Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The South Carolina Supreme Court answered two certified questions of South Carolina law, posed by the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. These questions arose from two sets of litigation (“Fullbright” and “Chenard”) at the federal district court involving individuals (collectively, Plaintiffs) who entered into contracts with developers (collectively, Defendants) to purchase interests in vacation time sharing plans (timeshare plans) for real estate on Hilton Head Island. The federal court asked the Supreme Court whether: (1) the South Carolina Real Estate Commission had exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether there was a violation of the state Vacation Time Sharing Plans Act; (2) whether the Commission’s determination of a violation of the Timeshare Act was a condition precedent to a purchaser suing to enforce the Act; and (3) whether the Commission’s determinations as to whether the Timeshare Act was violated was binding on courts. The Supreme Court answered the first two questions in the negative; the Court answered the third question “no” too, provided the Commission’s decision had not bee subjected to judicial review. View "Fullbright v. Spinnaker Resorts" on Justia Law

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Defendant Carus Corp. (Carus) was an international company that developed and sold chemical products for municipal and industrial applications. Defendant's products included a chemical called Totalox, which essentially, was designed as a deodorizer for sewer systems. The Town of Lexington (Town) used Totalox in its sewer treatment plants. In 2010, Plaintiff John Machin, a Town employee, was exposed to Totalox when a storage container valve broke during the delivery of Totalox to one of the Town's wastewater stations. Plaintiff suffered reactive airways syndrome, which was also known as chemically induced asthma or obstructive lung disease. As a result of his injuries, Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim and was awarded workers' compensation benefits. The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted four certified questions from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina: (1) Under South Carolina law, when a Plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may the jury hear an explanation of why the employer is not part of the instant action?; (2) when a Plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may a defendant argue the empty chair defense and suggest that Plaintiff's employer is the wrongdoer?; (3) In connection with Question 2, if a defendant retains the right to argue the empty chair defense against Plaintiff's employer, may a court instruct the jury that an employer's legal responsibility has been determined by another forum, specifically, the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission?; and (4) when a Plaintiff seeks recovery from a person, other than his employer, for an injury sustained on the job, may the Court allow the jury to apportion fault against the nonparty employer by placing the name of the employer on the verdict form? The South Carolina Supreme Court answered these questions in the abstract, without any suggestion as to the resolution of the post-trial motion before the federal court: Questions 1, 2, and 3 "yes," provided a defense seeks to assign fault to the plaintiff's employer. The Court answered Question 4, "no." View "Machin v. Carus Corporation" on Justia Law

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Petitioner LeAndra Lewis sought workers' compensation benefits for injuries she suffered following a shooting in a night club operated by L.B. Dynasty. In a previous opinion, the South Carolina Supreme Court held Lewis was an employee of L.B. Dynasty, entitling her to workers' compensation benefits. The Court remanded the matter to the court of appeals to review the commission's order awarding benefits to Lewis. Ultimately, the court of appeals affirmed the commission's award of $75 per week. Lewis appealed, arguing the court of appeals erred in holding the commission's findings were supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Court agreed, and remanded this case back to the commission for a de novo hearing to determine the amount of benefits to which Lewis is entitled. View "Lewis v. L.B. Dynasty" on Justia Law

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Appellant Retail Services owned and operated three separate liquor store locations in Charleston, Greenville, and Columbia, South Carolina. SCDOR was charged with the administration of South Carolina's statutes concerning the manufacturing, sale, and retail of alcoholic liquors. Retail Services petitioned SCDOR to open a fourth store in Aiken, however, SCDOR refused to grant Retail Services a fourth liquor license under sections 61-6-140 and -150 of the South Carolina Code, which limited a liquor-selling entity to three retail liquor licenses. Additionally, ABC Stores lobbied the General Assembly on behalf of its members who are owners and holders of retail dealer licenses. Therefore, Retail Services brought this action against SCDOR and ABC Stores seeking a declaratory judgment that these provisions of the South Carolina Code were unconstitutional. The trial court found the provisions constitutional because: (1) they were within the scope of the State's police power; and (2) they satisfied the rational basis test, which, because they did not infringe on a fundamental right or implicate a suspect class, was all that was required. Therefore, the circuit court granted Respondents' motions for summary judgment. Appellant appealed the circuit court's decision. The Supreme Court reversed. "Not only is there no indication in this record that these provisions exist for any other reason than economic protectionism, the provisions themselves and statutory scheme to which they belong lend further support to Appellant's position. As Appellant points out, the provisions do not limit the number of liquor stores that can be licensed in a certain area-only the number than can be owned by one person or entity. Another provision governs the specific placement of retail establishments away from churches, schools and playgrounds. Therefore, Respondents' contention that the provisions advance the safety and moral interests of the State, no doubt a legitimate State interest, is unavailing with respect to sections 61-6-140 and -150." View "Retail Services & Systems, Inc. v. SDCOR" on Justia Law

