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The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina certified a question of state law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Plaintiff was a former employee of BMW at its manufacturing facility in Spartanburg. During his employment, Plaintiff was subject to random drug tests. BMW contracted with Defendant to test hair samples of BMW employees for the presence of drugs. Plaintiff was selected for a random drug test, which was administered on-site by a contract nurse from a local hospital. According to Defendant's analysis, his hair sample tested positive for cocaine and benzoylecgonine (the primary metabolite of cocaine). Though Plaintiff asserted that he had not used any illegal substances, BMW suspended Plaintiff pending an investigation. On April 22, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a hair sample to an independent drug testing laboratory whose report determined that Plaintiff's hair tested negative for any illegal substances. BMW refused to accept the independent laboratory's results but permitted Plaintiff to submit a second hair sample for analysis by Defendant. The second hair sample also tested positive for cocaine and benzoylecgonine. BMW subsequently terminated Plaintiff due to the positive drug test results. Plaintiff maintained he was not and had never been a drug user. Plaintiff filed an action against Defendant, alleging negligence and negligent supervision. In response, Defendant filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss on the basis that Defendant did not owe a duty to Plaintiff. The certified question posed to the South Carolina Supreme Court asked whether a drug testing laboratory contracted with an employer to conduct and evaluate drug tests, owed a duty of care to employees subject to such testing that gives rise to a cause of action for negligence for failure to properly and accurately perform the test and report the results. The Supreme Court responded in the affirmative: “without the recognition of a duty, a terminated employee is often left without a means for redress, while the drug testing laboratory is effectively immunized from liability. … Therefore, absent a duty of care, drug testing laboratories are able to avoid liability for their negligence.” View "Shaw v. Psychemedics Corporation" on Justia Law

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Although the trial court acknowledged Respondent Irene Sweeney would receive substantial income from her share of an investment account, it granted her alimony. The court of appeals affirmed, noting the family court extensively analyzed the statutory factors governing alimony. The issue for the South Carolina Supreme Court’s resolution centered on whether the family court adequately considered the projected growth of a party's liquid assets apportioned through equitable division in awarding alimony. The Supreme Court affirmed the family court’s judgment, taking the opportunity to clarify that in determining alimony, family courts should consider the effect of investment income on both parties. View "Sweeney v. Sweeney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Denise Wright was abducted and robbed at gunpoint by two unknown assailants in a common area of an apartment complex (Wellspring) in which she resided. Wellspring was owned by Respondent Franklin Pineridge Associates and operated by Respondent PRG Real Estate Management, Inc. Respondent Karen Campbell was Wellspring's property manager and an employee of PRG at the time of the incident. Wright sued Respondents for negligence, alleging Respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security to residents of Wellspring and breached this duty, thereby causing her damages. She also alleged Respondents were negligent in failing to properly maintain shrubbery and lighting on the premises. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Respondents on Wright's negligence claim. A divided court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Wright's petition for a writ of certiorari to review: (1) whether Respondents voluntarily undertook a duty to provide security services to residents; (2) if such a duty existed under the facts of this case, whether there was a genuine issue of material fact that Respondents breached the duty; and (3) whether there was a genuine issue of material fact that any such breach proximately caused Wright's damages. The Supreme Court concluded the court of appeals erred in affirming the circuit court’ grant of summary judgment in favor or Respondents. The matter was remanded back to the circuit court for trial. View "Wright v. PRG Real Estate Management" on Justia Law

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Skydive Myrtle Beach, Inc. brought this lawsuit alleging Horry County, the Horry County Department of Airports, and several of their individually named employees improperly attempted to remove Skydive from the space it leased at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The circuit court dismissed Skydive's claims against the individually named employees pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, without allowing Skydive leave to amend its complaint. The court of appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion. Finding that the circuit court should have allowed Skydive an opportunity to amend its complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a), the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded the case to the circuit court to allow Skydive an opportunity to file its amended complaint. View "Skydive v. Horry" on Justia Law

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Robert Osbey pled guilty to criminal charges without counsel. He later applied for post-conviction relief (PCR) on the ground he did not waive his right to counsel. After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the denial of his PCR claim because the record did not reflect a valid waiver of Osbey's right to counsel. In particular, the Court found the plea court did not ensure Osbey was aware of the dangers of self-representation. This case was remanded to the court of general sessions for a new trial. View "Osbey v. South Carolina" on Justia Law

