Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court

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Appellant Retail Services owned and operated three separate liquor store locations in Charleston, Greenville, and Columbia, South Carolina. SCDOR was charged with the administration of South Carolina's statutes concerning the manufacturing, sale, and retail of alcoholic liquors. Retail Services petitioned SCDOR to open a fourth store in Aiken, however, SCDOR refused to grant Retail Services a fourth liquor license under sections 61-6-140 and -150 of the South Carolina Code, which limited a liquor-selling entity to three retail liquor licenses. Additionally, ABC Stores lobbied the General Assembly on behalf of its members who are owners and holders of retail dealer licenses. Therefore, Retail Services brought this action against SCDOR and ABC Stores seeking a declaratory judgment that these provisions of the South Carolina Code were unconstitutional. The trial court found the provisions constitutional because: (1) they were within the scope of the State's police power; and (2) they satisfied the rational basis test, which, because they did not infringe on a fundamental right or implicate a suspect class, was all that was required. Therefore, the circuit court granted Respondents' motions for summary judgment. Appellant appealed the circuit court's decision. The Supreme Court reversed. "Not only is there no indication in this record that these provisions exist for any other reason than economic protectionism, the provisions themselves and statutory scheme to which they belong lend further support to Appellant's position. As Appellant points out, the provisions do not limit the number of liquor stores that can be licensed in a certain area-only the number than can be owned by one person or entity. Another provision governs the specific placement of retail establishments away from churches, schools and playgrounds. Therefore, Respondents' contention that the provisions advance the safety and moral interests of the State, no doubt a legitimate State interest, is unavailing with respect to sections 61-6-140 and -150." View "Retail Services & Systems, Inc. v. SDCOR" on Justia Law

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The underlying matter to this appeal stemmed from Emmitt Scully's departure from Allegro, Inc., a professional employer organization (PEO), in order to form a competing PEO, Synergetic, Inc., along with former Allegro employees, including Yvonne Yarborough. Allegro brought this suit against petitioners Scully, Yarborough, Synergetic, and George Corbin (a former client of Allegro who also performed some accounting services for the company). The jury returned a verdict in favor of Allegro on all claims and awarded it $1.76 million in actual damages and $250,000 in punitive damages. Petitioners moved for, inter alia, judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on all causes of action, which the trial court denied. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial. In its review of the case, the South Carolina Supreme Court addressed only whether the claims for civil conspiracy, breach of contract, and breach of contract accompanied by a fraudulent act should have been included in the remand. The Supreme Court found those causes of action should never have been submitted to the jury and therefore held the court of appeals erred in affirming the trial court's denial of JNOV as to those claims. View "Allegro, Inc. v. Scully" on Justia Law

