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South Carolina
Judicial Department
Court of Appeals Published Opinions - July 2020

Note: Beginning in June 2012, opinions will be posted as Adobe PDFs. You can download a free copy of Adobe Reader here.

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.

7-1-2020 - Opinions

5733 - Jane Doe v. TCSC, LLC

TCSC, LLC, d/b/a Hendrick Toyota of North Charleston (Hendrick) appeals the circuit court's denial of its motion to stay Jane Doe's lawsuit against Hendrick and compel arbitration of her tort claims. We hold the parties' Arbitration Agreement did not clearly and unmistakably delegate the issue of whether the Agreement was valid and enforceable to the arbitrator. We further find a portion of the Agreement invalid as unconscionable. We conclude, though, that because the Agreement did delegate the interpretation and scope of the Agreement to the arbitrator, the motion to compel is remanded to the trial court with instructions to grant the motion so the arbitrator may determine whether the revised Agreement covers Doe's claims.

5734 - Hassell v. City of Columbia

The City of Columbia appeals a jury verdict awarding Darris Hassell $200,075 in his action against the City for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and negligent supervision. The City argues the circuit court erred in (1) refusing to order a new trial based on a juror's failure to disclose a prior arrest during voir dire and (2) denying its motion for a new trial nisi remittitur. We affirm.

5735 - Swicegood v. Thompson

In this appeal from the family court's dismissal of Cathy Swicegood's complaint alleging the existence of a common-law marriage between her and her same-sex partner, Polly Thompson, Swicegood argues the family court erred by dismissing the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We affirm.

5736 - Thompson v. Swicegood

Cathy Swicegood appeals the master-in-equity's order of partition, arguing the master erred by (1) refusing to consider the issue of the parties' alleged common-law marriage and stay the action pending a resolution of that issue in family court, (2) excluding evidence proving her contributions to jointly owned real property, (3) determining her contribution to such property, and (4) failing to apply the correct analysis when determining the parties' interests in the property. We affirm as modified.

5737 - Braxton, #119081 v. SCDC

Michael Todd Braxton appeals the order of the administrative law court (ALC) affirming the South Carolina Department of Corrections's (SCDC) final decision regarding his sentence. On appeal, Braxton argues the ALC erred in affirming SCDC's calculation of his sentence because SCDC did not award him credit for time served while he was (1) on parole, (2) incarcerated in Tennessee, and (3) awaiting extradition to South Carolina. We affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

7-8-2020 - Opinions

5739 - First Citizens v. Taylor

Smith Family, LLC, WHS Properties, LLC, and Wanda H. Smith (Appellants) appeal a master-in-equity's order based on First Citizens Bank and Trust Company, Inc.'s initiation of supplemental proceedings to collect on an order of judgment, arguing the master erred in (1) adjudicating a Statute of Elizabeth (SOE) claim as part of supplementary proceedings; (2) adjudicating facts without the opportunity for Appellants to present evidence; (3) not ruling on whether the subject property was exempt; (4) granting a motion to join Appellants; and (5) finding subject matter jurisdiction to add parties. We affirm.

5740 - Public Interest Foundation v. The City of Columbia

The South Carolina Public Interest Foundation and William DePass Jr. appeal the grant of summary judgment in the favor of the City of Columbia, Richland County, and Fairfield County arguing the circuit court erred in finding the inclusion of residential student dormitories in a multi-county industrial and business park and the granting of special source revenue credits to the dormitories does not violate the South Carolina Constitution or various statutory provisions. We affirm.

5741 - Lusk v. Verderosa

Martha "Linda" Lusk, Ph.D., argues the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on her tortious interference with contract cause of action by ruling a school administrator's contract could effectively never be tortiously interfered with pursuant to section 59-24-15 of the South Carolina Code (2020) and the supreme court's response to a certified question in Henry-Davenport v. School District of Fairfield County, 391 S.C. 85, 705 S.E.2d 26 (2011). We affirm as modified.

5742 - State v. Bell

Jermaine Bell appeals his conviction of murder, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Bell argues the circuit court erred in allowing the decedent's husband and daughter to testify regarding statements purportedly made by the decedent indicating that she believed Bell was stealing from her. We reverse.

5743 - DD Dannar, LLC v. SC LAUNCH!, Inc.

In this declaratory judgment action, Appellant DD Dannar, LLC (Dannar), seeks review of the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to Respondent SC LAUNCH!, Inc. (SCL). Dannar argues the circuit court erred by concluding that the parties' financing agreement was not extinguished upon Dannar's full repayment of SCL's business loan to Dannar. Dannar also argues the circuit court erred by concluding that the relocation fee referenced in the financing agreement was not an unenforceable penalty. We affirm.

