Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court

by
Petitioner Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, d/b/a Carolinas Medical Center-Fort Mill sought a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision in Amisub of South Carolina, Inc. v. South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control, Op. No. 2017-UP-013 (S.C. Ct. App. filed Jan. 11, 2017). In 2005, four hospitals, Petitioner, Respondent Amisub, Presbyterian Healthcare System, and Hospital Partners of America, applied for a certificate of need (CON) to construct and operate an acute-care hospital in Fort Mill. In May 2006, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) determined the acute-care hospital was necessary, and granted a CON to Amisub, but denied a CON to Petitioner and the others. DHEC's decision to award the CON to Amisub was based in part on its interpretation of the language of the South Carolina Health Plan that only existing health care providers in York County were eligible for additional hospital beds. Petitioner filed a contested case at the ALC, contending DHEC had erroneously interpreted the language of the Health Plan. Alternatively, Petitioner argued that if DHEC's interpretation was correct, the Health Plan violated the dormant Commerce Clause because it improperly restricted interstate commerce. The ALC found DHEC's interpretation of the Health Plan was not correct, reversed, and remanded to DHEC. The ALC's determination made it unnecessary for the ALC to reach the alternative dormant Commerce Clause claim. On remand, DHEC granted a CON to Petitioner, but denied a CON to the others. Amisub filed a second contested case at the ALC, which again reversed, this time ordering a CON be granted to Amisub and denied to Petitioner. The court of appeals affirmed, finding "the record does not show [Petitioner] presented to the ALC any argument that [Amisub]'s positions on adverse impact and outmigration, if adopted by the ALC, would violate the Dormant Commerce Clause. [Petitioner] waited until filing its Rule 59(e) motion to present this argument, which is too late." If Petitioner had reason to believe this issue was actually being litigated before the ALC in the second contested case, and yet remained silent, the South Carolina Supreme Court would have agreed with the court of appeals. However, the dormant Commerce Clause issues arising out of the language of the Health Plan were resolved in Petitioner's favor in the first contested case. Thus, Petitioner could not reasonably have foreseen the ALC would craft its order in a fashion to revive those issues. Therefore, Petitioner had no reason to raise the dormant Commerce Clause challenge in the second contested case until the ALC issued its order. “No party should be penalized for not addressing an issue as to which it had previously prevailed, and which it did not reasonably contemplate would yet be the basis of the court's ruling.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' finding that the dormant Commerce Clause issue was not preserved for appellate review, and remanded the case to the court of appeals for a ruling on the merits of the issue. View "Amisub v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

by
This litigation arose after Respondent Kiawah Development Partners, II (KDP) applied for a permit to build an erosion control structure consisting of a bulkhead and revetment along the Kiawah River on Captain Sam's Spit in order to facilitate residential development of the upland property. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) denied the majority of the permit but granted a 270-foot portion to protect public access to Beachwalker Park. Thereafter, the Administrative Law Court (“ALC”) held a contested case hearing where KDP challenged DHEC's denial of the majority of the requested permit, and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League (the League) contested the issuance of the permit for the 270-foot structure and sought to uphold the denial of the remainder of the permit. After the ALC ruled in favor of KDP and issued an order authorizing the installation of a bulkhead and revetment running 2,783 feet along the shoreline, both DHEC and the League appealed to this Court. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed and remanded the ALC's order, finding several errors of law in its application of the public trust and various provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA). On remand, the ALC reconsidered the evidence presented at the hearing and authorized the installation of a 270-foot tandem bulkhead and revetment along the shoreline adjacent to the parking lot of Beachwalker Park, as well as a vertical bulkhead only that spanned an additional 2,513 feet along the shoreline of Captain Sam's Spit. Now on appeal, DHEC argued the ALC erred in approving the structure aside from the 270 feet protecting access to Beachwalker Park, while the League contested the entirety of the erosion control structure. The Supreme Court found a portion of the structure authorized by the ALC was not supported by substantial evidence, modified the ALC’s order and deleted the portion authorizing the permit for the bulkhead only. View "Kiawah Development v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

