Opinions from the South Carolina Court of Appeals

Court of AppealsOn Wednesday, the South Carolina Court of Appeals published six opinions:

Dorn v. Cohen centered around deciding the rights to a trusts established as a settlement for a medical malpractice claim between Abbie and Daniel Dorn and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center following the birth of their triplets (the Children).  The Trust listed Abbie as the sole primary beneficiary and Children as remainder beneficiaries after Abbie’s death; the Trusts named the Cohens, Abbie’s caretakers, as co-trustees.

The Dorns were divorced a few years later. Daniel Dorn filed a petition, on behalf of the Children to remove the Cohens as co-trustees of the Trust and sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the Cohens from spending Trust money on anything other than Abbie’s medical needs. The Cohens filed a counter petition to have the terms of the Trusts reformed.

The probate court found that both petitions should be heard together in a single trial, and that both Children and DHHS should be named as parties in Cohen’s petition.  To avoid any conflict of interest, the court appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL) to independently represent Children, and a separate guardian ad litem for Abbie (Abbie’s GAL).  During the trial, Dorn argued that since Abbie was not a named party to his petition and that Abbie’s GAL nor her Appointed Attorney could call witnesses during the trial on Dorn’s petition. The probate court denied Dorn’s motion to exclude Appointed Attorney and Abbie’s GAL from calling witnesses on the basis that the underlying petition sought to remove the trustees of Abbie’s trust, making Abbie an interested party. Following a telephone status conference, the court issued an order continuing the incomplete trial and another order adding Abbie as a party to both petitions pursuant to Rule 19, SCRCP.

Dorn and Children (Appellants) appealed the probate court’s order adding Abbie as a party to the circuit court. The circuit court dismissed the appeals finding that Appellants’ appeals were not immediately appealable because no final decision had been rendered in the case. Appellants’ appealed to the Court of Appeals. This Court affirmed the circuit court’s finding that the court did not err in dismissing the appeal as not immediately appealable.

In the Winthrop University Trustees v. Pickens Roofing, Pickens Roofing (Pickens) appealed the jury’s award of over $7.2 million to Winthrop University Trustees (Winthrop) for damages arising from an extensive roof fire. On appeal, Pickens argues that the circuit court erred in (1) denying its motion for a new trial absolute based on the court’s refusal to strike a juror for cause; (2) denying its directed verdict motion as to liability; (3) failing to properly recharge the jury on proximate cause; (4) bifurcating the liability and damages phases of trial; (5) denying its directed verdict motion as to damages; and (6) failing to adjust the jury’s damages verdict to reflect Winthrop’s comparative negligence.

This Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court.

In the Callawassie Island v. Dennis, Ronnie and Jeanette Dennis (Appellants) appealed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Callawassie Island Members Club.

Appellants purchased property on Callawassie Island and membership the Callawassie Island Club (CIC). The CIC members purchased the club’s assets, changed membership rules, and renamed the club Callawassie Island Members Club (CIMC). The appellants stopped paying their dues to CIMC and tendered a resignation. CIMC filed a breach of contract actions for unpaid dues, fees, assessments, and other charges.

This Court found the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment because there is some ambiguity in the governing documents a to whether club members are liable for dues accruing after resignation. The Court found that due to the genuine issue of fact relating to whether Appellants were obligated to pay dues post-resignation this precluding judgment for Callawassie as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Court reversed the circuit court’s holding and remanded the case back to the court.

State v. Porch was an appeal of a conviction for murder. Appellant argued the trial court erred in failing to void the State’s arrest warrant and limiting Porch’s testimony in violation of the Confrontation Clause.

This Court affirmed the finding of the trial court on both issues.

Vicary v. Town of Awendaw, the Town of Awendaw (the Town) appeals the circuit court’s final order, arguing the court erred in finding (1) Lynne Vicary, Kent Prause, and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League had standing; (2) the Town never received a proper petition requesting the 2004 annexation; (3) the Town falsely claimed it had a proper petition to annex United States Forest Service (the Forest Service) property; (4) the Town was estopped from asserting a statute of limitations defense; and (5) the statutory time period for challenging the 2004 annexation was tolled.

This Court reversed the circuit court’s determination that Respondents had standing and did not address the Town’s remaining issues.

In First South Bank v. Rosenberg, the estate of Philip J. Brust appeals the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of First South Bank (First South) as well as its denial of Brust’s motion to amend his answer and counterclaim. Brust argues the court erred in (1) granting First South’s motion for summary judgment because it ignored questions of fact regarding the scope of authority granted under a specific limited power of attorney (the POA), Brust’s knowledge of a guaranty’s scope, the effect of subsequent loan modifications, and Brust’s proposed counterclaims against First South; and (2) denying Brust’s motion to amend because it incorrectly relied upon the doctrine of res judicata rather than deciding the motion under Rule 15, SCRCP.

The Court affirmed as modified, holding inter alia, that Brust failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact as to ambiguity of the POA in question. The Court therefore rejected Brust’s argument that Rosenberg had no actual authority to execute, finding the POA’s language unambiguously granted Rosenberg the authority “to execute any and all documents . . . or to execute or amend any document, instrument, or thing, which may be involved in the financing of [the Property].”

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