December 11, 2013 South Carolina Supreme Court published opinions

State v Hepburn

Hepburn moved for a directed verdict at her child abuse homicide trial. The trial judge denied it. Her codefendant testified Hepburn was responsible and Hepburn testified she was not in rebuttal without adding anything to the state’s case. She was convicted. The Court, with one justice concurring ion result only, reversed. The majority adopted the waiver rule holding that if a defendant presents evidence after a directed verdict motion is denied, then on appeal all evidence from the trial will be evaluated in reviewing the directed verdict motion. The majority also adopted an exception for cases where one joint defendant testifies the other is responsible and the accused codefendant merely rebuts the testimony. The majority reasoned that it is unfair to allow the state to benefit form the accusing codefendant as it could not call the codefendant in its own case in chief. Applying here, the majority held that the evidence only proved a suspicion of guilt and eliminated Hepburn as the responsible party as she was asleep during the period when the fatal injuries occurred.

Jordan v State

Jordon moved for post-conviction relief alleging actual conflict of interest. His petition was denied. The Court reversed. It held that Jordon proved an actual conflict where his attorney also represented his girlfriend, the trial judge at Jordan’s trial authorized third party guilt evidence against the girlfriend and his attorney declined to offer the substantial evidence against her. As there was no evidence that the attorney explained the conflict or obtained a waiver, the case was remanded for a new trial.

In the Matter of Michael Anthony Walker

Walker stole settlement proceeds and failed to comply with a disciplinary agreement. He consented to disbarment and the court disbarred him.

In the Matter of Robert Lawrence Papa

Papa engaged in numerous business dealings with a client without providing the required disclosures, opportunity to obtain outside advice or obtaining written consent. He agreed to discipline and the court suspended him for three years.

Roberts v Standard Fire Insurance Company

Carter was injured in an auto accident and sought to stack underinsured motorist coverage on vehicles owned and insured by his parents. Standard denied coverage and the circuit court judge granted summary judgment to Standard on the basis of an exclusion of family members not insured under the policy in question. The South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed and the Court, 3-2, affirmed. The majority held that under South Carolina Code 38-77-160, once Carter was protected by underinsured motorist insurance above the basic limits in another policy, Standard was obligated to provide coverage under the parents’ policies as 160 directs that insurers “shall provide” coverage in those circumstances. The majority distinguished a case not requiring stacking on the grounds that in that case, the claimant declined to obtain underinsured motorist coverage in contrast to Carter who did purchase coverage albeit form another company. The dissent argued that under 160 insurers can limit coverage as 160 only requires an offer of insurance not coverage and claimants like Carter should be bound by the portability provisions the policyholder made at the time of purchase and on these facts the vehicle in question had $0 in coverage for Carter or any other family member not named as an insured.

 

 

 

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