Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court

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The Riverwalk at Arrowhead Country Club and Magnolia North Horizontal Property Regime developments were constructed between 1997 and 2000. After construction was complete and the units were sold, the purchasers became aware of significant construction problems, including building code violations, structural deficiencies, and significant water-intrusion problems. In 2003, the purchasers filed suit to recover damages for necessary repairs to their homes. Lawsuits were filed by the respective property owners' associations (POAs), which sought actual and punitive damages for the extensive construction defects under theories of negligent construction, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of warranty. As to the Riverwalk development, individual homeowners also filed a class action to recover damages for the loss of use of their property during the repair period. The defendants in the underlying suits were the related corporate entities that developed and constructed the condominium complexes: Heritage Communities, Inc. (the parent development company), Heritage Magnolia North, Inc. and Heritage Riverwalk, Inc. (the project-specific subsidiary companies for each separate development), and Buildstar Corporation (the general contracting subsidiary that oversaw construction of all Heritage development projects), referred to collectively as "Heritage." The issues presented to the Supreme Court by these cases came from cross-appeals of declaratory judgment actions to determine coverage under Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance policies issued by Harleysville Group Insurance. The cases arose from separate actions, but were addressed in a single opinion because they involved virtually identical issues regarding insurance coverage for damages. The Special Referee found coverage under the policies was triggered and calculated Harleysville's pro rata portion of the progressive damages based on its time on the risk. After review of the arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Special Referee in the Magnolia North matter, and affirmed as modified in the Riverwalk matter. View "Harleysville Group Ins. v. Heritage Communities, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner was injured in a car accident while riding as a passenger in a vehicle driven by a co-employee. The liability limits of the at-fault driver were tendered, and there was no underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage on the vehicle in which he was riding. Therefore, Petitioner submitted a claim for UIM benefits under a Progressive insurance policy, issued to Sarah Severn. At the time of the accident, Petitioner resided with Severn and their child. He described Severn as "his on again off again fiancé." Both Petitioner's and Severn's names appear on the Declarations Page of the Policy under the heading "Drivers and household residents." Under the heading "Additional information," Severn is listed as the "Named insured." Progressive denied UIM coverage to Petitioner under Part III of the Policy. According to the affidavit filed by Progressive's Claims Injury Operations Manager, "[t]he claim was denied because [Petitioner] did not fall within the terms, provisions and conditions of [the Policy] to qualify for benefits under the [UIM] provisions," as Petitioner "was only listed as a 'driver' on the policy and not a named insured, nor was he a resident relative of the named insured." The Supreme Court granted Bell's petition for review of the court of appeals' decision affirming the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Progressive Direct Insurance Company. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bell v. Progressive Direct Insurance" on Justia Law

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Appellant Dorris Green, representing his child who was injured while a passenger in his mother's automobile, contended that as a matter of public policy the courts of South Carolina should refuse to recognize the validity of a family member exclusion in a Florida car insurance policy. Further, he contended that the circuit court erred in finding there was no uninsured motorist coverage for his minor child under his Florida policy. The Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court that enforcement of this exclusion, valid under Florida law, did not offend South Carolina public policy, and that there was no underinsured coverage for father's minor child under the father's policy. The Court therefore affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the insurance company. View "Green v. USAA" on Justia Law

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White Oak Manor, Inc. owns and operates a nursing home in York. After sustaining injuries from the improper replacement of a feeding tube, a White Oak resident filed a lawsuit against the nursing home. White Oak ultimately settled the lawsuit without the involvement of its insurer, Lexington Insurance Company. White Oak subsequently filed a declaratory judgment action against Lexington to determine coverage for the malpractice claim. The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court concerned the validity of a service-of-suit clause in an insurance policy in light of Section 15-9-270 of the South Carolina Code (2005) which provides for service of process on an insurer through the Director of the Department of Insurance. The circuit court upheld the service-of-suit clause and refused to relieve the insurer from default judgment. The court of appeals reversed, holding section 15-9-270 provided the exclusive method for serving an insurance company. In its review, the Supreme Court disagreed that section 15-9-270 provided the exclusive means of service on an insurer and held that insurance policy provisions creating alternative methods of service are valid and binding on insurers. Accordingly, the court of appeals' decision was reversed. View "White Oak Manor v. Lexington Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case centered on a workers' compensation lump-sum award to a claimant who passed away while an appeal of her award was pending. At issue before the Supreme Court was a Court of Appeals opinion that refused to reach Respondents-Petitioners' argument that the award abated upon the beneficiary's death; granted the entire lump-sum award to beneficiary's dependent grandsons; reversed the grant of interest on the award; and affirmed the reinstatement of a ten-percent penalty. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision with respect to the abatement issue and that court's holding that the ten-percent penalty should have been imposed in this case. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision requiring the entire lump-sum award be paid to the Grandsons, and reinstated the Estate's and Grandsons' settlement. The Court also reversed the Court of Appeals decision to remove the assessment of interest. The case was remanded for further proceedings on what sums were due pursuant to the Court's holding here. View "Hudson v. Lancaster Convalescent Center" on Justia Law

