Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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The South Carolina Supreme Court granted certiorari to review a Court of Appeals' decision affirming a circuit court order denying petitioner's John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods of the Carolinas, Inc.'s ("JWH") motion to compel arbitration. JWH sold lots and "spec" homes on a sixty-five acre residential subdivision. In 2007, respondents ("the Parsons") executed a purchase agreement to buy a home built and sold by JWH ("the Property"). In 2008, the Parsons discovered PVC pipes and a metal lined concrete box buried on their Property. The PVC pipes and box contained "black sludge," which tested positive as a hazardous substance. JWH entered a cleanup contract with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. JWH completed and paid for the cleanup per the cleanup contract. The Parsons claim they were unaware the Property was previously an industrial site and contained hazardous substances. In 2011, the Parsons filed the present lawsuit alleging JWH breached the purchase agreement by failing to disclose defects with the Property, selling property that was contaminated, and selling property with known underground pipes. The Parsons further alleged breach of contract, breach of implied warranties, unfair trade practices, negligent misrepresentation, negligence and gross negligence, and fraud. JWH moved to compel arbitration and dismiss the complaint. The motion asserted that all of the Parsons' claims arose out of the purchase agreement, and the Parsons clearly agreed that all such disputes would be decided by arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion and found the arbitration clause was unenforceable. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's finding that the scope of the arbitration clause was restricted to Warranty claims and declined to address the circuit court's application of the outrageous torts exception doctrine. The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court's conclusion and reversed. View "Parsons v. John Wieland Homes" on Justia Law

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In August 2005, D.R. Horton, Inc. completed construction of the Smiths' home, and the Smiths closed on the property and received the deed. Thereafter, the Smiths experienced a myriad of problems with the home that resulted in severe water damage to the property. D.R. Horton attempted to repair the alleged construction defects on "numerous occasions" during the next five years, but was ultimately unsuccessful. In 2010, the Smiths filed a construction defect case against D.R. Horton and seven subcontractors. In response, D.R. Horton filed a motion to compel arbitration. The Smiths opposed the motion, arguing, inter alia, that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and therefore unenforceable. The circuit court denied D.R. Horton's motion to compel arbitration, finding that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable. D.R. Horton appealed, but finding no error in the circuit court's decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. D.R. Horton, Inc" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Linda Johnson enrolled her mother, Inez Roberts (Mrs. Roberts), in Heritage Healthcare of Estill (HHE) to receive nursing home care. Johnson held a general power of attorney for Mrs. Roberts, and as such, signed an arbitration agreement with HHE on her mother's behalf upon Mrs. Roberts's admission to HHE. Within six months of entering HHE, she developed severe pressure ulcers, resulting in the amputation of her leg and ultimately, her death in 2009. Prior to Mrs. Roberts's death, in August 2008, Johnson requested HHE allow her access to Mrs. Roberts's medical records, but HHE refused, citing privacy provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Johnson then filed an ex parte motion seeking to obtain a copy of Mrs. Roberts's medical records from HHE and to restrain HHE from changing, altering, or destroying the records. The circuit court granted a restraining order, and HHE filed a motion to dissolve the order, again citing HIPAA's privacy provisions. Subsequently, at Johnson's request, the circuit court appointed her Mrs. Roberts's guardian ad litem (GAL) in order to pacify HHE's HIPAA concerns. However, HHE still refused to produce the records. The court again ordered HHE to produce the records, and HHE appealed. During the pendency of the appeal, Mrs. Roberts died, and Johnson became her personal representative. HHE then produced the records, and the parties dismissed the appeal by consent. Several months after obtaining the records, in August 2010, Johnson filed a notice of intent (NOI) for a wrongful death and survival action against HHE. In October 2010, following an impasse at pre-suit mediation, Johnson filed her complaint. In November 2010, HHE filed its answer and asserted arbitration as one of several defenses, but did not move to compel arbitration at that time. Instead, HHE filed arbitration-related discovery requests on Johnson. Johnson asks this Court to review the court of appeals' decision to reverse the circuit court's finding that Heritage Healthcare of Estill (HHE) waived its right to arbitrate the claims between it and Johnson. Finding that HHE indeed waived its right to arbitrate the claims, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals. View "Johnson v. Heritage Healthcare" on Justia Law

