Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court
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Petitioner Leisel Paradis’ civil conspiracy claim was dismissed by the circuit court for failing to plead special damages, and the dismissal was upheld by the court of appeals. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari to consider the narrow question whether South Carolina's requirement of pleading special damages should be abolished. The Court concluded that it should: “South Carolina is the only state with this unique requirement as an element, and we find it resulted from a misinterpretation of law. We overrule precedent that requires the pleading of special damages and return to the traditional definition of civil conspiracy in this state.” Consequently, the decision of the court of appeals was reversed and the matter remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Paradis v. Charleston County School District" on Justia Law

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Kristina Knight agreed to an endorsement to her Nationwide automobile insurance policy providing the coverage in the policy would not apply to her husband. During the policy period, Danny Knight was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. Knight, as personal representative of Danny's estate, recovered $25,000 in UIM coverage under Danny's motorcycle insurance policy with Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and $25,000 in UIM coverage under a policy with ACCC Insurance Company insuring a different vehicle Danny owned. Knight made a claim with Nationwide to recover an additional $25,000 in UIM coverage under her insurance policy. Nationwide denied the claim and filed this lawsuit asking the trial court to declare Nationwide did not have to pay the $25,000 because Danny was excluded from all coverages under the policy. On appeal, Knight claimed the endorsement excluding coverage for her husband violated public policy and Nationwide could not enforce it. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the exclusion was clear and unambiguous and was not in violation of any statute. Therefore, the Court held the exclusion was enforceable. View "Nationwide Insurance Company of America v. Knight" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina certified a question to the South Carolina Supreme Court on whether a homeowner's insurance policy that did not define the term "actual cash value," an insurer could depreciate the cost of labor in determining the "actual cash value" of a covered loss when the estimated cost to repair or replace the damaged property includes both materials and embedded labor components. This issue arose in two cases in which the homes of Miriam Butler and Joseph Stewart were damaged in separate fires. Butler and Stewart each purchased a homeowner's insurance policy from one of the defendants, both of whom were subsidiaries of The Travelers Companies, Inc. Butler and Stewart elected not to immediately repair or replace their damaged property. Each thus elected not to receive replacement cost but instead to receive a cash payment for the ACV of the damaged property. The certified question addressed whether Travelers properly calculated the ACV payments Travelers offered to Butler and Stewart to settle their property damage claims. The Supreme Court responded affirmatively: “the fact the labor cost is embedded makes it impractical, if not impossible, to include depreciation for materials and not for labor to determine ACV of the damaged property. Rather, the value of the damaged property is reasonably calculated as a unit. Therefore, we answer the certified question "yes," because it makes no sense for an insurer to include depreciation for materials and not for embedded labor.” View "Butler v. The Travelers Home" on Justia Law

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George Glassmeyer sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the South Carolina Lottery Commission for information relating to million-dollar lottery winners. The Lottery Commission claimed the information sought was "personal" and "disclosure . . . would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy." Instead, the Lottery Commission disclosed the hometown and state of each winner, the amount of each prize, the date of each prize, and the game associated with each prize. Glassmeyer responded that the Lottery Commission's disclosure did not satisfy his requests. The Lottery Commission then filed this lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that the release of lottery winners' names, addresses, telephone numbers, and forms of identification would constitute an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy under subsection 30-4-40(a)(2) and could be withheld. The Lottery Commission also sought injunctive relief preventing Glassmeyer from obtaining the information. The circuit court granted the Lottery Commission's motion and declared the release of the lottery winners' personal identifying information as an unreasonably invasion of personal privacy, and also entered an injunction permanently restraining Glassmeyer from seeking the lottery winners' full names, addresses, telephone numbers, and forms of identification. The court of appeals reversed, by the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed: "a proper injunction could restrict Glassmeyer only from seeking this information from the Lottery Commission. The Lottery Commission had no right to request an injunction permanently restraining Glassmeyer from seeking this information from any source, and the circuit court had no authority to prevent Glassmeyer from doing so." View "South Carolina Lottery Commission v. Glassmeyer" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the South Carolina Supreme Court's review centered on whether an order of the Administrative Law Court (ALC) that includes a remand to a state agency is a final decision, and thus appealable. Petitioner South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) appealed an adverse ruling rendered by the ALC. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal as interlocutory. After review, the Supreme Court determined the ALC's order here was a final decision notwithstanding the remand to the SCDC. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for the court of appeals to address the merits of SCDC's appeal. View "Torrence v. SCDOC" on Justia Law

