Today, the South Carolina Court of Appeals published a decision in SCDSS v. Patten.
SCDSS v. Patten is an appeal of the family court’s order finding Sidney Patten a vulnerable adult under the Omnibus Adult Protection Act.
Patten was a sixty-three year old man living alone in Rock Hill. The Department of Social Services (DSS) opened an investigation on him based on allegations made relating to his living conditions and reports that he was dirty and had called 911 numerous times claiming persons were damaging his home or property.
Simultaneously with the DSS investigation, Patton was involved with the City of Rock Hill’s Environmental Court due to failure to correct issues with the house. Patton indicated he did not have the money to make the required repairs to get a city permit and have the water and electrical services restored. At times, Patten was using propane tanks to heat his home and warm food, and he had bottles of water and a bucket functioning as his bathroom. A social worker alerted the city authorities, and after an emergency hearing, the family court determined Patten was a vulnerable adult and should remain in DSS protective custody. Patten appealed this decision.
This Court applied the framework set forth in Doe v. SCDSS, 757 S.E.2d 712 (2014),[in which the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision in determining that Doe was a vulnerable adult under the Act, finding a lack of a causal relationship between Doe’s living conditions and any mental or physical limitation.] The Court concludes that DSS failed to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, Patten was a vulnerable adult under the Act. The record demonstrates that Patten had been able to sustain himself in relatively good health even though the home was not in a condition that most people would find suitable. The Court, being mindful that circumstances may have changed, reversed and remanded the case back to family court to review Patten’s current status and conduct its hearing in a manner consistent with this opinion.