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Knight Systems, Inc., owned and operated by Buddy Knight, engaged primarily in the mortuary transport business until 2007. Knight Systems entered into an asset purchase agreement with Palmetto Mortuary Transport, Inc., a business owned by Donald and Ellen Lintal. Pursuant to the agreement, Knight Systems sold various tangible assets, goodwill, and customer accounts (including body removal service contracts with Richland County, Lexington County, and the University of South Carolina) to Palmetto in exchange for a purchase price of $590,000. The agreement also contained an exclusive sales provision that obligated Palmetto to purchase body bags at specified discounted prices from Knight Systems for ten years, and a non-compete clause. At issue in this case was a Richland County-issued request for proposal (RFP) seeking mortuary transport services from a provider for a period of five years. At that time, Palmetto still held the services contract with Richland County as a result of the Agreement. Palmetto timely submitted a response to the RFP. One day before responses to the RFP were due, Buddy accused Palmetto of breaching the agreement by buying infant body bags from other manufacturers in 2008. After this telephone conversation, Buddy consulted with his attorney and submitted a response to the RFP. After the RFP deadline passed, Buddy contacted an official at the Richland County Procurement Office, seeking a determination that Knight Systems be awarded the mortuary transport services contract because it was the only provider of odor-proof body bags required by the RFP. Although Palmetto asserted its response to the RFP contained the lowest price for services and had the highest total of points from the Richland County Procurement Office, Richland County awarded Knight Systems the mortuary transport services contract for a five-year term. Palmetto filed a complaint against Knight, asserting claims for breach of contract, breach of contract accompanied by a fraudulent act, and intentional interference with prospective contractual relations. A special referee ruled in favor of Palmetto, and Knight appealed. Knight argued the special referee erred in failing to find: (1) the geographic restriction in the parties' covenant not to compete was unreasonable and void; (2) the Covenant's territorial restriction was unsupported by independent and valuable consideration; (3) the Covenant was void as a matter of public policy; and (4) the Covenant became void after any breach by Palmetto. The Supreme Court found that the Covenant's 150-mile territorial restriction was unreasonable and unenforceable. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Palmetto Mortuary Transport v. Knight Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2006, Alice Hancock waited in her vehicle in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart while her sister, Donna Beckham, attempted to shoplift several articles of clothing. Hope Rollings, a Wal-Mart customer service manager, noticed Beckham attempting to shoplift and alerted several other employees, including fellow manager Shawn Cox and the on-duty security guard Derrick Jones of U.S. Security Associates, Inc. (USSA), which provided security in the Wal-Mart parking lot pursuant to a contract with Wal-Mart. Ultimately, Beckham exited Wal-Mart without the clothing. However, Jones approached her in the parking lot. Beckham ran towards Hancock's vehicle, and Jones followed her in his truck and blocked Hancock's vehicle with his truck. After Beckham entered Hancock's vehicle, Hancock turned the vehicle around and drove towards the parking lot's exit, with Jones following. Hancock exited the parking lot onto a highway, and Jones followed. Approximately two miles from Wal-Mart, Hancock's vehicle left the highway and crashed. Hancock died at the scene of the accident. Petitioner Travis Roddey, the personal representative of Hancock's estate, brought an action alleging negligence on the part of Wal-Mart, USSA, and Jones. Petitioner appealed the court of appeals' decision to affirm the trial court's grant of Wal-Mart's motion for a directed verdict on Petitioner's negligence claim. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the Supreme Court found that there was evidence from which a jury could determine that Wal-Mart was negligent, and that its negligence proximately caused the injuries in this case. Accordingly, the Court held that the trial court should have submitted to the jury the issues of Wal-Mart's negligence and proximate cause, and remanded for a new trial as to all of the defendants. View "Roddey v. Wal-Mart Stores" on Justia Law

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The controversy in this case arose out of the South Carolina Department of Revenue's ("SCDOR") computation of Duke Energy's taxable income. Because Duke Energy did business in both North Carolina and South Carolina, it had apportion its income to determine its income tax liability in South Carolina. Duke Energy had a treasury department responsible for purchasing and selling securities. In 2002, Duke Energy filed amended corporate tax returns with the SCDOR for the income tax years of 1978 to 2001, seeking a total refund of $126,240,645 plus interest. In the amended returns, Duke Energy sought to include the principal recovered from the sale of short-term securities from 1978 to 1999 in the sales factor of the multi-factor apportionment formula. In its original returns, Duke Energy included only the interest or gain from those transactions. The SCDOR denied the refund request. Duke Energy appealed the decision to the SCDOR's Office of Appeals. The Office of Appeals denied Duke Energy's refund request, finding, inter alia, that including recovered principal in the apportionment formula: was contrary to the SCDOR's long-standing administrative policy, would lead to an absurd result, and would misrepresent the amount of business Duke Energy does in South Carolina. Duke Energy filed a contested case in the Administrative Law Court ("ALC"). The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The ALC found this was an issue of first impression in South Carolina, and adopted the reasoning of states that found including the principal recovered from the sale of short-term investments in an apportionment formula would lead to "absurd results" by greatly distorting the calculation, and by defeating the intent and purpose of the applicable statutes. The Court of Appeals affirmed, albeit on different grounds. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' decision affirming the administrative law judge's finding. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Duke Energy v. SCDOR" on Justia Law