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Appellants Heritage Healthcare of Ridgeway, LLC, Uni-Health Post-Acute Care - Tanglewood, LLC (Tanglewood), and UHS-Pruitt Corporation (collectively, Appellants) ask this Court to reverse the circuit court's denial of their motion to compel arbitration in this wrongful death and survival action involving Appellants' allegedly negligent nursing home care. Tanglewood is a skilled nursing facility located in Ridgeway, owned and controlled by Appellants. In January 2007, Tanglewood and Respondent Darlene Dean entered into a nursing home residency agreement in which Tanglewood assumed responsibility for the care of Respondent's mother, Louise Porter (the patient). The same day, Respondent signed a separate, voluntary arbitration agreement. The patient did not sign either the residency agreement or the Agreement on her own behalf, although she was competent at the time of her admission to Tanglewood. Moreover, Respondent did not have a health care power of attorney empowering her to sign on the patient's behalf. In 2009, the patient fell three separate times within a ten day period, fracturing her hip in the third fall. Over the next two months, the patient underwent two hip surgeries; however, due to complications following the surgeries, the patient died on September 30, 2009. In late 2011, Respondent (acting in her capacity as personal representative of her mother's estate) filed a Notice of Intent (NOI) to file a medical malpractice suit against Appellants, as well as an expert affidavit in support of her NOI. Respondent also alleged claims for survival and wrongful death. In lieu of filing an answer to the complaint, Appellants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and (6), SCRCP, or, in the alternative, a motion to compel arbitration and stay the litigation. Relying on "Grant v. Magnolia Manor-Greenwood, Inc.," (678 S.E.2d 435 (2009)), the circuit court invalidated the Agreement in its entirety and refused to compel arbitration between the parties. Appellants filed a motion to reconsider, which the circuit court denied. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that Respondent's argument that Appellants' waived their right to enforce the Agreement was without merit. On remand, the Supreme Court mandated that the circuit court consider her remaining arguments (concerning Respondent's authority to sign the Agreement and whether there was a meeting of the minds between the parties) prior to deciding whether to compel arbitration between the parties. View "Dean v. Heritage Healthcare" on Justia Law

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In a matter of first impression, the Supreme Court was asked to determine if an unsuccessful party in an arbitration proceeding could prevent the confirmation of an award by paying the award prior to the confirmation proceeding. Diane Henderson filed an action against Summerville Ford-Mercury, Inc. alleging the dealer made misrepresentations to her when she purchased a used vehicle. The circuit court granted the dealer's motion to compel arbitration, and an arbitrator found for Henderson on her claims for violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act and the South Carolina Regulation of Manufacturers, Distributors, and Dealers Act. Henderson moved to confirm the arbitration award, which was granted by the circuit court. The dealer appealed, arguing the circuit court erred: (1) in rejecting its assertion that payment of the award mooted the request for confirmation, leaving no "justiciable controversy"; and alternatively (2) in applying the provision for confirming awards contained in the South Carolina Uniform Arbitration Act ("UAA"), rather than the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"). Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the unsuccessful party could not prevent confirmation of the award by paying it before confirmation. View "Henderson v. Summerville Ford-Mercury" on Justia Law

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The contract between the general contractor and subcontractor provided for arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act. When a complaint was filed, the general contractor Appellant Sean Barnes and property owner Appellant Wando E. sought to enforce the construction contract's arbitration clause. The trial court refused to compel arbitration on the basis that the contract did not sufficiently impact interstate commerce. Upon review, the Supreme Court found the trial court erred in finding the parties' transaction had an insufficient nexus to interstate commerce and reversed. View "Cape Romain v. Wando E., LLC" on Justia Law