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Sentry Select Insurance Company brought a legal malpractice lawsuit in federal district court against the lawyer it hired to defend an insured in an automobile accident case. The district court requested the South Carolina Supreme Court answer whether, under South Carolina law: (1) an insurer may maintain a direct malpractice action against counsel hired to represent its insured where the insurance company had a duty to defend; and (2) whether a legal malpractice claim be assigned to a third-party who is responsible for payment of legal fees and any judgment incurred as a result of the litigation in which the alleged malpractice arose. The Court responded in the affirmative to (1), reasserting an attorney would not be placed in conflict between his client's interests and the interests of the insurer. Thus, the insurer may recover only for the attorney's breach of his duty to his client, when the insurer proves the breach is the proximate cause of damages to the insurer. If the interests of the client are the slightest bit inconsistent with the insurer's interests, there can be no liability of the attorney to the insurer, because the attorney's duty to the client would not be permitted to be affected by the interests of the insurance company. Whether there is any inconsistency between the client's and the insurer's interests in the circumstances of an individual case is a question of law to be answered by the trial court. The Supreme Court declined to answer the second question posed. View "Sentry Select Insurance v. Maybank Law Firm" on Justia Law

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In this case, Petitioner Daniel Herrera was convicted of "trafficking in" (meaning, possessing) between ten and 100 pounds of marijuana, which carried a substantial term of imprisonment. The penalty for possessing fewer than ten pounds of marijuana was less severe. Moreover, drug trafficking was classified as a violent and serious crime, affecting Herrera's parole eligibility. At trial, Herrera contended that he did not knowingly possess any marijuana. Moreover, Herrera disputed the weight of the marijuana, allegedly, ten pounds, 2.78 ounces, by challenging: (1) the qualifications of the State's marijuana expert, police officer Jared Hunnicutt; and (2) the accuracy of the purported weight of the marijuana. Ultimately, Herrera's challenges were unsuccessful, and following his conviction, the court of appeals affirmed the admission of Hunnicutt's testimony regarding the weight of the marijuana in a summary unpublished opinion. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed, finding it was an abuse of discretion to permit Hunnicutt to testify to the weight of the marijuana. Accordingly, the matter was remanded to the trial court for a new trial. View "South Carolina v. Herrera" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Sarah Cardwell appealed her convictions of two counts of unlawful conduct towards a child and two counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, arguing the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress a video file taken from her laptop computer. Computer technician David Marsh was repairing Petitioner's laptop when Chief Ron Douglas of the Johnsonville Police Department stopped by Marsh's home to deliver packages. While Marsh was taking the packages to his garage, Chief Douglas saw an image go across the computer screen of a naked, male child wearing a pink bra. At Chief Douglas's request, Marsh found the video from which the image had been taken, and the two men watched a minute of the video showing Petitioner's daughter, son, and then-boyfriend, Michael Cardwell, dancing naked. Petitioner could not be seen in the video; however, Marsh was able to identify Petitioner as the individual behind the camera directing the children's movements based on her voice. Upon Chief Douglas's instruction, Marsh copied the video to a disc. Chief Douglas instructed Marsh to secure the laptop, and contacted the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office ("GCSO") to take over the investigation. GCSO took possession of the disc and laptop and obtained a search warrant for these items; a grand jury would indict Petitioner on child pornography charges. Petitioner contended the Court of Appeals erred in upholding the trial court's denial of her motion to suppress the video file seized from her laptop computer. "The fact that Marsh would not have seen the image without Chief Douglas's instruction is irrelevant because there was nothing unlawful about Chief Douglas bringing the still image to Marsh's attention since it was in Chief Douglas's plain view." The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed Cardwell's conviction. View "South Carolina v. Cardwell" on Justia Law

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Daryl Snow appealed his commitment as a sexually violent predator under the Sexually Violent Predator Act. He argued his diagnosis of Other Specified Personality Disorder was legally insufficient to meet the constitutional and statutory requirements for commitment under the Act, and thus the trial court erred when it denied his motions for a directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). The court of appeals affirmed his commitment in an unpublished opinion. Finding no reversible error, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals. The Supreme Court determined the diagnosis was legally sufficient to satisfy the second element of the Sexually Violent Predator Act definition, and also, the State presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate Snow's diagnosis made him likely to engage in acts of sexual violence and that he had serious difficulty controlling his behavior. View "In the Matter of Snow" on Justia Law

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Edward Sloan and the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation (collectively, Appellants) filed suit alleging Act 275 of 2016 violated article III, section 17 of the South Carolina Constitution (the One Subject Rule). Appellants claimed Act 275's title was insufficient and its provisions related to more than one subject, thus violating the Rule. The trial court dismissed the complaint on numerous grounds. The South Carolina Supreme Court did not address all of these issues on certiorari review, but elected to resolve the appeal on the merits. While it has not hesitated to strike down legislation that violates the One Subject Rule, the Supreme Court has also respected the separation of powers doctrine and upheld legislation where a close question is presented. The constitutional challenge to Act 275 did not present a close question—Act 275 manifestly complied with the One Subject Rule. The trial court's dismissal of the complaint was affirmed. View "SC Public Interest Foundation v. SC House" on Justia Law