June 4, 2014 South Carolina Supreme Court published opinions

State v Sawyer

The circuit court suppressed all evidence from sawyer’s Breathalyzer test because the audio equipment failed to capture the Miranda warnings and other notices required by the then applicable version of South Carolina Code 56-5-2953(A). The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court, 3-2, affirmed. The majority held that suppression was required because 2953(A) must be strictly followed and here, the warnings and notices were not recorded as required. The dissent argued that harmless error analysis should be employed, there is no dispute the Breathalyzer machine worked properly and the silent video recording shows the officer giving the required warnings and notices.

Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc. v City of Georgetown

City denied Cooperative’s petition for a franchise to provide cable service. The circuit court held there was no cause of action under South Carolina Code 58-12-5 et seq. and alternatively the denial was reasonable. The Court affirmed. It held that the circuit court erred in its cause of action ruling holding the 58-12-310(D) unambiguously creates a cause of action when a franchise petition is denied. The Court then held there was sufficient competent evidence to uphold the reasonableness ruling as City was concerned about infrastructure demands, drainage issues and the lack of tax revenue from Cooperative. The Court noted that the evidence of councilmembers personal motivations was impurely admitted and thus ignored it in its analysis.

Holmes v Haynesworth Sinkler & Boyd, P.A.

Holmes sued the law firm and individual attorneys for malpractice in a federal antitrust suit. After multiple appeals and motions, the circuit court granted a directed verdict to the law firm and found the statute of limitations had run as to the individual lawyers. It also imposed sanctions on Holmes. The Court, with two justices concurring in a spate opinion, affirmed. The majority held that Holmes, a licensed attorney and a physician, knew of her claim more than three years before she delivered her complaint to the sheriff for service as sown by her written complaints about her attorneys to the federal court. Thus, under the then applicable rules of civil procedure, the three year statute of limitations had run and judgment for the individual lawyers was appropriate. It held that the circuit court properly refused to allow Holmes to testify as an expert as she had never tried a case let alone a federal antitrust case. It held that the law firm’s expert provided no basis to believe the firm committed malpractice. The majority affirmed the denial of Holmes’ continuance motion noting her case had been on the trial calendar for more than a year, her appeals did not reset the clock and she had made several similar motions on the same grounds before. The majority affirmed the sanctions order holding that Holmes’ numerous appeals and dilatory motions violated Rule of Civil procedure 11. It finally held all other arguments abandoned. The concurrence argued the statute of limitations issue was waived by the individual lawyers, that there is no requirement that an attorney have practical experience in order to be an expert witness and that sanctions under the frivolous actions statute were wrongly granted as the pre-2005 version controlled. However, it agreed that the directed verdict was correct and that rule 11 provided a basis for the sanctions order.

Town of Hilton Head Island v Kigre, Inc.

Kigre challenged town’s business license tax. The circuit court rejected the challenge and the court affirmed. It held that the tax was an excise tax authorized by state law, is imposed for the privilege of doing business in Town and which excludes income subject to the license tax of another jurisdiction. Thus, it is a constitutional.

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