September 4, 2013 South Carolina Court of Appeals published opinions

York and Christy v Dodgeland of Columbia, Inc.

York and Christy each purchased a car form a dealership. Each dealership added a documentation fee. York and Christie jointly sued the dealerships and sought class action status. The dealerships moved to dismiss and compel arbitration which the trial court granted. The panel affirmed as modified. It held the arbitration clauses in York’s and Christy’s purchase and financing agreements complied with the federal Arbitration Act and the purchase and financing of used cars is part of interstate commerce. The panel held one arbitration clause in one contract in Christy’s sale was unconscionable as it limited remedies for Christie and allowed the dealership to use judicial methods instead of arbitration both of which have been held unconscionable as a matter of law by the South Carolina Supreme Court. However, both of the purchase agreements in York’s sale and the financing agreement in Christy’s sale are enforceable as the requirement to arbitrate is mutual and there is no waiving of any legal remedy. As the applicable clauses reach any and all disputes related to the sales, arbitration is required in both York’s and Christy’s cases. Further, based on United States Supreme Court precedent, the class action waivers in the arbitration provisions are enforceable and York and Christie must arbitrate separately.

State v Brandon Rogers

The trial court ruled Rogers improperly struck white potential jurors based on race and did not allow him to strike the same potential jurors when a new jury selection occurred. He was convicted of burglary and larceny. The panel reversed. It held that the reasons offered for the three jurors-one was a school teacher and thus a disciplinarian, one was a sales representative with a crew cut and thus conservative and one worked for a financial company that used the sheriff’s department for service of its papers-were race neutral. It further held that while the first two reasons were based on stereotypes, only juror strikes based racial stereotypes violate the Constitution. Finally, because the state failed to present any evidence of racial bias, particularly as there were no black potential jurors similarly situated to the three dismissed potential jurors and Rogers in fact dismissed black jurors as well as white jurors, the trial court erred in ordering a new jury selection. Because the three jurors were part of the jury that convicted Rogers, the mandatory relief was a new trial. The panel thus remanded the case for the new trial.

Nicholson v South Carolina Department of Social Services

Nicholson caught her shoe on carpet while walking to a meeting and sought workers compensation for injuries to heck back and shoulder. The Commission granted her benefits. The panel, 2-1, reversed. Based on its reading of South Carolina precedent, the majority held that a flat walking surface is not a hazard, that, in any event, hazards must be created by the employer or its agents and must not be common in the neighborhood. It held that the carpet was commonly used in government buildings and thus was not a specific hazard to Nicholson. The dissent argued that Nicholson was injured because she was required to work in a carpeted office and the commission, not the courts are charged with making the determination whether Nicholson would have been injured but for her employment.

State v Timmy Rogers

Rogers moved for a directed verdict at his murder trial which was denied. He was convicted and sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. The panel affirmed. It held the testimony of his paramour that they plotted the her husband’s death, cell phone records placing Rogers in the general area, testimony he was in an hotel in the general vicinity, testimony that a pickup truck matching the description of his pickup was seen in the area of the murder and Roger’s statements that “It’s done”, that he was cleaning off the victim’s blood and that he painted his truck together were sufficient to submit the case to the jury. It also held that there was evidence in the record placing Rogers near the scene of the crime and circumstantial evidence is viewed as a whole, not item by item and the evidence as a whole was sufficient.

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