In The Court of Appeals

Scott A. Belcher,        Respondent,


Rebecca J. Davis,        Appellant.

Appeal From Pickens County
A. Victor Rawl, Circuit Court Judge

Unpublished Opinion No. 2003-UP-009
Submitted December 10, 2002 – Filed January 6, 2003   


Marcus Kirk McGarr, of Greenville; for Appellant.

Andrew C. Barr, of Greenville; for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  This civil case originated in magistrate’s court.  The magistrate granted Belcher’s motion to quash discovery subpoenas issued by Davis to third-party medical providers.  Davis appealed to the circuit court.  The circuit court concluded it had subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal and affirmed the magistrate’s order.  Davis appeals.  We reverse the order of the circuit court based upon lack of subject matter jurisdiction and remand the case to the magistrate’s court.


Belcher and Davis were involved in an automobile accident.  Belcher sued Davis in magistrate’s court.  Davis’s counsel issued discovery subpoenas to eight third-party medical providers to obtain medical records concerning Belcher.  Belcher’s counsel filed a motion in magistrate’s court to quash the subpoenas based upon Rule 13 of the Rules of Practice in Magistrate’s Court.  After a hearing, the magistrate granted the motion to quash.  Davis appealed to the circuit court. [1]  

Pursuant to South Carolina Code section 18-7-10, [2] an appeal from a “judgment” of the magistrate’s court is to the circuit court of the county where the judgment was rendered.  “A judgment represents a judicial declaration that a judgment debtor is personally indebted to a judgment creditor for a sum of money.” [3]

In this case, the magistrate’s discovery order is not a judgment.  The circuit court, therefore, lacked subject matter jurisdiction under section 18-7-10 to consider the appeal.  Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time, even for the first time on appeal. [4]   Moreover, discovery orders are generally not immediately appealable. [5]

Because the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the appeal, the order of the circuit court is REVERSED and the case is REMANDED to the magistrate’s court.

GOOLSBY, HUFF, and SHULER, JJ., concur.

[1]   Davis argues that Rule 13 of the Rules of the Magistrate’s Court does not prohibit a party from issuing subpoenas to third-party medical providers for medical records.  Davis argues that Rule 45, SCRCP, is applicable and that due process should allow for discovery of this kind as the evidence goes to an issue concerning liability and damages.

An article in the most recent issue of South Carolina Lawyer addresses this topic.  J. Craig Smith, Subpoenas in Magistrate Courts: It Is Time To Simplify the Rules, South Carolina Lawyer, Nov. 2002, at 11.  Additionally, a S.C. Bar Ethics Advisory Opinion, concerning violating the Rules of Professional Conduct, addresses this issue in part. S.C. Bar Ethics Advisory Opinion, Op. No. 00-06 (Feb. 2000).

[2]   S.C. Code Ann. §18-7-10 (1985).

[3]   LaRosa v. Johnston, 328 S.C. 293, 296, 493 S.E.2d 100, 101 (Ct. App. 1997) (citing Wells v. Sutton, 299 S.C. 19, 22, 382 S.E.2d 14, 16 (Ct. App. 1989)).

[4]   Bardoon Props., NV v. Eidolon Corp., 326 S.C. 166, 168-169, 485 S.E.2d 371, 372 (1997). 

[5]   Hamm v. S.C. Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 312 S.C. 238, 241, 439 S.E.2d 852, 853 (1994).