August 1, 2012 South Carolina Court of Appeals published opinions

BMW of North America, LLC v Complete Auto Recon Services, Inc.

Employees of complete Auto left windows of BMW test cars down when severe weather was forecast. The test cars were significantly damaged by thunderstorms. BMW filed an insurance claim under a policy of Complete Auto of which BMW was an additional insured. The claim was denied and BMW filed suit. The trail court granted summary judgment finding BMW was only an insured for third party liability and their injury was a result of complete Auto’s actions. The panel affirmed. It held that the endorsement adding BMW limited coverage to third party liability not the actions of Complete Auto. It also held the lack of coverage provided a reasonable basis to deny the claim and thus there was no bad faith liability.

Watson v Xtra Mile Driver’s Training, Inc.

Watson injured her back slipping on golf ball. She received temporary disability befits. She ultimately had surgery. She underwent strength testing and was released with restrictions to return to work. Xtra declined to offer her a position within the restrictions and sent her home. Xrtra field an administrative action to stop temporary benefits and fix future liability. The commissioner found a partial disability and allowed an offset of temporary benefits paid after the termination date. The appellate panel affirmed. The panel, 2-1, also affirmed holding that the record as a whole supported the conclusion that Watson is not completely disabled but can work within the restrictions outlined by her physicians. It also affirmed the credit for temporary payments finding that Watson reached maximum medical improvement in 2009 and Xtra was entitled to reimbursement. The dissent argued that the restrictions (no sitting more than 3 minutes, no standing more than 12 minutes or walking longer than 500 feet) rendered Watson permanently disabled and would have reversed on this issue.

South Carolina Department of Revenue v Sandalwood Social Club

The Department brought a single violation administrative complaint against Sandalwood for failure to install a noise monitoring device by the date agreed to in a stipulation for renewing their liquor license. The administrative law judge allowed evidence of noise and other violations into the record and suspended the license for 60 days. The panel reversed. It held that the judge erred in relying on the evidence of other violations in setting the penalty effectively allowing a private party to bring an administrative suit against sandalwood. The panel remanded for determination of the appropriateness of the department’s recommended $500.00 penalty.

State v Williams

Williams shot his stepson in the leg. During his trial for murder, his silence after receiving his Miranda warnings was commented on by the state four times. The jury convicted Williams of voluntary manslaughter. The panel reversed and remanded for a new trial. It held the repeated mention of Williams’ silence and the state’s use of that silence to undermine his defense constituted a violation of Williams’ due process rights.

South Carolina Public Interest Foundation v Greeneville County

County established a budget fund from which individual council members could fund special infrastructure projects and make donations to community groups. This fund was upheld in a lawsuit in 1997. In 2006, Foundation brought suit against the county arguing the fund violated separation of powers. The trail court granted summary judgment to Foundation holding each year’s budget is a new program and thus the suit was not barred by res judicata and the fund was an unlawful delegation of spending authority. The panel reversed. It held the Foundation was in privity with the 1997 plaintiff, that both lawsuits challenge the same set of transactions and brought the same legal claims and the current suit was thus barred by res judicata.

State v Manning

Manning was charged with felony DUI and drug possession stemming from a one car accident resulting in another occupant’s death. At trial, several responders testified Manning made statements the he screwed up. His DUI charge was severed from his drug charges. He was convicted of DUI and sentenced to 18 years. The panel affirmed his conviction. It held that the failure to supply an affidavit of impossibility did not require dismissal of the DUI charge as both the traffic accident investigation and catchall exceptions applied. It held there was probable cause to arrest Manning on DUI based on his statements at the scene and the observations of the responders. The panel held that Manning waived any challenge to the timing of the severance as he did not accept the offer a curative instruction. It finally rejected a jury instruction argument holding the instructions as a whole informed the jury of its duty to determine if Manning drove the car.

Dawkins v Mozie

Dawkins moved onto family property under the terms of an unprobated will of her mother. The will contradicted the terms of the deed of the property that title should pass to Mozie on mother’s death. Father brought suit to impose a constructive trust of the property which was eventually denied. Dawkins brought suit for quite title based on adverse possession and the special referee granted her title. The panel affirmed holding that Dawkins had lived continuously on the property for more than 10 years prior to her suit, that her claim was hostile at least 11 years before the suit and all other elements were met as demonstrated by the improvements to the land and her payment of property taxes. The panel also held that a res judicata argument was not preserved for review.

Johnson v Lloyd

Johnson brought suit seeking to have the sex registration statute declared unconstitutional. The trial court refused to declare the statute unconstitutional, but, ordered Johnson removed from the sex registry based on his circumstances. The panel reversed. It held that John brought only a legal challenge not an equitable one. Further, because the sex registry statute provides methods to remove a name from the registry, which Johnson had failed to utilize, there was no basis for an equitable remedy.

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