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South Carolina
Judicial Department
Supreme Court Published Opinions - January 2024

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.

1-17-2024 - Opinions

28184 - Applied Building Sciences v. SC Dept of Commerce

This Court certified this case pursuant to Rule 204(b), SCACR. We affirm the circuit court and hold the $50,000 statutory limit on reimbursement of reestablishment expenses in condemnation proceedings set forth in S.C. Code Ann. section 28-11-30(4) (2007 & Supp. 2023) is constitutional.

28185 - State v. Tommy Lee Benton

The Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the court of appeals in State v. Benton, 435 S.C. 250, 865 S.E.2d 919 (Ct. App. 2021). The Court affirms as modified the court of appeals' holding that double jeopardy did not bar Petitioner's retrial after the trial court declared a mistrial during Benton's first trial. The Court affirms the court of appeals' decision that the trial court acted within its discretion in admitting photographs of the victim's body at the crime scene and in admitting certain text and Facebook messages.

28186 - Jeffrey Lance Cruce v. Berkeley Cnt School Dist

Jeffrey Cruce, a former athletic director and head football coach at Berkeley High School, sued the Berkeley County School District (the District) for wrongful termination and defamation. The trial court granted the District a directed verdict on Cruce's wrongful termination claim and on Cruce's defamation claim related to the District's silence on why Cruce had been removed from his positions at Berkeley High. The trial court denied the District's motion for a directed verdict on Cruce's remaining defamation claim related to an email sent by a District employee about Cruce, ruling Cruce did not qualify as a public official or limited public figure, and as such, the District was not entitled to sovereign immunity the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (the Tort Claims Act). The jury found in Cruce's favor on his defamation claim and awarded him $200,000 in actual damages. In a published decision, the court of appeals reversed the trial court, finding Cruce was a public official, and thus, the Tort Claims Act barred Cruce's defamation claim. Cruce v. Berkeley Cnty. Sch. Dist., 435 S.C. 7, 21-22, 865 S.E.2d 391, 398-99 (Ct. App. 2021). We reverse the court of appeal's finding that Cruce was a public official, find Cruce was not a public official or limited public figure, and reinstate the jury's damages award.

28187 - Phillip Francis Luke Hughes v. Bank of America

We reverse in part and affirm as modified in part the court of appeals' decision in Hughes, Op. No. 2021-UP-341. We affirm as modified the court of appeals' decision in Hughes, Op. No. 2021-UP-354.

28188 - State v. William C.Sellers

The court of appeals affirmed Billy Sellers' conviction for murder arising from the brutal killing of Johnny Hydrick. We granted Sellers' petition for a writ of certiorari to address two questions. First, did the trial court's jury instruction defining malice in part as "the intentional doing of a wrongful act without just cause or excuse" shift the burden of proof to Sellers to provide justification or excuse for his wrongful acts, or was that portion of the instruction otherwise contrary to law. Second, did the State present evidence to support the trial court instructing the jury as to Sellers' criminal liability under the doctrine of "the hand of one is the hand of all." We affirm the court of appeals.

1-24-2024 - Opinions

28189 - Walterboro Comm Hospital v. SCDHEC

We affirm the administrative law court order approving a Certificate of Need for the Medical University Hospital Authority to construct a new general hospital in Berkeley County.

28190 - Peter Rice v. John Doe

This case presents the question whether compliance with the witness affidavit requirement in subsection 38-77-170(2) of the South Carolina Code (2015) is a condition precedent to the filing of a "John Doe" civil action. We hold it is not. We affirm the court of appeals as modified and remand the case to circuit court for trial.

1-31-2024 - Opinions

28191 - State v. Brewton

We affirm as modified the decision of the court of appeals in State v. Brewton, 437 S.C. 44, 876 S.E.2d 141 (Ct. App. 2022).