Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court

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The parties, Stone and Thompson, met in 1983 and began a romantic relationship. Thompson was married to another man at the time and obtained a divorce in 1987. Later that year, Stone and Thompson had their first child. After Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, South Carolina in 1989, the parties had their second child and started living together. They continued to live, raise their children, and manage rental properties together for approximately 20 years, but ultimately ended their relationship after Thompson discovered Stone was having an affair with a woman in Costa Rica. In 2012, Stone filed an amended complaint in family court alleging, inter alia, he was entitled to a declaratory judgment that the parties were common-law married, a divorce, and an equitable distribution of alleged marital property. Thompson contended the parties were not common-law married, asserted several counterclaims, and sought dismissal of the case. If the trial court would not dismiss the case, Thompson sought to bifurcate the issues to first determine whether the parties were common-law married. After a hearing, the family court denied Thompson's motion to dismiss but granted her motion to bifurcate, ordering a trial on the sole issue of whether a common-law marriage existed between the parties. The court reasoned that, should it determine no marriage existed, it would not need to address the other issues in the case. The issue this appeal presented for the South Carolina Supreme Court’s review was whether the trial court order finding a common-law marriage, was immediately appealable under the general appealability statute, S.C. Code Ann. 14-3-330. The court of appeals held the order was interlocutory because it did not end the case, and further, that it was not immediately appealable under the statute. The Supreme Court concluded that because the order involved the merits of the causes of action, it reversed. View "Stone v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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Pamela Russell injured her back in 2009 while working at a Wal-Mart store in Conway, South Carolina. The worker’s compensation commission found Russell suffered a 7% permanent partial disability, and awarded her twenty-one weeks of temporary total disability compensation. In 2011, Russell requested review of her award, claiming there had been a "change of condition caused by the original injury" pursuant to subsection 42-17-90(A) of the South Carolina Code (2015). An appellate panel of the commission remanded Russell's change of condition claim to a single commissioner for what was a third ruling on the same claim. Russell appealed the remand order to the court of appeals, which dismissed the appeal on the ground the order was not a final decision, and thus not immediately appealable. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the remand order was immediately appealable because the commission's unwarranted delay in making a final decision required immediate review to avoid leaving Russell with no adequate remedy on an appeal from a final decision. The Court reversed the court of appeals' order dismissing the appeal, reversed the appellate panel's remand order, and remanded to any appellate panel of the commission for an immediate and final review of the original commissioner's decision. View "Russell v. Wal-Mart" on Justia Law

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On May 16, 2010, seventy pounds of copper wire and fifty pounds of aluminum tie wire were stolen from Aiken Electric Cooperative, Inc. In total, the stolen wire was worth $463.19. The following day, Mark Goss, Aiken's Loss Control and Safety Coordinator, and Deputy Maurice Huggins viewed a surveillance video from Aiken that depicted an unidentified black male removing copper and aluminum wiring from Aiken trucks. An Aiken employee also reported seeing a white Ford truck driving out of Aiken's parking lot around the time of the theft. As was Goss's typical practice when Aiken suffered a loss of this nature, Goss checked with local metal recyclers to see if the thief tried to sell the copper and aluminum. Following her arrest for receiving stolen goods, Meredith Huffman filed a complaint against the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Department (the Sheriff's Department), Sunshine Recycling, LLC (Sunshine), and Aiken Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Aiken), for negligence, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. Huffman later settled her claims against the Sheriff's Department, and the two parties filed a stipulation dismissing the Sheriff's Department from the action. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Sunshine and Aiken. The court of appeals reversed. Both Sunshine and Aiken filed petitions for writs of certiorari to review the court of appeals' opinion. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted the petitions, and reversed the court of appeals' opinion as to Sunshine, and affirmed as to Aiken. View "Huffman v. Sunshine Recycling" on Justia Law

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Virginia Marshall and her husband filed a medical malpractice claim against Dr. Kenneth Dodds (a nephrologist), Dr. Georgia Roane (a rheumatologist), and their respective practices, alleging negligent misdiagnosis against both Dodds and Roane. The circuit court granted Dodds' and Roane's motions for summary judgment, ruling these actions were barred by the statute of repose. The Marshalls appealed, and the court of appeals reversed and remanded the cases for trial. The South Carolina Supreme Court held the Marshalls' claims for negligent acts that occurred within the six-year repose period were timely. View "Marshall v. Dodds" on Justia Law

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Denise Wright was abducted and robbed at gunpoint by two unknown assailants in a common area of an apartment complex (Wellspring) in which she resided. Wellspring was owned by Respondent Franklin Pineridge Associates and operated by Respondent PRG Real Estate Management, Inc. Respondent Karen Campbell was Wellspring's property manager and an employee of PRG at the time of the incident. Wright sued Respondents for negligence, alleging Respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security to residents of Wellspring and breached this duty, thereby causing her damages. She also alleged Respondents were negligent in failing to properly maintain shrubbery and lighting on the premises. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Respondents on Wright's negligence claim. A divided court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Wright's petition for a writ of certiorari to review: (1) whether Respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security services to residents; (2) if such a duty existed under the facts of this case, whether there was a genuine issue of material fact that Respondents breached the duty; and (3) whether there was a genuine issue of material fact that any such breach proximately caused Wright's damages. The Supreme Court concluded the court of appeals erred in affirming the circuit court’ grant of summary judgment in favor or Respondents. The matter was remanded back to the circuit court for trial. View "Wright v. PRG Real Estate Management" on Justia Law

