Opinions from the South Carolina Court of Appeals



The following are Court of Appeals opinions published in May:

In Palmetto Mortuary Transport v. Knight Systems, Inc. Appellants Knight Systems and Buddy Knight appealed the special referee’s order issuing a permanent injunction against Appellants, requiring them to comply with the terms of the convent not to compete (“Covenant”) entered into as a part of the agreement with Palmetto Mortuary.

Appellants  appealed arguing  that the special referee erred in failing to find (1) the geographic restriction in the parties’ covenant not to compete is unreasonable and void, (2) the Covenant’s territorial restriction is unsupported by independent and valuable consideration, (3) the Covenant is void as a matter of public policy, and (4) the Covenant became void after any breach by Palmetto.

This Court reversed the finding of the referee holding  that the Covenant’s 150-mile territorial restriction was unreasonable and unenforceable. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

Marshall v. Dodds was a medical malpractice case where the Marshalls appealed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Dr. Kenneth Dodds; Charleston Nephrology Associates, LLC, Dr. Georgia Roane, and Rheumatology Associates, PA (collectively “Respondents”)finding that the Marshalls’ complaints were untimely because the statute of repose began to run after the first alleged misdiagnoses by Dr. Dodds and Dr. Roane. The Marshalls appealed.

In South Carolina, medical malpractice actions are governed by a six-year statute of reposes from the date of occurrence pursuant SC Code Ann subsection 15-34(549(A)  Because the statute does not defined occurrence, the Court looked to the legislative history and found that occurrence- for purposes of the statute- means the time of an alleged negligent treatment, omission, or operation by a medical professional. Accordingly, the Court reversed the lower court’s finding and held that the statute of repose for medical malpractice begins to run at the time of the alleged treatment not after  the first alleged misdiagnosis. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

Easterling v. Burger King was an appeal from the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Burger King. Easterling was rear-ended twice while in the drive through line at Burger King. He was  physically attacked by the same customer when he exited his vehicle to assess the damage done to his car. The manager of Burger King notified the police after approximately 15-20 minutes of commotion between the two drivers.  Easterling filed the lawsuit to recover damages he sustained during the attack. The court granted Burger King’s motion to dismiss finding that Burger King owed no legal duty to Easterling.

Easterling appealed and  argued the court erred in (1) not finding Burger King breached its duty to take reasonable action to protect him against a foreseeable risk of physical harm; (2) not finding Burger King had notice of and created an unreasonable and dangerous condition on its premises; (3) not finding Burger King breached its duty of care by deviating from its own internal policies; and (4) failing to properly rule upon the arguments presented and vacate the grant of summary judgment in light of SCRCP Rule 59(e) motion.

The Court affirmed the holding of the lower court and further found that Easterling failed to produce any evidence that Burger Kind did not take feasible security measures to prevent a physical assault in its drive-through and  had no duty to warn Easterling of the open and obvious embankment (that Easterling claims trapped him in the drive-through). The Court noted the issue of Burger King’s breach of duty of its internal policies was not preserved for appellate review, and that the court acted within its discretion to rule upon the motion for summary judgment via Form 4 order.

In State v. McBride, McBride appealed his conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct on a minor arguing: (1) the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over McBride because he was a juvenile; (2) numerous evidentiary and jury charge issues; (3) the evidence presented was insufficient to prove the required elements of the crime; and(4) the trial court erred in excluding only a portion of McBride’s statement.

The Appellate Court affirmed McBride’s conviction finding that the jurisdiction issue was not preserved for trial, and that there was no merit to the rest of the issues argued on appeal.

In State v. Williams, the State appealed the lower court’s order affirming the magistrates dismissal of the driving under the influence charge against Williams.

The State argues that because Williams was stopped without going through the driver’s license checkpoint, the magistrate and circuit court erred in requiring the State to provide evidence to support the constitutionality of the checkpoint.  The State also contends that the magistrate exceeded its authority in considering Williams’s motion to dismiss, hoidng a pretrial preliminary hearing, and dismissing the case.

The Appellate Court reversed the dismissal of the trial court and magistrate court holding that the State was not required to prove the constitutionality of the checkpoint where a  vehicle does not actually make it to the checkpoint. Williams turned around before he go to the checkpoint, thus, he was never actually stopped by the checkpoint. Additionally, this Court found that the State did not have to establish probable cause because it was able to establish that it had reasonable suspicion based on the totality of the circumstances. The Court noted that police can stop a vehicle for either reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Finally, the Court found that the magistrate exceeded its authority in granting a motion to dismiss in a pretrial preliminary hearing because magistrates do not have the power to hold pretrial preliminary hearings for charges that fall within their jurisdiction. The Appellate Court remanded the case back to the trial court.




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