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In a consolidated appeal, the plaintiffs from four separate actions (collectively, Appellants) ask the Supreme Court to reverse the trial court's order granting a motion to dismiss in favor of respondents Branch Banking & Trust Company (BB&T) and BB&T employee James Edahl. Skywaves I Corporation (Skywaves) was a South Carolina corporation that develops technology for the wireless telecommunications industry. In 2005, Skywaves entered into a factoring agreement with BB&T. From 2005 to 2007, Skywaves and BB&T occasionally amended the agreement via written modifications so that BB&T could fund Skywaves's working capital needs as those needs developed and expanded. In early 2007, Skywaves won several lucrative government contracts, and its Board of Directors determined that the company required more capital than BB&T provided at that time in order to meet the increased demand for their products. Skywaves therefore solicited funding proposals from various entities, including Wachovia, Hunt Capital, and BB&T. In July 2007, Edahl made a presentation to Appellants, each of whom was a director, officer, or shareholder in Skywaves, in addition to a current or potential investor in Skywaves. During the presentation, Edahl told Appellants that BB&T believed that Skywaves would continue to develop and expand into new markets, that BB&T "was fully committed to providing all of Skywaves['s] short-term and long-term financial needs for growth," and that BB&T would honor the new factoring agreement between itself and Skywaves. Appellants alleged that they each relied on these statements and were induced to "invest[] in the growth" of Skywaves via purchasing equity positions and making loans to Skywaves. BB&T funded Skywaves in accordance with the new factoring agreement from March 2007 until January 2008. In January 2008, BB&T asserted that Skywaves had defaulted under the terms of the factoring agreement, and BB&T refused to honor any further financial commitments in accordance with the contract. In the absence of funding, Skywaves filed for bankruptcy. As a result of the bankruptcy proceedings, Appellants lost their equity investments in Skywaves. Skywaves and Appellants therefore filed separate lawsuits against Respondents—Skywaves on its own behalf, and Appellants in their capacity as investors and employees of Skywaves. The trial court granted the motions to dismiss, finding all of Appellants' claims were barred for various reasons. The Supreme Court concluded that while Skywaves might be able to show that, as a BB&T customer, the bank owed the corporation a duty, Appellants were not BB&T's customers and therefore were not owed a similar duty. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's ruling that Respondents were entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to all of Appellants' claims. View "Kerr v. BB&T" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether a subcontract for the maintenance of aircraft required a contractor to turn to a subcontractor for all maintenance the contractor needs to fulfill a contract with the United States Army. The contractor, DynCorp International, LLC, contended the contract did not create an exclusive relationship between the parties and it could send aircraft to other maintenance providers. The subcontractor, Stevens Aviation, contended the contract was a requirements contract under which DynCorp had to send all aircraft requiring maintenance to Stevens. Stevens moved for a partial summary judgment on the issue, the trial court granted the motion, and the court of appeals reversed and granted partial summary judgment to DynCorp. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' decision in part and affirmed in part, holding the contract was a requirements contract for certain aircraft. View "Stevens Aviation v. DynCorp International" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Winyah Bay Holdings, LLC held an event aimed at selling marsh-front lots located in South Island Plantation, an affluent, unbuilt housing development. Winyah conducted the sale by lottery, and geared the event toward on-the-spot sales. Winyah had Wachovia Bank and two unrelated realty and marketing companies (the Realtors) set up booths to promote financing the lot sales. Respondents alleged that Winyah, the Realtors, and Wachovia further enticed potential buyers by promising that "day docks, roads, infrastructure, pool [sic], marsh walks, and other amenities would be in place within 18 months of the lottery." Respondents William and Judith Blackburn claimed these promises got them to participate in the lottery. Over six months later, Respondent William Blackburn delivered a promissory note to Wachovia in the amount of $463,967 to finance the purchase of one of the lots. The note was secured by a mortgage and unconditional personal guaranties executed by Tammy Winner, Watson Felder, and Respondents. Sometime in 2008, Respondents failed to make payments on the note. Wachovia then filed a foreclosure action. Respondents answered, asserting counterclaims against Wachovia, cross-claims against the South Island Plantation Association, Incorporated (the HOA), and a third-party complaint against the Seller and the Realtors. At issue here were the counterclaims against Wachovia, which included claims for negligent misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, breach of contract/breach of contract accompanied by a fraudulent act, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud/fraud in the inducement, breach of contract/negligence, breach of contract, civil conspiracy, illegality of contract, and violations of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act (the SCUTPA). Wachovia appealed the court of appeals' decision to reverse the circuit court's determination that Respondents' counterclaims were within the scope of a jury trial waiver in the property sales documents. The Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the appellate courts' judgment finding that the waivers were executed knowingly and voluntarily; however, the Court reversed the portion finding that the outrageous and unforeseeable torts exception to arbitration applies in the jury trial waiver context, and found instead that Respondents waived their right to a jury trial on all of their counterclaims. View "Wachovia Bank v. Blackburn" on Justia Law