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Skydive Myrtle Beach, Inc. brought this lawsuit alleging Horry County, the Horry County Department of Airports, and several of their individually named employees improperly attempted to remove Skydive from the space it leased at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The circuit court dismissed Skydive's claims against the individually named employees pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, without allowing Skydive leave to amend its complaint. The court of appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion. Finding that the circuit court should have allowed Skydive an opportunity to amend its complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a), the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded the case to the circuit court to allow Skydive an opportunity to file its amended complaint. View "Skydive v. Horry" on Justia Law

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Edward Sloan and the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation (collectively, Appellants) filed suit alleging Act 275 of 2016 violated article III, section 17 of the South Carolina Constitution (the One Subject Rule). Appellants claimed Act 275's title was insufficient and its provisions related to more than one subject, thus violating the Rule. The trial court dismissed the complaint on numerous grounds. The South Carolina Supreme Court did not address all of these issues on certiorari review, but elected to resolve the appeal on the merits. While it has not hesitated to strike down legislation that violates the One Subject Rule, the Supreme Court has also respected the separation of powers doctrine and upheld legislation where a close question is presented. The constitutional challenge to Act 275 did not present a close question—Act 275 manifestly complied with the One Subject Rule. The trial court's dismissal of the complaint was affirmed. View "SC Public Interest Foundation v. SC House" on Justia Law

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The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted a certified question of South Carolina law from the federal district court, which stemmed from the construction of a home near Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Mark Lawrence constructed his home using structural insulated panels manufactured by General Panel Corporation. Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are a structural alternative to traditional wood-frame construction. Lawrence claims faulty installation of the General Panel SIPs used in constructing his home allowed water intrusion, which in turn caused the panels to rot, damaging the structural integrity of his home. He brought a claim in federal district court alleging General Panel was liable for providing defective installation instructions to the subcontractor installing the SIPs. General Panel filed a motion for summary judgment, based on a South Carolina statute of repose: 15-3-640. The statute provided "No actions to recover damages based upon or arising out of the defective or unsafe condition of an improvement to real property may be brought more than eight years after substantial completion of the improvement." General Panel's relief depended on the date of "substantial completion." The subcontractor completed the installation of the SIPs in Lawrence's home by March 2007. The home was not finished, however, until over a year later. Charleston County issued a certificate of occupancy on December 10, 2008. Lawrence filed his lawsuit against General Panel on December 8, 2016, more than eight years after installation of the SIPs, but less than eight years after the certificate of occupancy was issued. The federal district court asked whether South Carolina Act 27 of 2005 amended section 15-3- 640 (Supp. 2018) so that the date of "substantial completion of the improvement" is measured from the date of the certificate of occupancy (unless the parties establish a different date by written agreement), thereby superseding the South Carolina Supreme Court's decision in Ocean Winds Corp. of Johns Island v. Lane, 556 S.E.2d 377 (2001). The Supreme Court responded in the negative: the 2005 amendments did not supersede Ocean Winds. View "Lawrence v. General Panel Corp." on Justia Law

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The merits of this appeal centered on three parcels of land, serving as links in a chain necessary to satisfy contiguity requirements of annexation. The first link, the Ten-Foot Strip, was a ten-foot wide, 1.25 mile-long parcel of land in the National Forest, which was managed by the United States Forest Service. The second link was property owned by the Mt. Nebo AME Church (Church Tract), and the third link was approximately 360 acres of unimproved real estate surrounded by the National Forest on three sides (Nebo Tract). In the fall of 2003, the Town of Awendaw sought to annex the Ten-Foot Strip, which required a petition signed by the Forest Service. The Town's representatives sent the Forest Service four letters from November 2003 through February 2004 in an effort to obtain its approval. The sole question before the South Carolina Supreme Court was whether Petitioners Lynne Vicary, Kent Prause, and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League possessed standing to contest the Town’s annexation of land within the Francis Marion National Forest (Ten-Foot Strip). Because the Town allegedly acted nefariously in using a decade-old letter as a petition for annexation, the circuit court found Petitioners had standing and reached the merits. The court of appeals reversed, finding Petitioners lacked standing. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding Petitioners had standing to challenge the annexation of the Ten-Foot Strip. View "Vicary v. Town of Awendaw" on Justia Law

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McCormick County voters elected Clarke Anderson Stearns as their Sheriff in the November 8, 2016, general election. After the election, Appellants brought this action alleging "Stearns does not possess the necessary qualifications to be Sheriff of McCormick County." Based on that claim, Appellants "specifically request[ed]" the circuit court issue an order "enjoining the Defendant Stearns from serving as Sheriff of McCormick County." Before the circuit court action was filed, however, the losing candidate in the general election, J.R. Jones, filed a Title 7 election protest with the McCormick County Board of Canvassers. Jones filed the challenge on November 16, 2016. The county board held a hearing on November 21. By a vote of 3-to-3, the county board took no action on Jones's protest. Jones did not appeal the county board's decision. Jones then filed this action in circuit court on December 7, 2016, joined as plaintiff by the South Carolina Democratic Party and the McCormick County Democratic Party. This appeal presented two issues for the South Carolina Supreme Court's resolution: (1) whether a challenge to an elected official's legal qualifications to serve in the office to which he has just been elected must be brought pursuant to the administrative provisions of Title 7 of the South Carolina Code, or whether such a challenge may be brought in circuit court; and (2) whether the "certified law enforcement officer" requirement to serve as sheriff, found in subsection 23-11- 110(A)(5) of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2018), required the certification to come from South Carolina authorities, as opposed to authorities in another state. The Supreme Court determined the plaintiffs in this case were permitted to bring the action in circuit court, but the necessary certification to serve as sheriff need not come from South Carolina authorities. The Court affirmed the result of the circuit court's decision, which did not remove the elected McCormick County Sheriff from office. View "Jones v. South Carolina Republican Party" on Justia Law