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On November 5, 2010, James Nix poured kerosene from a gasoline can onto a burn pile in his yard. The kerosene ignited, and the flame entered the gas can through its unguarded pour spout. The gas can exploded and sprayed kerosene and fire onto Nix's five-year-old son Jacob, who was standing only a few yards away. Jacob suffered severe burn injuries to over 50% of his skin and was permanently scarred. Blitz U.S.A., Inc. manufactured the gas can. Blitz distributed the gas can involved in Jacob's injury through Fred's, a retail store chain headquartered in Tennessee. Fred's sold the gas can to a consumer at its store in the town of Varnville, in Hampton County, South Carolina. The explosion and fire that burned Jacob occurred at Nix's home in Hampton County, South Carolina. In 2013, Jacob's aunt Alice Hazel, his legal guardian, and Jacob's mother Melinda Cook, filed separate but almost identical lawsuits in state court in Hampton County seeking damages for Jacob's injuries. Both plaintiffs asserted claims against Blitz on strict liability, breach of warranty, and negligence theories. Both plaintiffs asserted claims against Fred's for strict liability and breach of warranty based on the sale of the allegedly defective gas can. Both plaintiffs also asserted a claim against Fred's on a negligence theory based only on Fred's negligence, not based on the negligence of Blitz. This is the claim important to this appeal, referred to as "Hazel's claim." Petitioner Fred's Stores of Tennessee, Inc. contended the circuit court erred by refusing to enjoin these lawsuits under the terms of a bankruptcy court order and injunction entered in the bankruptcy proceedings of Blitz U.S.A., Inc. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the circuit court correctly determined the bankruptcy court's order and injunction did not protect Fred's from these lawsuits. The matter was remanded back to the circuit court for discovery and trial. View "Hazel v. Blitz U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law

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This action involves a dispute stemming from the removal of a drainage pipe running across neighboring properties. The pipe was part of an easement originally owned by the Seabrook Island Property Owners Association (SIPOA) and was intended to carry away stormwater from a road within the community, with a pipe running through the backyard portions of seven contiguous lots. Over the years, the pipe degraded and began draining standing water from the backyards of those seven lots. Nearly twenty years later, SIPOA installed a new drainage system for the road. At a property owner's request, SIPOA formally abandoned the easement, though the old, degraded pipe remained in place. Petitioners Paul and Susan McLaughlin later purchased one of the seven lots containing the old drainage pipe (Lot 22). After years of meetings and consultation with SIPOA and their neighbors, Petitioners removed the pipe and built a new house over the area in which the pipe was previously located. Respondents Richard and Eugenia Ralph owned the parcel next door to Petitioners (Lot 23). Following removal of the old pipe, Respondents claimed their backyard flooding became worse that it already was and sued Petitioners. A jury awarded Respondents $1,000 in "nominal" damages, and they appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial on damages alone. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed, finding the trial court did not err in any respect, thus reversing the appellate court's decision. View "Ralph v. McLaughlin" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a civil action to collect a debt under a contract that contained an arbitration provision. The defendants appealed the master in equity's order refusing to set aside the entry of their default. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal on the basis that an order refusing to set aside an entry of default was not immediately appealable. The defendants filed a petition for a writ of certiorari claiming the order was immediately appealable because it had the effect of precluding their motion to compel arbitration, and in fact, the order states, "Defendants' motion to stay and compel arbitration is denied as [the defendants are] in default." Finding no reversible error, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals. View "Palmetto Construction Group, LLC v. Restoration Specialists, LLC" on Justia Law

