Opinions from South Carolina Court of Appeals

Court of AppealsToday, the South Carolina Court of Appeals published two opinions:

Taylors v. Heirs of William Taylor,  involves a property dispute between families competing for ownership of a ten acre tract of land in Beaufort County. The master-in-equity granted title for the entire tract to Respondents Maxine Taylor, Stanley Taylor, Joe Taylor, and Martha Brown. Appellants appealed arguing (1) the master erred by finding Respondents owned the entire tract; (2) they established title to portions of the tract by adverse possession; (3) they were entitled to a presumption of a grant for portions of the tract; and (4) the boundary line was mutually recognized and acquiesced for ten years.

The Court reversed the master’s order that Appellants failed to prove the elements of adverse possession because there was no evidence to reasonably support his finding. The Court found that Appellants established each element of adverse possession  with regard to parcel five and, further, that Respondents failed to offer any contrary evidence that could have reasonably supported the master’s finding.

In South Carolina Community Bank v. Salon Proz,  Salon Proz, LLC (Salon), appealed the master-in-equity’s order denying Salon’s motion to transfer the case to the general jury docket. Salon argued (1) it did not waive its jury trial demand, (2) the clerk of court lacked the authority to refer the case, (3) if the clerk had the authority to refer the case, the clerk erred in doing so, and (4) a return to the jury docket is required because Salon’s amended answer demands a jury trial and creates new issues of fact.

On the issue of jury waiver, the Court reversed the trial court’s decision,  declining to presume a waiver occurred when any evidence supporting such was sparse and ambiguous.

On the issues of the clerk’s authority and act of referring the case to the master, the Court reversed the trial court’s decision. Despite the power given to the clerk to transfer such under SCRCP 53(b), the Court found that the clerk does not retain such power when a party has already made a valid jury demand. Because Salon demanded a jury trial in its initial answer, the clerk should not have referred the case. Accordingly, the master erred in denying Salon’s motion to transfer the case to the jury docket.

On the issue of Salon’s counterclaims, reversed the trial court’s finding due to the Court reviewing the counterclaims and found that at lease one of the counterclaims (UPTA claim) was both legal and compulsory the court erred not returning the case to the jury docket.

Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with instructions that the case be returned to the jury docket for further proceedings, including a hearing before the circuit court to determine the nature of any remaining counterclaims and any request for an order of reference as to equitable matters.

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