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The summary following each opinion is prepared to offer lawyers and the public a general overview of what a particular opinion decides. The summary is not necessarily a full description of the issues discussed in an opinion.
7-3-2019 - Opinions
After a bench trial, the trial court ruled that Courtney Feely Karp breached her fiduciary duty as Trustee of a trust created by her late mother by not timely distributing certain trust proceeds to Hugh Dereede (Hugh), Karp's stepfather, and to Tyre Dealer Network Consultants, Inc. (Tyre), Hugh's company. The trial court also awarded Hugh attorney's fees and held Karp personally liable for the verdict. Karp appeals these rulings, which we now affirm.
Christy Byrd, as next friend of Julia B., a minor, appeals a trial court order denying her motion for a new trial and/or judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing the trial court erred in not finding the obstetric emergency statute inapplicable to this case as a matter of law. We affirm.
7-10-2019 - Opinions
In criminal law, the defense of accident is a recluse: it is seldom seen and often misunderstood. This appeal requires us to examine in full light the defense and the language trial courts use when explaining it to juries, focusing on when a defendant who is engaged in unlawful conduct may still be entitled to the defense. While we conclude the charge given here was sufficient, we propose a recommended charge for future cases. We also hold the trial court erred by admitting a family photograph of Jarrod Howard (Victim) in violation of Rule 403 of the South Carolina Rules of Evidence (SCRE), but find the error harmless. We therefore affirm appellant Ahshaad Mykiel Owens' convictions.
7-17-2019 - Opinions
In this appeal from a divorce action, Melissa Hagood (Wife) argues the family court erred in (1) characterizing the majority of the estate as the nonmarital property of James Hagood (Husband), (2) equitably apportioning the majority of the marital property to Husband, and (3) refusing to award her alimony. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.
In this criminal appeal, Michael Jay Finley appeals the circuit court's denial of his pro se motion to reconsider his sentence pursuant to Aiken v. Byars, 410 S.C. 534, 765 S.E.2d 572 (2014). Finley argues his mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole upon the service of thirty years' imprisonment is functionally equivalent to a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (LWOP), which violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments. We affirm.
This appeal follows the trial of a wrongful death and survival action. Sixteen-year-old John Corey Stringfellow (Corey) died from injuries sustained as a passenger in a family car being driven by his older brother, Cameron. The jury found Corey 51% negligent, barring his Estate from any recovery. Immediately after the verdict was published--and while the jury was still in the jury box--the trial court asked for any post-trial motions. The Estate moved for, among other things, a new trial under the thirteenth juror doctrine. After a hearing several weeks later on the Estate's motion, the trial court invoked the thirteenth juror doctrine and granted the motion for a new trial on the wrongful death portion of the Estate's claim. Travelers appeals, arguing the Estate's motion for a new trial was untimely under Rule 59(b), SCRE, and that the trial court erred in invoking the thirteenth juror doctrine. We affirm.
7-24-2019 - Opinions
Denise May (Wife) appeals the family court's grant of Keith May's (Husband's) motion to set aside judgment in the parties' divorce action based on mutual mistake pursuant to Rule 60, SCRCP. We affirm.
In this civil action arising from an automobile accident, Price and Bonnie Oulla (collectively, the Oullas) appeal the circuit court's order granting Patten Seed Company's motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Oullas argue the circuit court erred in finding: (1) the loader of a vehicle did not owe a duty under section 56-5-4100 of the South Carolina Code (2018) to ensure the load did not escape the vehicle; and (2) the loader of a vehicle that travelled on a public highway did not owe a common law duty to third-party drivers on public highways to ensure the load did not escape the vehicle. Further, the Oullas argue the circuit court erred in denying their motion to amend their complaint. We affirm.
In this civil matter, Richland County School District Two (the District), Eric Barnes, and Chuck Earles (collectively, Appellants) appeal the circuit court's award of actual and punitive damages to Jeffrey Kennedy in his defamation claim against them. Upon our initial consideration of this appeal, we reversed, finding Appellants acted within their qualified privilege. See Kennedy v. Richland Cty. Sch. Dist. Two, Op. No. 2017-UP-040 (S.C. Ct. App. filed Jan. 25, 2017). Respondent petitioned for a writ of certiorari. Our supreme court granted the writ, reversed our decision, and remanded the case to this court for consideration of Appellants' remaining issues on appeal. As to their remaining issues, Appellants contend the circuit court erred in (1) denying their motions for directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) regarding the defamation claim; (2) denying their motion for JNOV regarding individual capacity claims under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (SCTCA); (3) denying their motion for JNOV regarding punitive damages, or alternatively, for a new trial absolute or nisi remittitur, and in affirming the constitutionality of the punitive damages award; (4) excluding evidence of Kennedy's alleged theft and termination from a subsequent employer that occurred during the pendency of the trial; and (5) failing to instruct the jury that no defamatory communication was made as a result of Kennedy's termination from the District and that Kennedy's termination was not part of his defamation claim. On remand, we affirm.
Marion E. Crocker, Jr. appeals a circuit court order granting summary judgment to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on Crocker's discrimination claim brought under the South Carolina Human Affairs Law. On appeal, Crocker argues the circuit court erred in finding (1) the statute of limitations in section 1-13-90(d)(6) applied to his claim, (2) section 1-13-90(c) did not create a private right of action, and (3) Crocker was not entitled to equitable tolling of the statute of limitations. We affirm.
7-31-2019 - Opinions
George Glassmeyer appeals the circuit court's order granting declaratory and injunctive relief in this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case. On appeal, Glassmeyer argues the circuit court erred by (1) failing to address his counterclaims, (2) entering judgment on the pleadings, (3) finding the South Carolina Lottery Commission (SCLC) had standing to bring the action, and (4) failing to grant his motion to dismiss. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.