by
Respondent Otis Nero filed a workers' compensation claim alleging he sustained injuries to his back and shoulder while on the job. The single commissioner found respondent suffered an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of respondent's employment, and awarded benefits. The appellate panel reversed the decision of the single commissioner, finding respondent failed to provide timely notice of the injury. On appeal from the commission's decision, the court of appeals employed the de novo standard of review applicable to jurisdictional questions, and reversed the commission. In finding the question of timely notice was a jurisdictional question subject to de novo review, the court of appeals relied on Shatto v. McLeod Regional Medical Center, 753 S.E.2d 416 (2013) and Mintz v. Fiske-Carter Construction Co., 63 S.E.2d 50 (1951). The South Carolina Supreme Court found neither Shatto nor Mintz supported the court of appeals' use of the de novo standard. Until this case, the court of appeals consistently applied the substantial evidence standard when reviewing decisions of the commission on the question of timely notice. The Supreme Court found that under well-settled law, the commission's determination of whether a claimant gave timely notice under section 42-15-20 was not a jurisdictional determination, and had to be reviewed on appeal under the substantial evidence standard. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded for a decision under the proper standard of review. View "Nero v. SCDOT" on Justia Law

by
This direct cross-appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court involved the scope of the authority the Department of Revenue (DOR) to enforce various provisions of state law relating to the imposition of a transportation penny tax by Richland County (County) and the County's expenditure of the funds generated by the tax. After DOR conducted an audit and informed the County that DOR intended to cease future remittances to the County based on purported misuse of funds, the County filed a declaratory judgment action in circuit court, arguing DOR lacked the authority to stop payments and seeking a writ of mandamus compelling DOR to continue remitting revenues. DOR counterclaimed seeking a declaration that the County's expenditures were unlawful, an injunction to prohibit future unlawful expenditures, and alternatively, the appointment of a receiver to administer the County's tax revenues. Following a hearing, the circuit court issued a writ of mandamus compelling DOR to remit the tax revenues, denied injunctive relief, and refused to appoint a receiver. Both the County and DOR appealed. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed in all respects except it reversed the circuit court's denial of DOR's request for injunctive relief. DOR was entitled to an injunction requiring the County to expend the funds generated by the tax solely on transportation-related projects in accordance with the law. View "Richland County v. So. Carolina Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

by
Florence County challenged the validity of the West Florence Fire District, arguing that it violated the South Carolina Supreme Court's decision in Wagener v. Smith, 71 S.E.2d 1 (1952) and conflicted with the state's constitutional provisions concerning special legislation and home rule. The circuit court held in favor of Florence County on all three grounds, and the West Florence Fire District appealed. The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed on constitutional grounds. View "County of Florence v. West Florence Fire District" on Justia Law

by
The court of appeals affirmed a jury verdict for Jacklyn Donevant in her wrongful termination action against the Town of Surfside Beach, finding her cause of action fit within the public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine. Donevant was fired because she carried out her mandatory responsibility under the law to enforce the provisions of the South Carolina building code. Donevant discovered unpermitted construction work she determined to be in violation of the building code, and she issued a stop work order. She was fired a few days later. The Town appealed, contending the court of appeals misinterpreted the "public policy exception." The South Carolina Supreme Court determined the Town misinterpreted the public policy exception: "Donevant was enforcing the building code and therefore enforcing a clear mandate of public policy when she issued the stop-work order. ... Under the circumstances of this case, firing Donevant for carrying out her mandatory responsibility to enforce the building code violates public policy." View "Donevant v. Town of Surfside Beach" on Justia Law

by
The court of appeals affirmed a jury verdict for Jacklyn Donevant in her wrongful termination action against the Town of Surfside Beach, finding her cause of action fit within the public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine. Donevant was fired because she carried out her mandatory responsibility under the law to enforce the provisions of the South Carolina building code. Donevant discovered unpermitted construction work she determined to be in violation of the building code, and she issued a stop work order. She was fired a few days later. The Town appealed, contending the court of appeals misinterpreted the "public policy exception." The South Carolina Supreme Court determined the Town misinterpreted the public policy exception: "Donevant was enforcing the building code and therefore enforcing a clear mandate of public policy when she issued the stop-work order. ... Under the circumstances of this case, firing Donevant for carrying out her mandatory responsibility to enforce the building code violates public policy." View "Donevant v. Town of Surfside Beach" on Justia Law

