THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
The Gynecology Clinic,
Inc., d/b/a Palmetto
State Medical Center, Respondent,
Pastor Michael Cloer
and Pastors for Life,
Appeal From Greenville County
Costa M. Pleicones, Circuit Court Judge
opinion No. 24920
Heard February 2, 1999 - Filed March 15, 1999
Terry Haskins, of Greenville; and James Matthew
Henderson, Sr., of The American Center for Law and
Justice, of Washington, DC, for appellants.
Suzanne E. Coe, of Law Office of Suzanne E. Coe, of
Greenville, for respondent.
PER CURIAM: This is an appeal from an order finding
GYNECOLOGY CLINIC, INC., etc. v. CLOER, et al.
appellants engaged in a civil conspiracy, and enjoining their picketing
activities directed towards respondent, an abortion services provider. We
Appellants first assert that, because their actions are protected
by the First Amendment, they cannot be the basis for a civil conspiracy.
Under South Carolina law, "lawful acts may become actionable as a civil
conspiracy when the object is to ruin or damage the business of another."'
LaMotte v. Punch Line of Columbia, Inc., 296 S.C. 66, 370 S.E.2d 711
(1988). The record is replete with evidence that appellants' goal is to
discourage women from patronizing respondent's business with the goal of
making abortion unavailable. Assuming appellants' acts were lawful, that
fact does not prevent the finding of a civil conspiracy. LaMotte v. Punch
Line of Columbia, Inc., supra.
Appellants next contend that respondent did not prove a
conspiracy because respondent did not show special damages. An action for
civil conspiracy is an action at law, and the trial judge's findings will be
upheld on appeal unless they are without evidentiary support. Future
Group II v. Nationsbank, 324 S.C. 89, 478 S.E.2d 45 (1996). In a conspiracy
action, what is required is proof of the fact of damages, not certainty of
amount. Charles v. Texas Co., 199 S.C. 156, 18 S.E.2d 719 (1942). "The
elements which go to make up such damages must depend on the nature of
the act and the injury." Id. Appellants' own literature, which claims to have
damaged respondent by causing a dramatic drop in the number of abortions
performed at the clinic, is itself evidence of damages. We affirm the trial
judge's damages findings. Future Group II v. Nationsbank, supra.
Finally, appellants raise numerous evidentiary challenges to the
findings of the trial judge which form the basis for the injunctive relief
granted respondent. We find no evidentiary or constitutional error in the
injunction issued here. Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New
York, 519 U.S. 357, 117 S.Ct. 855, 137 L.Ed. 1 (1997); Madsen v. Women's
Health Center, Inc., 512 U.S. 753~ 114 S.Ct. 2516, 129 L.Ed. 2d 593 (1994).
Accordingly, the order appealed from is
GYNECOLOGY CLINIC, INC. etc. v. CLOER, et al.