7-15-2020 - Opinions

5744 - Couch v. Couch

This appeal follows a family court trial on a request to change custody. The chief issue is whether the family court erred in requiring Charles Couch to pay roughly $250,000 in fees and costs within ninety days of the court's June 2017 final order. We affirm the amount of fees and costs awarded, but reverse the ninety-day requirement and remand to the family court with limited instructions.

7-22-2020 - Opinions

5745 - Alukonis v. Smith

This matter involves cross-appeals between a maternal grandfather and a natural father involving the custody of a minor child and the award of attorney's fees. The grandfather appeals the denial of primary custody to him and the award of attorney's fees to the father, while the father appeals the award of joint custody to the grandfather and the insufficiency of the attorney's fees awarded to him. Based upon our review of the record, we reverse the award of primary custody to the father, grant primary custody to the grandfather, reverse and remand the award of attorney's fees to the father, and remand for the family court to set a visitation plan for the father.

5746 - Masters v. KOL, Inc.

In this breach of contract action, Appellant KOL, Inc. (Dealer) seeks review of the circuit court's order denying its motion to compel arbitration. Dealer argues the circuit court erred by declining to compel arbitration on the ground that Dealer's execution of certain contracts with Respondent Casey Masters (Purchaser) after Purchaser filed this action rendered the parties' April 10, 2017 arbitration agreement moot and unenforceable. We reverse and remand for an order compelling arbitration.

5747 - Lemmons v. Macedonia Water Works, Inc.

Appellant Joey Lemmons, d/b/a Rugs International (Customer), seeks review of the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to Respondent Macedonia Water Works, Inc. (Utility) in Customer's action seeking a refund. Customer argues the circuit court erred in declining to enforce section 58-5-390 of the South Carolina Code (2015), which limits the fee a utility may charge for the installation and maintenance of a fire sprinkler system. Utility seeks a dismissal of this appeal on the ground that Customer did not timely serve the notice of appeal. We deny the motion to dismiss and affirm the circuit court's order.

5748 - Campbell v. Blandin

In this cross-appeal, the City of North Charleston appeals the circuit court's denial of its motion to set aside the entry of default, and Ann M. Blandin appeals the master-in-equity's default judgment order capping Blandin's award at $300,000 under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act. Blandin argues the master erred in capping her award because the cap was an affirmative defense that must be pled. The City argues the circuit court abused its discretion in denying its motion because it proved its failure to respond was due to inadvertence. We affirm both the circuit court's order denying the City's motion and the master's order capping Blandin's award.

5749 - State v. Barnes

This appeal is the latest in the eighteen-year narrative of Steven Louis Barnes. Barnes appeals his conviction of murder for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Barnes argues the circuit court erred in refusing to dismiss his indictment because 1) the State violated his state and federal rights to a speedy trial and 2) the State did not comply with the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act (the "IAD"), S.C. Code Ann. ยงยง 17-11-10 to -80 (2014). We affirm.

5750 - Progressive Direct Insurance Co. v.

In this declaratory judgment action, Shanna Groves, as personal representative of the Estate of Lynn Harrison ("the Estate"), appeals the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to Progressive Direct Insurance Co. and USAA General Indemnity Company (collectively "Respondents"). The underlying dispute arises out of a vehicle-to-vehicle shooting perpetrated by Jimi Carl Redman, Jr. against Lynn Harrison. Respondents brought suit against the Estate seeking a declaratory judgment that the killing was not covered by Harrison's uninsured or underinsured motorist policies obtained through Respondents. On appeal, the Estate argues the circuit court erred in concluding that 1) Redman's vehicle was not causally connected to the killing, and 2) Redman's firing of a gun was an intervening act of independent significance that broke any causal connection between his use of the vehicle and the killing. We reverse and remand.

7-29-2020 - Opinions

5751 - State v. Frasier

Michael Frasier, Jr. appeals his conviction for trafficking cocaine, arguing the trial court erred by refusing to suppress certain evidence obtained from a search of his person and the vehicle in which he was a passenger and by finding his statement to law enforcement was voluntarily made. We affirm.

5752 - Weaver v. Brookdale Senior Living, Inc.

This appeal involves the issue of whether a nonsignatory is bound by an arbitration provision. Stephanie Weaver (Weaver) brought this action against Brookdale Senior Living, Inc. and others in connection with the death of her grandmother, Bonnie Walker. Weaver asserted claims against Brookdale for negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Brookdale moved to dismiss Weaver's complaint pursuant Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, or, in the alternative, to compel arbitration. Brookdale appeals the denial of its motion to dismiss, and alternatively, the denial of its motion to compel arbitration. We affirm, finding Weaver is not bound by the arbitration provision in the residency contract between her grandmother and Brookdale.