by
In this case, the South Carolina Supreme Court had to decide whether Petitioners Edward and Tammy Dalsing had standing to pursue a private action to adopt a child who had been placed in their foster care by the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS). Law enforcement took the minor child (Child) into emergency protective custody after discovering an active methamphetamine lab outside the home where Child resided with Allyssa and Jonathan Boulware. Child was sunburned, had several insect bites, suffered from severe diaper rash, and tested positive for methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. DSS placed Child in foster care with Petitioners on the same day and then commenced an abuse and neglect removal action. Child's biological parents were Allyssa Boulware and John Stafford (Parents), and Child's legal father by marriage is Jonathan Boulware. The instant controversy began when DSS and Parents reached an agreement for Child to be placed with relatives Darryl and Ruth Ann Armstrong (Aunt and Uncle) in order to give Parents more time to work on a treatment plan. The proposed placement with Aunt and Uncle was not an adoptive placement. DSS intended to close its case after Parents completed the treatment plan. Petitioners immediately moved to intervene in DSS's removal action and commenced a private TPR and adoption action. The family court held a second permanency planning hearing, but declined to rule on DSS's new permanent plan of relative placement with Aunt and Uncle until the court ruled on Petitioners' motion to intervene. The family court found Petitioners did not have standing, and the court of appeals affirmed. S.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Boulware. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the family court, concluding Petitioners had standing to pursue a private adoption under the facts of this case. View "S.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs. v. Boulware" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners South Carolina Public Interest Foundation and Edward Sloan, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, filed a declaratory judgment action against Respondents the South Carolina Department of Transportation ("SCDOT") and John Walsh, Deputy Secretary of Transportation for Engineering of SCDOT. Petitioners sought a declaration that SCDOT's inspection of three privately owned bridges violated sections 5 and 11 of article X of the South Carolina Constitution, which Petitioners asserted prohibit the expenditure of public funds for a private purpose. The trial court granted Respondents' motion for summary judgment, finding: Petitioners lacked standing; the controversy was moot and did not fall under any of the exceptions to the mootness doctrine; and Respondents' actions were not ultra vires or unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court concluded, after review: (1) Petitioners established public importance standing; (2) the Court of Appeals erred in concluding this matter was not justiciable because Respondents admitted their conduct was wrongful; (3) Respondents' inspection of the privately owned bridges was unconstitutional because it contravened the constitutional requirement that the expenditure of public funds serve a public purpose. The Court concluded Respondents' conduct was unconstitutional and ultra vires, and reversed the Court of Appeals' judgment. View "South Carolina Public Interest Foundation v. SCDOT" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Daufuskie Island Utility Company ("DIUC") appeals an order of the South Carolina Public Service Commission ("Commission") granting only thirty-nine percent of the additional revenue requested in its application. DIUC applied to the Commission for approval of a new rate schedule which would provide a 108.9% revenue increase. Due to the substantial increase in its tax liability and its inability to seek further revenue increases until July 2014, DIUC entered into an agreement with Beaufort County to pay the back taxes for years 2012, 2013, 2014, and the projected tax for 2015. Critical to this case was the ownership of an elevated water tank, well, water pump, system pipes, and other DIUC equipment located on a site which was sold at a tax sale in 2010 (“Elevated Tank Site”). Due to a clerical error, tax on the property was not paid, and DIUC did not discover the property had been sold until 2012. Although the tax deed purported to convey the property "all and singular . . . with the appurtenances," DIUC presented testimony from the Beaufort County Treasurer, Maria Walls, that the tax deed did not convey "the elevated water tank, the well, the water pump, system pipes, or other DIUC property located on the Elevated Tank[] Site." Despite providing no evidence to the contrary to support its recommendation, ORS proposed excluding the value of the utility equipment located on the property when calculating DIUC's rate base and property taxes. A hearing on the merits of DIUC's application was held in October 2015. The day before the hearing, several intervening property owner associations (POAs) filed a Settlement Agreement they had entered with ORS for the Commission's consideration. Pursuant to the Agreement, ORS and the POAs stipulated to each party's testimony and exhibits in the record, and the parties agreed to accept all of ORS's adjustments and recommendations, with the exception of the bad debt expense for which they agreed to adopt DIUC's proposal.5 At the hearing, DIUC objected to the admission of the Settlement Agreement, arguing it was irrelevant and prejudicial because it bolstered ORS's recommendations without providing any new or additional evidence to support them. Over DIUC's objection, the Commission admitted the Agreement, reasoning it was more probative than prejudicial. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the Commission erred in admitting evidence of the POA settlement; and the Commission’s findings and conclusions with respect to DIUC’s property taxes were not supported by substantial evidence. The Court remanded for a new hearing. View "Daufuskie Island v. Regulatory Staff" on Justia Law