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In 2006, DLI Properties, LLC (DLI), hired Allen Tate, a real estate brokerage firm, and Faile, Allen Tate's licensee, to serve as its agents in connection with the sale of certain real property in Lancaster, South Carolina. Petitioners, using Sharon Davis of Davis Integrity Realty, Inc. as their broker, offered to purchase the property. Petitioners sued Respondents alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and violations of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act (the SCUTPA) based on DLI's acceptance of an offer on the property and Faile's representation that DLI would accept Petitioner's offer. Petitioners claimed Respondents made misrepresentations concerning the validity and effectiveness of their agreement to purchase the property. Petitioners asserted Respondents had a duty of care to communicate truthful information to Petitioners, and breached that duty by failing to disclose the ultimately successful offer, and the fact that DLI had not signed Petitioners' offer. Petitioners further alleged Respondents demonstrated a pattern of behavior sufficient to establish a SCUTPA violation. Petitioners appealed the circuit court's decision that granted summary judgment in favor of the Respondents. After careful consideration of the circumstances of the deal, the Supreme Court affirmed, noting that the appellate court erred only by not addressing the merits of Petitioners' appeal. On the merits, the Court affirmed the circuit court as modified. View "Woodson v. DLI Properties" on Justia Law

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In December 2004, Atlantic Carolina Retail, LLC loaned $3,075,000 to Monarch Development, LLC. Atlantic collateralized the loan by taking a mortgage on three properties. Atlantic purchased a title insurance policy from First American Title Insurance Company to insure these mortgage interests against potential title defects. Subsequently, Atlantic assigned the mortgages and secured debt to Preservation Capital Consultants, LLC. In 2008, Monarch Development sold its parcel and paid Preservation Capital money to release its lien on that property. Then, Monarch defaulted on its loan agreement with Preservation Capital. Preservation Capital discovered Monarch Development never owned the parcel; instead, Monarch Holdings owned it. Monarch Holdings later transferred the property to a third party without payment or notice to Preservation Capital. Preservation Capital ultimately foreclosed. Atlantic purchased the property at the foreclosure sale by way of a credit bid. After foreclosing on the parcel, Monarch Development owed Preservation Capital a remaining balance. Preservation Capital filed a claim under its policy with First American for the amount it was unable to collect on the one of the other parcels due to the title defect. First American denied coverage. Preservation Capital filed this action when First American refused its claim. Both parties moved for summary judgment. First American Title Insurance Company appealed the circuit court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Preservation Capital. First American argued the circuit court misconstrued the terms of the title insurance policy in finding Preservation Capital was entitled to recover under the policy. Finding the circuit court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Preservation Capital, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Preservation Capital v. First American" on Justia Law