Opinions from the Court of Appeals for 1-28-2015

sccourtofappealsToday, January 28, 2015, the South Carolina Court of Appeals handed down four opinions:  Maull v. South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control, Alvarez v. Quality H.R. Services, Rose v. JJS Trucking, and Crossman Communities v. Harleysville Mutual Insurance Co.

Maull v. South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC) and Abdo involved an appeal b James Maull from the Administrative Law Court (ALC) which allowed DHEC to issue an amended permit to Abdo for the construction of a dock along the Intracoastal in Charleston County.  Maull disliked the intended configuration and location of the dock that his neighbor, David Abdo, planned to erect once DHEC signed off on an amended permit.  Maull made several arguments, including that the permit for the proposed dock would create public traffic issues and potential harm on the Intracoastal.  He also argued that it would interfere with his use and enjoyment of his property.  DHEC allowed the permit to be amended as requested by Abdo and the ALC upheld its decision.  The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and also remanded.  The Court agreed with the ALC that the matter was a “private dispute that…[did]…not impact the public interest.”  However the court acknowledged that DHEC did not consider the impact of the amendment on Maull’s use and enjoyment of his property as required by South Carolina Code Section 48-39-150(a)(10.)  Thus the court remanded.

Alvarez v. Quality H.R. Services involved an appeal from the Greenville County Circuit Court regarding ten consolidated worker’s compensation cases.  Quality H.R. purchased worker’s compensation insurance for its employees over a decade ago.  One of the insurers became insolvent so a dispute arose over which insurer was liable for payment.  This dispute began litigation in the Worker’s Compensation Commission and then worked its way through the courts.  It was finally decided which insurer would be liable for a particular time frame.  However neither the Commission nor the courts addressed the issue of whether any of the worker’s compensation claimants was entitled to benefits.  Noting that it had been ten years from the date that the ten workers had filed claimed, the Court chastised the Commission for its failure to address the workers’ claims for over a decade.  Concluding that the Commission’s order was not final since it did not decide individual claimant’s rights to benefits, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the Commission with exhortations to act promptly to determine whether the workers were entitled to benefits.

Rose v. JJS Trucking involved an appeal from the Worker’s Compensation Commission.  The appellate court dismissed the appeal, holding that the Commission had not issued a final order in the Rose case and thus its decision could not be appealed.   Rose filed a claim against his employer for injuries suffered to his “…knees, back and head…” while working for it.  Temporary total disability benefits were ordered paid but the allowance of permanent disability benefits remained undecided.  As issue was whether the employer would be required to pay or whether the South Carolina Uninsured Employer’s Fund would have to pay.  The Court concluded that until the Commission entered a final order regarding Rose’s permanent disability, the Commission’s order was not final and thus was not appealable.  If the South Carolina Uninsured Employer’s Fund was later held to be responsible for the payments, the employer could seek reimbursement from this fund. This was held to be an adequate remedy.

Crossman Communities v. Harleysville Mutual Insurance involved an appeal from the Horry County Circuit Court.  Crossman and Beazer Homes constructed several condominiums in South Carolina.  The two constructions companies were subsequently sued by homeowners for construction defects.   The contractors settled with the homeowners and then sought to shift liability to the insurers, Harleysville and Cincinnati.  The insurers disagreed as to the definitions of occurrence and aggregate limit.  At issue was whether an excess coverage payment clause, in Cincinnati’s policy, was triggered.  The trial court concluded  that it was not and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

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