Opinions from the South Carolina Court of Appeals

Court of AppealsToday, the South Carolina Court of Appeals published four opinions:  Thomas v. Pruitt Corporation, Bank of New York Mellon Trust v. Grier, Snow v. Smith, and Wilson v. Willis.

Thompson v. Pruitt Corporation was a wrongful death and several action where Appellants, Pruit Corporation, et al. challenge the circuit court’s denying Appellants’ motion to compel arbitration. The decedent dies within a few hours of being admitted to UniHealth as a result of falling out of a bed with a malfunctioning side rail. The decedent’s daughter brought a wrongful death and survival action  and Appellants responded by filing a motion to dismiss the case and compel arbitration. The circuit denied the motion on the ground that the decadent’s son, in signing the documents, did not have the authority to execute the arbitration agreement (“AA”) under common law agency or  the Adult Health Care Consent Act or under common law agency. The Appellate Court examined whether the Mother’s estate could be bound by the AA under any of the theories: the Adult Health Care Consent Act, common law agency principles, third party beneficiary or equitable estoppel. The Court found no err in  the circuit court’s denial of Appellants’ motion to compel arbitration and accordingly affirmed the court’s holding.

In Bank of New York Mellon Trust v. Grier, Homeowner Chartrease Grier appealed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the holder of her homeowner’s insurance policy, Nationwide Property & Casualty Insurance Company (“Nationwide”), arguing the court erred in (1) finding section 38-75-740 of the South Carolina Code (2015) was inapplicable to homeowners insurance policies, (2) ruling her breach of contract claim failed as a matter of law, (3) concluding Nationwide’s refusal to pay was not in bad faith, and (4) denying Grier’s motion to amend her third-party complaint.

The Court affirmed all findings of the lower court. Specifically, that Nationwide complied with the notice requirement found in subsection 38-75-1160(A),  in the nonrenewing of Grier’s policy and that the breach of contract claim failed as a matter of law. The Court declined to address the remaining issues on appeal and, accordingly, affirmed the decision of the  circuit court.

Snow v. Smith was an easement action in which a group of homeowners contend that the master-in-equity erred in finding (1)  their easement was limited to ingress and egress and (2) the restrictive covenants do not apply to the Lake Access Lot. The Court found that the master’s decision in limiting the easement to ingress and egress to the lake for Appellants other than Snow was in err and remanded the decision back to the master to determine the extent of Snow’s use of the Lake Access Lot. The Court upheld that the master did not err in finding that the Restrictions did not apply to the Lake Access Lot because it was unclear whether the restrictions applied to the Lake Access Lot.

In Wilson v. Willis, Peerless Insurance Company (Peerless), Montgomery Mutual Insurance Company (Montgomery), and Safeco Insurance Company (Safeco) (collectively “the Insurers”) appeal the circuit court’s denial of their motions to dismiss the claims and compel arbitration in fourteen related actions. The Insurers argue the court erred in (1) ruling no valid contract containing an arbitration provision existed between the parties, (2) determining the arbitration provision at issue was too narrow to encompass the causes of action, (3) refusing to compel arbitration of claims brought by nonsignatories, (4) finding the claims against the Insurers were not encompassed by the arbitration provision because their alleged actions constituted illegal and outrageous acts unforeseeable to a reasonable consumer in the context of normal business dealings, and (5) holding the Insurers waived their right to compel arbitration.

The Court reversed the order of the circuit court and remanded the decision with instructions to grant the Insurers’ motions to dismiss the Insureds and Agents’ claims and compel them to arbitration.

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