 August 2021
Docket NumberCivil Action 0:20-cv-00867-JMC

Vickie J. McCree, As Personal Representative of the Estate of Ariane L. McCree, Plaintiff,
v.

Chester Police Department; City of Chester; Walmart Inc.; Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.; Justin M. Baker, in his individual capacity; Nicholas Harris, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

Civil Action No. 0:20-cv-00867-JMC

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

August 20, 2021


ORDER AND OPINION

Plaintiff Vickie J. McCree (“Plaintiff”), as Personal Representative of the Estate of Ariane L. McCree, brought this action in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. (See ECF No. 1.) Defendants removed this action on February 27, 2020. (ECF No. 1.) This matter is before the court on the motion of Defendants Chester Police Department and City of Chester (“Chester Defendants”) to dismiss/strike pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(f)[1] of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 45.) In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g) (D.S.C.), the matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for pretrial handling. On January 29, 2021, the Magistrate Judge issued an Order and Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 72) recommending that Chester Defendants' Motion to Dismiss be denied without prejudice and denying Chester Defendants' Motion to Strike. For the reasons set forth below, the court REJECTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 72) and GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 45) claims against Defendant Chester Police Department. The court DENIES Chester Defendants' Motion to Alter or Amend (ECF No. 82).

I. BACKGROUND

The Report sets forth the relevant facts and legal standards which this court incorporates herein without a full recitation. (See ECF No. 72.) The court will only reference additional facts that are pertinent to the analysis of the issues before it. (Id. at 1.) This action arises out of the shooting of Ariane McCree at a Walmart store in Chester, South Carolina by Chester Police Officers Justin M. Baker and Nicholas Harris. (Id.) Plaintiff, as the personal representative of McCree's estate, filed this action under the South Carolina Torts Claims Act (“SCTCA”) (S.C. Code Ann. § 15-78-10 et seq.) against Walmart, the officers, and separately, the City of Chester and the Chester Police Department. (Id.)

On November 16, 2020, Chester Defendants filed a motion for partial dismissal and/or to strike. (ECF No. 45.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion (ECF No. 59), and Chester Defendants filed a reply (ECF No. 61). On January 29, 2021, the Magistrate Judge issued an Order and Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 72) recommending that Chester Defendants' Motion to Dismiss be denied without prejudice and denying Chester Defendants' Motion to Strike. Chester Defendants filed an objection to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation (ECF No. 74) and a motion to alter or amend under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) (ECF No. 82). Plaintiff replied to Chester Defendants' objection (ECF No. 83) and responded to Chester Defendants' motion (ECF No. 88). Chester Defendants also filed a reply to Plaintiff's response to their Motion to Alter or Amend. (ECF No. 90.)

II. JURISDICTION

The court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, because the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and costs. For jurisdictional purposes, Plaintiff alleges that she is the duly appointed personal representative for the estate of Ariane Lamont McCree, who at all times herein, was a citizen and resident of Chester County, South Carolina. (ECF No. 41 at 2.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant City of Chester is a municipality created pursuant to the laws of South Carolina, Defendant Chester Police Department is a political subdivision of the City of Chester, and Defendants Nicholas Harris and Justin Baker are citizens of South Carolina. (Id. at 2-3.) Plaintiff asserts, upon information and belief, Defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. is a foreign limited partnership and Defendant Walmart Inc. is a foreign corporation. (Id. at 3.) The court is satisfied that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.00, exclusive of interest and costs. (See ECF No. 1.)

III. MOTION TO DISMISS

A. Legal Standard

1. Report and Recommendation

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court reviews de novo only those portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which specific objections are filed, and reviews those portions which are not objected to for clear error, including those portions to which only “general and conclusory” objections have been made. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005); Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983); Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the magistrate judge or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

2. Motion to Dismiss

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted); see also Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (“A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.”). To be legally sufficient, a pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2).

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion “should not be granted unless it appears certain that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts which would support its claim and would entitle it to relief.” Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Courts commonly refer to this as the Twombly/Iqbal standard for federal pleadings, which a plaintiff needs to overcome to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal. Brown-Thomas v. Hynie, 412 F.Supp.3d 600, 605 (D.C. 2019).

B. Analysis

1. The Magistrate Judge's Review

In the Report, the Magistrate Judge explained “Chester Defendants argue the Chester Police Department should be dismissed because it is not a separate legal entity apart from the City of...

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