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Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company ("Nationwide") relied on flight-from-law enforcement and felony step-down provisions in an automobile liability insurance policy to limit its coverage to the statutory mandatory minimum. Following a bench trial and after issuance of the South Carolina Supreme Court's opinion in Williams v. Government Employees Insurance Co. (GEICO), 409 S.C. 586 (2014), the circuit court held the step-down provisions were void pursuant to Section 38-77-142(C) of the South Carolina Code (2015). The court of appeals reversed. Three individuals, Sharmin Walls, Randi Harper, and Christopher Timms, were passengers in a vehicle driven by Korey Mayfield that crashed in 2008 following a high-speed chase by law enforcement. Mayfield refused to pull over, and during the chase, the trooper's vehicle reached speeds of 109 miles per hour. All the passengers begged Mayfield to stop the car, but Mayfield refused. Eventually, the trooper received instructions to terminate the pursuit, which he did. Nevertheless, Mayfield continued speeding and lost control of the vehicle. Timms died in the single-car accident, and Walls, Harper, and Mayfield sustained serious injuries. After being charged with reckless homicide, Mayfield entered an Alford plea. At the time of the accident, Walls' automobile was insured through her Nationwide policy, which included bodily injury and property damage liability coverage with limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence. Walls also maintained uninsured motorist (UM) coverage for the same limits, but she did not have underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. In reliance on the aforementioned provisions, Nationwide paid only $50,000 in total to the injured passengers (the statutory minimum as provided by law) rather than the liability limits stated in the policy. Safe Auto, Mayfield's insurance company, also paid a total of $50,000 to the passengers. Nationwide brought this declaratory judgment action requesting the court declare that the passengers were not entitled to combined coverage of more than $50,000 for any claims arising from the accident. Walls answered, denying there was any evidence that the flight-from-law enforcement and felony provisions applied. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, holding that section 38-77-142(C) rendered Nationwide's attempt to limit the contracted-for liability insurance to the mandatory minimum void. View "Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Walls" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned the enforceability of an arbitration agreement executed between Ashley River Plantation, an assisted-living facility, and Thayer Arredondo, the attorney-in-fact under two powers of attorney executed by Hubert Whaley, a facility resident. When Whaley was admitted into the facility, Arredondo held two valid powers of attorney, a General Durable Power of Attorney (GDPOA) and a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA). Arredondo met with a facility representative and signed various documents in connection with Whaley's admission. During that meeting, the facility representative did not mention or present an arbitration agreement to Arredondo. Later that day, after Whaley was admitted, Arredondo met with a different facility representative who, according to Arredondo, told her she "needed to sign additional documents related to [her] father's admission to the facility." Included among those documents was the arbitration agreement, which Arredondo signed. The arbitration agreement contained a mutual waiver of the right to a trial by judge or jury, and required arbitration of all claims involving potential damages exceeding $25,000. The agreement barred either party from appealing the arbitrators' decision, prohibited an award of punitive damages, limited discovery, and provided Respondents the unilateral right to amend the agreement. Two years into his stay at the facility, Whaley was admitted to the hospital, where he died six years later. Arredondo, as Personal Representative of Whaley's estate, brought this action alleging claims for wrongful death and survival against Respondents. The complaint alleged that during his residency at the facility, Whaley suffered serious physical injuries and died as a result of Respondents' negligence and recklessness. In an unpublished opinion, the court of appeals held the arbitration agreement was enforceable. The South Carolina Supreme Court held neither power of attorney gave Arredondo the authority to sign the arbitration agreement. Therefore, the court of appeals was reversed. View "Arredondo v. SNH SE Ashley River Tenant, LLC" on Justia Law