THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
In re: Ryan Investment
Co., Inc., Debtor,
Charles P. Summerall,
IV, Trustee for Ryan
Investment Co., Inc., Plaintiff/Appellee,
Richland County, a
political subdivision of
the State of South
Carolina, and Jeremiah
Of whom Jeremiah
Davis is Defendant/Appellant.
Opinion No. 24960
Heard April 6, 1999 - Filed June 28, 1999
CERTIFIED QUESTION ANSWERED
Reid B. Smith, of Columbia, for defendant/appellant.
Julius H. Hines, of Buist, Moore, Smythe & McGee,
P.A., of Charleston, for plaintiff/appellee.
MOORE, A.J.: Ryan Investment Co. (Debtor Corporation)
owned real property in Richland County that was sold at a tax sale for
In re: Ryan Investment Co., Inc.,
failure to pay 1992 taxes. The successful bidder assigned its bid to
defendant/appellant Davis (Buyer). Debtor Corporation subsequently filed
for relief in Bankruptcy Court. Plaintiff/appellee (Trustee) moved to set
aside the tax sale on the- ground the Richland County Treasurer had failed
to comply with statutory mailing requirements for the notice of
redemption. The Bankruptcy Court invalidated the tax sale and Buyer
appealed to the District Court. This case is now before us on certification
to answer the following questions:
1. Do the postal regulations excuse compliance with
the restricted delivery requirements of § 12-51-120
of the South Carolina Code of Laws, where the
owner of record is a corporation?
2. If the above question is answered in the affirmative,
must there be compliance with the restricted delivery
requirements where the owner of record is a corporation
but where a natural person has been designated as the
recipient of tax notices for the corporation?
At the time the redemption notice was mailed in this case, S.C. Code
Ann. § 12-51-120 provided that such notice must be sent to the owner of
record by "certified mail, return receipt requested- deliver to addressee
only."1 The Richland County Treasurer mailed the redemption notice by
certified mail, but did not restrict delivery to the addressee. The notice
Ryan Investment Co., Inc.
c/o H.H. Bresky
200 Boyleston Street, #325
Chestnut Hill, MA 02167
Buyer contends postal regulations do not allow restricted delivery
when the addressee is a corporation. He cites United States Postal
Services Domestic Mail Manual, §S916.1.1, which provides: "Restricted
delivery service permits a mailer to deliver only to the addressee or
addressee's authorized agent. The addressee must be an individual (or
1 This section was amended in 1996 to substitute the phrase "restricted
delivery" for "deliver to addressee only." The meaning is the same.
In re: Ryan Investment Co., Inc.,
natural person) specified by name."2 Accordingly, Buyer argues non
compliance with the restricted delivery requirement of § 12-51-120 should
be excused as a matter of law. We disagree.
Tax sales must be conducted in strict compliance with statutory
requirements. Dibble v. Bryant, 274 S.C. 481, 265 S.E.2d 673 (1980).
Even actual notice is insufficient to uphold a tax sale absent strict
compliance with statutory requirements. South Carolina Fed. Sav. Bank
v. Atlantic Land Title Co., 314 S.C. 292, 442 S.E.2d 630 (Ct. App. 1994)
(citing Aldridge v. Rutledge, 269 S.C. 475, 238 S.E.2d 165 (1977)). The
failure to mail a redemption notice by restricted delivery mail is ground to
invalidate a tax sale. Manji v. Blackwell, 323 S.C. 91, 473 S.E.2d 837 (Ct.
In light of this strict compliance rule, we find postal regulations in
and of themselves cannot excuse the failure to comply with statutory
mailing requirements. We hold attempted compliance with statutory
mailing requirements is required before non-compliance can be excused.
The party seeking to excuse non-compliance must demonstrate facts
indicating attempted compliance before the Court will consider the
adequacy of the mailing actually accomplished. Cf Hawkins v. Greenwood
Dev. Corp. 328 S.C. 585, 493 S.E.2d 875 (Ct. App. 1997) (party asserting
impossibility of performance as defense to contract has burden of showing
that the thing to be done cannot by any means be accomplished).
Here, there are no facts showing an attempt to have the Post Office
deliver the redemption notice by restricted delivery to Debtor Corporation
and therefore non-compliance with § 12-51-120 is not excused. In light of
this conclusion, we decline to address the second certified question. Since
no attempted compliance has been shown, we need not consider what
alternative mailing would otherwise be adequate.
CERTIFIED QUESTION ANSWERED.
FINNEY, C.J., TOAL, WALLER, and BURNETT, JJ., concur.
2 The certified facts in this case, however, indicate two instances where
the Post Office apparently delivered notices by restricted delivery to