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Hampton Hall Club, Inc. was a nonprofit organization in Beaufort County. Respondent Brad Lightner was a member of Hampton Hall, and filed this action individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated against Defendants, alleging Defendants wrongfully collected and retained an admissions tax on its members' club and golf dues. After Respondent filed a motion for class certification, the State and the SCDOR ("Petitioners") filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, or, in the alternative, to strike pursuant to Rule 12(f), SCRCP, to dismiss the State as a party and to stay discovery. In so moving, Petitioners asserted, inter alia, Respondent was required to exhaust the administrative remedies under the South Carolina Revenue Procedures Act ("Act") and was prohibited from proceeding as a class action against the SCDOR. The circuit court determined the Act was inapplicable to this case because the General Assembly intended to limit the Act's application to disputes with the SCDOR concerning property taxes, which both parties conceded were not at issue. Thus, contrary to Petitioners' assertions, Respondent was not required to exhaust the administrative remedies under the Act in order to proceed individually against all Defendants. The court, however, granted Petitioners' motion to dismiss the class action allegations, finding the Act, which it determined was inapplicable to this dispute, nevertheless prohibited Respondent from bringing a class action lawsuit against Petitioners. In sum, we hold the circuit court erred in finding the Act's application is limited to disputes with the SCDOR concerning property taxes. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. Because the Act was applicable to this case, Respondent was required to follow the administrative remedies under the Act and was prohibited from proceeding as a class action against Petitioners. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Lightner v. Hampton Hall Club, Inc." on Justia Law

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Rocky Linkhorn was arrested and charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor in the First Degree, Lewd Act on a Minor, and Disseminating Obscene Material to a Minor. After finding Linkhorn was incompetent to stand trial and unlikely to become fit in the foreseeable future, the circuit court ordered the solicitor to initiate judicial admission proceedings with the probate court to have Linkhorn involuntarily committed to the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs ("DDSN"). Before the probate court determined whether Linkhorn was intellectually disabled, the solicitor filed a motion for a rule to show cause at the circuit court, requesting DDSN be ruled into court "to show just cause for services being denied to [Linkhorn] as previously ordered." The circuit court granted the solicitor's motion and ordered DDSN to, inter alia, take custody of Linkhorn and house him in a secure facility until the probate court determines whether Linkhorn is intellectually disabled. Additionally, the court prohibited DDSN from refusing involuntary commitment of individuals similarly situated to Linkhorn. DDSN appealed. The Supreme Court found the statutes concerning the involuntary commitment of individuals to DDSN were “clear and unambiguous: [. . .] only individuals who developed an ‘intellectual disability’ during the developmental period or a ‘related disability’ before the age of twenty-two can be involuntarily committed to DDSN.” The Court concluded the circuit court erred in applying the broad definition of "person with intellectual disability" found in the applicable statutes to Linkhorn. Because this issue was dispositive of the appeal, the Court declined to address DDSN's remaining arguments, and reversed the circuit court’s decision. View "Ex parte So. Carolina Dept. of Disabilities & Spec. Needs v. Linkhorn" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Nathalie Davaut appealed the denial of her claim for workers' compensation benefits for injuries she sustained attempting to leave her workplace. To reach her car, which was in a university lot provided for faculty and student parking, Petitioner was required to cross Hubbard Drive (the Street), which bisected University of South Carolina Lancaster's (USCL) campus. While crossing the Street, Petitioner was struck by a vehicle and injured. It was undisputed that the Street and the crosswalks that spanned it are not owned or controlled by the University of South Carolina (USC); rather, they were maintained and controlled by the City of Lancaster. However, it was also undisputed that both the library (where Petitioner had been working) and the parking lot (where Petitioner was headed) belonged to USC. Petitioner sought workers' compensation benefits from her employer and its insurer, State Accident Fund (collectively, Respondents). Respondents, relying on the going and coming rule, denied Petitioner's injuries were compensable, on the basis Petitioner was injured away from USC's property. Petitioner claimed that because she was injured while traveling from one portion of USC's property to another, the Panel erred in denying her relief. The court of appeals disagreed and upheld the Workers' Compensation Commission's denial of coverage. After review, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and held that when an employee crosses from one portion of her employer's property to another over a reasonably necessary and direct route, the employee remains in the course of her employment for purposes of workers' compensation. View "Davaut v. Univ. of So. Carolina" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Thomas Hilton suffered an admittedly compensable injury as the result of an insect or spider bite. The present dispute centered on whether he required further medical treatment to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). The single commissioner agreed with Hilton on the merits, finding he had not reached MMI, and further that any misrepresentations he had made during the life of his claim were a result of a serious cognitive deficit from a previous brain injury. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted certiorari to review an order of the Court of Appeals dismissing Hilton's appeal of an admittedly interlocutory order of the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission's Appellate Panel (the Commission). Hilton argued the Commission's interlocutory order vacating and remanding the Workers' Compensation Commission's single commissioner's order was immediately appealable pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A) (Supp. 2015). The Supreme Court agreed, under these unusual facts, that review of the final agency decision would not provide Hilton with an adequate remedy, and he was therefore entitled to an immediate appeal. Determining whether review of the final agency decision would give Hilton an adequate remedy required the Court to reach the underlying merits of the Commission's order, and since it concluded that the order could not stand, the Court of Appeals' order was vacated and the case remanded back to the Commission. View "Hilton v. Flakeboard America Limited" on Justia Law