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This dispute arose from the construction of a commercial building. Before the property was purchased, Respondent Bryan Causey hired GS2 Engineering and Environmental Consulting, Inc. (GS2) to perform an engineering analysis of the soils on the property to determine whether the land was suitable for construction. Causey formed Causey Consulting, LLC (of which he was the sole member), and Causey Consulting purchased the property to construct the commercial building. Appellant Crouch Construction Company was retained as the general contractor. The parties' dispute began over the amount of unsuitable soils excavated from the building site: during construction, it became apparent that more unsuitable soil needed to be removed than was initially anticipated, and the removal of additional soil increased the cost of the project. The construction project was substantially completed then occupied by Respondent Celebrations of Columbia, LLC, of which Causey is also a member. When Appellant did not receive final payment for the work, it filed a mechanic's lien and a suit to foreclose the lien. The circuit court ordered arbitration pursuant to an arbitration clause in the construction contract. The arbitrator determined Appellant was owed money under the contract, plus interest, attorney's fees and costs. Respondents moved to vacate the award, seeking to have it set aside based on several unfavorable evidentiary rulings and general allegations that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the law. The circuit court denied Respondents' motion. However, before an order was entered, Respondents learned that an engineer employed by GS2 was the brother of one of the arbitrator's law partners. Respondents filed a supplemental motion to vacate the arbitration award, reiterating their previous arguments and raising several new claims, citing the arbitrator's failure to disclose his law partner's relationship with an employee of GS2. The circuit court found that vacatur was warranted, and , the circuit court held the award should be set aside. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the arbitrator was not evidently partial towards GS2 or either party. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the case to the circuit court for confirmation of the arbitration award. View "Crouch Construction v. Causey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the failure to complete a mediation conference in a timely manner does not divest a trial court of jurisdiction, and dismissal is not mandated. South Carolina Code 15-79-125 requires a pre-suit mediation process for medical malpractice claims, and that the conference be completed within a 120-day period, which may be extended. The issue before the Court centered on whether the failure to complete the mediation conference in a timely manner divested the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction and required dismissal. The contrary decision of the trial court was reversed and the case remanded for the pre-suit mediation process to be completed. View "Ross v. Waccamaw Community Hospital" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case concerned the scope of an arbitration clause under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Respondent Christopher Landers served as Appellant Atlantic Bank & Trust's executive vice president pursuant to an employment contract. The contract contained a broad arbitration provision. Respondent alleged five causes of action, namely that he was constructively terminated from his employment as a result of Appellant Neal Arnold's tortious conduct towards him. Appellants moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the employment contract. The trial court found that only Respondent's breach of contract claim was subject to the arbitration provision, while his other four causes of action comprised of several tort and corporate claims were not within the scope of the arbitration clause. Upon review, the Supreme Court disagreed: "Landers' pleadings provide a clear nexus between his claims and the employment contract sufficient to establish a significant relationship to the employment agreement. We find the claims are within the scope of the agreement's broad arbitration provision." The Court reversed the trial court's order and held that all of Respondent's causes of action must be arbitrated. View "Landers v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp." on Justia Law

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Brentwood Homes, Inc. and the other appellants in this case (collectively "Brentwood Homes") appealed a circuit court's order denying a motion to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration in a lawsuit filed by Petitioner Fred Bradley that arose out of his purchase of a home in South Carolina. Although Brentwood Homes conceded the Home Purchase Agreement did not meet the technical requirements of the South Carolina Uniform Arbitration Act (the "UAA"), it claimed the court erred in denying the motion because the transaction involved interstate commerce and thus was subject to the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"). Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that because the essential character of the Agreement was strictly for the purchase of a completed residential dwelling and not the construction, the Court found the FAA did not apply. Furthermore, the existence of the national warranty and Bradley's use of out-of-state financing did not negate the intrastate nature of the transaction. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the circuit court's order denying Brentwood Homes' motion to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration as Brentwood Homes failed to offer sufficient evidence that the transaction involved interstate commerce to subject the Agreement to the FAA. View "Bradley v. Brentwood Homes" on Justia Law