South Carolina Court of Appeals’ Opinions

In March, the South Carolina Court of Appeals published seven opinions:

Fay v. Total Quality Logistics was a cross appeal involving the enforceability of an employee noncompete, confidentiality, and nonsolicitation agreement.

The Court of Appeals found that the Agreement did not comport with South Carolina public policy because its nondisclosure provisions effectively prevented Fay from every working in a similar capacity for one of TQL’s competitors. Specifically, the Court noted that the noncompete clause was not reasonably limited with respect to time by  restricting Fay’s rights to utilize his talents in earning a living for an indefinite time period, if not forever. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals revered the circuit court’s granting of summary judgment to TQL, and dismissed TQL’s cross-appeal because a party may not appeal the denial of summary judgment.

In SCDSS v. Myers, Andrew Myers (Father) appealed a family court order terminating his parental rights to his minor daughter (Child) and granting an adoption of Child to Respondents (Foster Parents).  In his appeal, Father argues the family court erred in (1)finding his consent was not required for Child’s adoption, (2) terminating his parental rights, (3) granting adoption to Foster Parents while finding they lacked standing to file an adoption petition, (4) allowing Foster Parents to be parties to this action, and (5) finding Child’s permanent plan should be termination of parental rights (TPR) and adoption

The Court of appeals found that the issue of Foster Parents intervention in the removal action is not properly before the Court as the order allowing the Foster Parents to intervene ws by agreement and consent of the Father who cannot now challenge it on appeal.

Additionally, the Court of Appeals found that the family court erred  in the following: (1) by considering adoption once it determined Foster Parents did not have standing to file an adoption action; (2) by terminating Father’s parental rights because Foster Parents failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that a statutory ground for TPR existed.

On the first issue, the Court vacated the family court’s finding that Father’s consent was not required for the adoption and the family court’s order granting Foster Parents adoption of Child.

On the next issue, the Court found that the court may terminate parental rights only when a statutory ground for TPR exists and not only when it is in the child’s best interest. Accordingly the Court reversed the family court’s finding.

The Court vacated in part, reversed in part and remanded for a new permanency planning hearing pursuant to SC Code Section 63-7-1700.

In State v. Huckabee, Appellant sought review of his convictions for homicide by child abuse (HCA) inflicting great bodily injury upon a child, unlawful conduct toward a child, and first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) with a minor. Appellant argues the trial court erred in admitting testimony of a witness proffered as an expert in criminal behavior analysis.

The Court held that Agent LaRosa’s criminal profiling testimony was excludable under Rule 403, SCRE, because the testimony suggested Appellant’s guild on an improper basis, and therefore, the danger of unfair prejudice outweighed any possible probative value.

Accordingly, the Court reversed Appellant’s convictions for first-degree CSC with a minor, inflicting great bodily harm upon a child, and HCA and remanded for a new trial. The Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction for unlawful conduct toward a child because the testimony provided by the doctor who performed the child’s autopsy and Appellant’s own admissions overwhelmingly supported his conviction. 

Abel v. SCDHEC is an appeal from the Administrative Law Court (ALC), Dan and Mary Abel (the Abels) argue the ALC erred in refusing to enforce a previous consent order requiring that wetlands on neighboring property be maintained. The Court held that the ALC erred by interpreting the Consent Order to include a temporal restriction on clauses that contain no such limitation. The Court reversed the ALC’s order limiting the Consent Order and remanded for the court to consider the Appellants’ request for an injunction in light of the conclusions reached in this opinion.

State v. Davis is an appeal arising from Appellant’s conviction for conspiracy to traffic 100 grams or more but less than 200 grams of methamphetamine, the S.C. Court of Appeals affirmed Appellant’s conviction. The Appellant raised five issues on appeal.

The court held, inter alia, that: (1) the circuit court’s admission of hearsay from the confidential informant (CI) during Agent Asbill’s testimony violated Appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation because Appellant had no opportunity to cross-examine the CI; and (2) the circuit court’s error in admitting hearsay during Agent Asbill’s testimony was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the jury had more than enough evidence from the co-conspirator’s testimony to find Appellant conspired to traffic 100 grams or more of methamphetamine.

In Nero v. SCDOT, is an appeal arising from the decision of the Appellate Panel of the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission (the Appellate Panel), this Court reversed the Appellate Panel’s decision.

The court held that the Appellate Panel erred when it found SCDOT did not receive adequate notice under section 42-15-20(A) of the South Carolina Code. Although Appellant never formally reported his injuries to his supervisors, his supervisors were both present at the time of his injury. In addition, the Court held that the Appellate Panel erred in finding Appellant failed to establish a “reasonable excuse” for any notice deficiency and that SCDOT was prejudiced by the lack of notice. Appellant’s reason for not formally reporting his workplace incident was that his supervisors were present when he lost consciousness. Moreover, Appellant’s supervisors talked to him while he was hospitalized and were aware of his treatment and subsequent surgery, as well as the fact that he never returned to work after his collapse.

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