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This case was one in a string of longstanding disagreements regarding how the practice of physical therapy should be regulated in South Carolina. The South Carolina Board of Physical Therapy (the Board) sided with members of the profession who wanted to prevent physical therapists (PTs) from providing treatment as direct employees of physicians. The Board had long sought to require PTs to provide their services directly to patients or through a practice group of PTs. However, other licensed healthcare professionals in South Carolina, such as occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and nurse practitioners may be employed by physicians. Thus, the PTs stood alone in South Carolina. Physicians' offices could not provide PT services by employing licensed PTs, and PTs could not provide services while employed by a physician or physicians' practice group. Appellants Kristin Joseph, a PT, and two orthopedic surgeons, Doctors Thomas Joseph and William McCarthy appealed a circuit court's order dismissing their claims challenging a 2011 position statement from the Board, which opined that within a group practice, if a PT or physical therapist assistant (PTA) provided services to a patient at the request of another PT or PTA employed within the same practice, the act did not constitute a "referral" under section 40-45-110(A)(1) of the South Carolina Code, as construed in "Sloan v. South Carolina Board of Physical Therapy Examiners," (636 S.E.2d 598 (2006)). After review, the Supreme Court overruled its decision in "Sloan," and reversed the circuit court's order in this case. View "Joseph v. SC Dept of Labor, Licensing & Regulation" on Justia Law

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Jimmy Johnson fled from police after being stopped for having an expired vehicle license. Armed, Johnson went to a Carolina Convenience Store in Spartanburg, where he took Saroj Patel hostage. The City's police department negotiated with Johnson in an effort to encourage Johnson to surrender. After the negotiations were unsuccessful, the police department cut off the power to the store and sent tear gas and pepper spray into the building's ventilation system in another attempt to induce surrender. After a twelve-hour standoff, the police decided to breach the building with a bulldozer, which resulted in severe physical damage to the property. Given the condition of the store, the City asked Carolina Convenience to tear it down for code violations. After Carolina Convenience refused, the City demolished the building. Carolina Convenience then brought claims for inverse condemnation and negligence against the City for damages to the store. The circuit court granted the City's summary judgment motion as to the inverse condemnation claim, but denied it as to the negligence claim. The jury returned a verdict in the City's favor as to the negligence claim. The store appealed only the inverse condemnation ruling, but the court of appeals affirmed, finding the circuit court properly granted summary judgment as to the inverse condemnation claim. Finding that the Court of Appeals erred in its analysis of the takings claim, the South Carolina Supreme Court simply held that damage to the property during the police department’s hostage rescue effort did not constitute a taking as contemplated by the State Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision as modified. View "Carolina Convenience Stores v. City of Spartanburg" on Justia Law