November 7, 2012 South Carolina Supreme Court published opinions

In re the Matter of Greenwood County Magistrate Walter Rutledge Martin 

Martin threatened to beat a defendant at a bond hearing. He agreed to discipline and the Court publicly reprimanded him.

Rutland v South Carolina Department of Transportation 

Rutledge brought suit after his daughter was killed in a car accident. He argued that preimpact fear should be part of the damages recovered. After settling with the car maker, Rutledge took his wrongful death claim to trial obtaining a verdict against the Department for less than the settlement amount received form the car manufacturer. The trail court equitable allocated all damages to wrongful death effectively setting the judgment’s value at 0 holding there was no evidence the daughter experienced any preimpact fear. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the grounds that preimpact fear is not a ground for recovery. The Court affirmed as modified. All five justices held that there was no evidence that the daughter experienced any preimpact fear thus leaving open the question of whether such fear is basis for recovery.  Four justices also approved the reallocation of damages. One justice dissented on the allocation issue arguing the settlement was for a different cause of action and allowed the at fault Department to escape paying damages.

Carson v CSX Transportation, Inc.

Carson brought wrongful death and survivor claims against CSX for the death of her quadriplegic son as a result of injuries sustained when a CSX train hit her van. The jury returned a verdict setting Carson’s negligence higher than that of CSX and awarded no damages for pain and suffering. On appeal, the Court remanded for new trial on the pain and suffering issue. It first held that impressions ns observations by people who participate in railroad surveys to obtain federal monies are privileged under federal law and were properly excluded. It also held that the exclusion of post accident cutting of vegetation by the crossing as irrelevant for impeachment purposes. The Court remanded for a new trial holding that the failure to award any damages was legally erroneous and the jury instructions created confusion among the jury as to whether Carson’s negligence could be held against the son’s estate. On justice dissented in part arguing the impressions issue was not raised below and that if it was the federal privilege is limited to the documents submitted for funding not the observations of those participating. He also reminded the trial courts that if a new trial on damages is not awarded when asked for, the appeals court can only remand for an entirely new trial.

Oskin v Johnson 

Oskin sought to set aside a transfer of a mortgage on property in Myrtle Beach from a bank to an LLC created by Johnson’s wife. Oskin had a judgment against a co debtor of Johnson and sought to enforce his lien on the property. The master in equity granted judgment to Johnson. On appeal, the Court affirmed. Three justices held that the state of Elizabeth is only violated when the grantor of an interest in property has fraudulent intent and the bank here had no such intent. Two justices argued this view was too narrow and the statute should apply whenever anyone involved in the transaction has fraudulent intent although they concluded there was insufficient evidence of intent in this case. Four justices held the use of the LLC to obtain control of the mortgage was an appropriate act in the circumstances as Johnson faced a$3.5 million balloon payment, property values and securities values were falling and he could not obtain the note on his own. One justice argued the LLC was created solely for the improper intent of obtaining the note and the veil should be pierced under the alter ego theory. She also argued that a mortgage which only secured future advances is satisfied and extinguished. Four justices argued, but did not hold, this was incorrect as the mortgage secures a line of credit for the benefit of the landowner.

The Savannah Bank, N.A. v Stalliard

Satlliard sought to stop a foreclosure by arguing he provided false information on his loan application and Bank had been negligent in approving the loan. The master in equity granted summary judgment to Bank. It also refused to allow additional discovery. The Court affirmed holding Stalliard had several opportunities to correct the false information and failed to do so. It also held Stalliard’s discovery request were untimely and there was no evidence indicating prejudice from the denial.

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