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The Standard Fire Insurance Company appealed a court of appeals' decision that reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in its favor, and finding respondents Thomas, Debra, and Christopher were entitled to stack underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage despite an exclusion in Standard Fire's policy purporting to limit an insured's ability to stack such coverage when the vehicles insured under the subject policy were not involved in the accident. After review of the trial and appellate court records, the Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the appellate court's decision. View "Carter v. Standard Fire Insurance" on Justia Law

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Samuel W. Rhodes and Piedmont Promotions, Inc. sued Marion L. Eadon, (d/b/a C&B Fabrication), for damages arising out of the faulty construction of three outdoor advertising billboard signs after one of the signs fell across Interstate 77. A jury returned a verdict for actual and punitive damages in favor of Rhodes. At the time of the suit, Eadon's two corporations, C&B Fabrications, Inc. and Low Country Signs, Inc., were listed as named insureds under a commercial general liability policy issued by Auto-Owners Insurance Company. Eadon sought indemnification from Auto-Owners for the verdict. In response, Auto-Owners filed a declaratory judgment action to determine whether it had a duty to indemnify Eadon under the policy. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals correctly affirmed the judge's denial of Auto-Owners' motion pursuant to Rule 60(b), SCRCP. Further, the Court held the declaratory judgment action was procedurally proper save for a ruling on issues regarding property damages as there are related questions of fact that must be decided by a jury on retrial. View "Auto-Owners v. Rhodes" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Poch and Kevin Key were temporary workers contracted through Personnel Resources of Georgia, Inc. and Carolina Staffing, Inc. d/b/a Job Place of Conway, to work for Bayshore Concrete Products/South Carolina, Inc. to clean up a concrete casting worksite and dismantle equipment used to produce concrete forms. As a result of a tragic, work-related accident, Poch was killed and Key was injured. Poch's estate and Key received workers' compensation benefits through Job Place. Subsequently, Key and his wife and the estate of Poch filed suit against Bayshore SC and its parent company, Bayshore Concrete Products Corporation. The circuit court granted the company's motion to dismiss the actions on the ground that workers' compensation was Petitioners' exclusive remedy and, therefore, the company was immune from liability in a tort action. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's order. Though the Supreme Court agreed with the result reached by the Court of Appeals, it found the court incorrectly analyzed Petitioners' arguments. Accordingly, the Court affirmed as modified. View "Poch v. Bayshore Concrete" on Justia Law

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Respondent Francina Bardsley's home was hit by a speeding car. The car ran through the house, struck and killed her husband, Frederic Bardsley, and caused substantial property damage. The liability coverage of the driver was exhausted in settlement of the wrongful death action, and upon review, the Supreme Court was asked to consider the impact of the collateral source rule on underinsured motorist property damage coverage where the homeowners' policy has already paid for the property damage. The Court held the collateral source rule did not apply and there was no underinsured motorist property damage coverage available. View "Bardsley v. Government Employees Insurance" on Justia Law

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Automobile insurer Progressive Max Insurance Co. brought a contribution action against Floating Caps, Inc., d/b/a Silver Dollar Cafe (Silver Dollar), a Charleston bar, under South Carolina's Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act (UCATA) after Progressive settled a tort action involving a Silver Dollar patron. The circuit court found the contribution claim was not preserved and granted summary judgment to the Silver Dollar. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the UCATA provisions governing the right of contribution precluded Progressive's contribution action and that Progressive did not establish that it was entitled to reformation. Consequently, the Court found no error in the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the Silver Dollar. View "Progressive Max Insurance v. Floating Caps" on Justia Law