Opinions from the South Carolina Court of Appeals

The South Carolina Court of Appeals published four opinions.

State v. Trapp is a criminal appeal in which Trapp appeals his conviction for trafficking crack cocaine, arguing the circuit court erred in: (1) admitting drug evidence when the State failed to establish a strict chain of custody; (2) admitting testimonial evidence in violation of the Confrontation Clause; (3) failing to grant a Franks v. Delaware hearing and subsequently refusing to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the invalid search warrant; and (4) admitting Trapp’s alleged confession without a Jackson v. Denno hearing when the totality of circumstances demonstrated Trapp’s statements were involuntary and thus inadmissible.

The police discovered crack cocaine in Trapp’s bedroom while investigating a burglary reported by Trapp. Following the discovery of the drugs, the police requested a search warrant to search for other contraband that was present in the home. At the pre-trial hearing, Trapp moved to suppress the drug evidence and his confession. The circuit court denied all of Trapp’s motions.

This Court upheld the circuit court’s decisions on all issues raised at appeal.

In Gibson v. Ameris Bank, a master-in-equity entered judgment against Ameris Bank (“Ameris”) for breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, and aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty claims asserted by Linda Gibson, individually and as trustee of the Paul William Gibson Family Trust (“the Trust”), and Heritage Seven, LLC (collectively, “Respondents”)

On appeal, Ameris argues the master erred (1) in concluding Ameris owed Respondents a fiduciary duty in a $2.8 million commercial loan transaction for a real estate venture that ultimately failed; (2) in concluding Ameris was liable for negligent misrepresentation because one of Ameris’s future employees told Gibson that the transaction was a “good deal” and that the “rents would cover the debt” and because Ameris structured the loan “to include borrowing the down payment of $700,000” such that the apartments were purchased with “100% borrowed money”; (3) in concluding Ameris aided and abetted Gibson’s real estate agent in breaching his fiduciary duty; and (4) in awarding actual damages and excessive punitive damages.

This Court reversed the finding of the circuit court holding that Ameris was not acting as an agent of Zerbst (the loan officer) and, therefore, cannot be held liable for damages resulting from Zerbst’s conduct.

In State v. Spears, Appellant appealed his conviction and sentence for trafficking crack cocaine. The Court of Appeals reversed Appellant’s conviction and sentencing holding that:  (1) the trial court erred in finding the agents engaged Appellant in a consensual encounter because under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person in Appellant’s position would not have felt free to leave; and (2) the trial court further erred by denying Appellant’s motion to suppress the drug evidence because under the totality of the circumstances, the agents did not have a reasonable suspicion Appellant was involved in criminal activity.

Judge Williams dissented in a separate opinion.

Anderson County v.  Preston is an appeal arising from an order of the circuit court granting judgment in favor of Preston on all causes of action as well as his counterclaim against Anderson County (the County). This Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

The County raised numerous issues on appeal. The Court held, inter alia, that: (1) Preston owed no fiduciary duty to the County to disclose Thompson and Wilson’s conflicts of interest during the Council’s vote on his Severance Agreement because the parties were directly adverse to one another; (2) the County had no right to rely upon any false representations allegedly made by Preston because the Severance Agreement’s negotiation constituted “an arm’s length transaction between mature, educated people”—all of whom were represented by counsel; (3) the circuit court properly declined the County’s invitation to apply the single tainted vote rule in the instant case because Baird indicates we do not follow the single tainted vote rule in South Carolina; and (4) all votes relating to the adoption and funding of the Severance Agreement are null and void because the 2008 Council passed the motions in the absence of a quorum

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