Articles Posted in Injury 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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In April 2007, Loretta Traynum purchased an automobile insurance policy from Progressive Direct Insurance Co. through Progressive's website. Instead of selecting one of the preset packages Progressive offered, all of which contained UIM coverage by default, Traynum created a custom package which did not include UIM coverage. Traynum also increased the preset deductibles for comprehensive and collision coverages. The result of these changes was a lower monthly premium. Traynum then electronically signed a form acknowledging Progressive offered her optional UIM coverage and that she rejected that coverage. Thereafter, in November 2007, Traynum and Cynthia Scavens were involved in an automobile accident, from which Appellants Traynum and and her husband Leonard claimed more than $175,000 in damages. Appellants brought claims against Scavens for negligence and loss of consortium, which were settled for $100,000, the limits of Scavens's liability coverage. As the settlement did not fully satisfy Appellants' damages, Appellants also brought a declaratory judgment action against Progressive claiming Progressive did not make a meaningful offer of UIM coverage to Traynum, as required by law, and asking the court to reform Traynum's policy to include UIM coverage in the amount of the policy's liability limits. Appellants appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to Progressive, arguing the trial court incorrectly held that Progressive made a meaningful offer of underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage via its website. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Traynum v. Scavens" on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law

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Petitioner Richard Hartzell appealed the court of appeals' decision to reverse the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission's determination that he was entitled to medical benefits for a work-related back injury. Petitioner argued the record contained substantial evidence to support the Commission's finding that he reported his work-related injury to Employer within the requisite time, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in reversing the Commission's order based on this issue. The Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hartzell v. Palmetto Collision" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Alice Hancock waited in her vehicle in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart while her sister, Donna Beckham, attempted to shoplift several articles of clothing. Hope Rollings, a Wal-Mart customer service manager, noticed Beckham attempting to shoplift and alerted several other employees, including fellow manager Shawn Cox and the on-duty security guard Derrick Jones of U.S. Security Associates, Inc. (USSA), which provided security in the Wal-Mart parking lot pursuant to a contract with Wal-Mart. Ultimately, Beckham exited Wal-Mart without the clothing. However, Jones approached her in the parking lot. Beckham ran towards Hancock's vehicle, and Jones followed her in his truck and blocked Hancock's vehicle with his truck. After Beckham entered Hancock's vehicle, Hancock turned the vehicle around and drove towards the parking lot's exit, with Jones following. Hancock exited the parking lot onto a highway, and Jones followed. Approximately two miles from Wal-Mart, Hancock's vehicle left the highway and crashed. Hancock died at the scene of the accident. Petitioner Travis Roddey, the personal representative of Hancock's estate, brought an action alleging negligence on the part of Wal-Mart, USSA, and Jones. Petitioner appealed the court of appeals' decision to affirm the trial court's grant of Wal-Mart's motion for a directed verdict on Petitioner's negligence claim. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the Supreme Court found that there was evidence from which a jury could determine that Wal-Mart was negligent, and that its negligence proximately caused the injuries in this case. Accordingly, the Court held that the trial court should have submitted to the jury the issues of Wal-Mart's negligence and proximate cause, and remanded for a new trial as to all of the defendants. View "Roddey v. Wal-Mart Stores" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the packaging and labeling of sodium bromate, a chemical which contributed to a fire that occurred in a plant owned by Engelhard Corporation in June 2004. At the time of the fire, Scott Lawing worked at Engelhard's Seneca plant as a maintenance mechanic. Engelhard produced a precious metal catalyst used in the automobile industry, and refined metals from recycled materials. In this products liability action, Trinity Manufacturing, Inc. and Matrix Outsourcing, LLC argued that the court of appeals erred in reversing the trial court's decision to grant summary judgment to them on a strict liability cause of action. In their cross-appeal, Scott and Tammy Lawing asked the Supreme Court to reverse the court of appeals' decision affirming the trial court's decision to charge the jury on the "sophisticated user" defense. After review, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals. The Court found the appellate court erred in setting forth its broad definition of "user," and affirmed as modified the court of appeals' decision on this issue. Furthermore, the Court concluded the appellate court erred in affirming the trial court's decision to charge the sophisticated user defense to the jury. The appellate court did not err, however, in reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment to Trinity and Matrix on the Lawings' strict liability claim. The Supreme Court found that the evidence in this case did not support the sophisticated user defense, so the trial court erred in charging the defense to the jury. The case was remanded for a new trial on the Lawings' negligence and implied warranty of merchantability claims. View "Lawing v. Univar" on Justia Law

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Diane and Otis Bass had three children: Brittany, Hanna, and Alex. All three children were special needs, but Hanna and Alex were also autistic. Otis worked outside the home, and Diane cared for the children. Due to their forms of autism and their other cognitive issues, both Hanna and Alex were prescribed Clonidine to help them sleep at night, in addition to other medications. A compounding pharmacy filled the Clonidine prescription. In April 2008, the prescription was inadvertently mixed at one thousand times the recommended concentration. Diane administered the wrongly compounded Clonidine to Hanna and later to Alex. Both children had serious reactions that required hospitalization. DSS received a report that two special needs children were in the hospital due to "possible poisoning by parents." The agency assigned an overall danger rating of "medium" to the case. A caseworker assigned to the case recommended the children be removed from the Bass home and placed with Diane's sister, Linda. Linda would later learn that the compounding pharmacy improperly filled the Clonidine prescription. Linda notified DSS, and the agency subsequently concluded that the medication was the cause of the children's hospitalization. This revelation led to the eventual return of the children to Diane and Otis. However, DSS continued to make announced and unannounced visits at the Bass home through the end of 2008 and refused to remove its finding that Diane and Otis "harmed their children" from the agency's file on Petitioners. Petitioners filed a lawsuit against DSS, the compounding pharmacy, and the pharmacist, alleging negligence and gross negligence, and seeking actual and punitive damages. After settling with the pharmacy and the pharmacist, Petitioners served DSS with an amended complaint alleging causes of action for gross negligence, defamation, and outrage, and sought actual damages. DSS moved for a directed verdict at the conclusion of Petitioners' case, and again at the conclusion of all of the evidence. The trial judge denied both motions. At the conclusion of the evidence, Petitioners withdrew their defamation cause of action, and moved for a directed verdict regarding DSS's defenses of discretionary immunity and negligence of a third party. The trial judge granted Petitioners' motions for directed verdict as to those defenses. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict for Petitioners, and awarded them $4 million in damages. DSS subsequently filed motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), for new trial absolute, and to reduce the verdict. The trial court issued an order denying DSS's post-trial motions. However, the trial court granted DSS's motion to reduce the verdict. The court of appeals reversed the jury's verdict. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, finding the trial court did not err in its decision. View "Bass v. SCDSS" on Justia Law

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This negligence action arose out of a collision involving a train and an automobile at a railroad crossing. Petitioner Willie Stephens, as Guardian ad Litem for his minor granddaughter who suffered a traumatic brain injury while a passenger in her mother's vehicle, filed suit against CSX Transportation, Inc. and the South Carolina Department of Transportation ("SCDOT"). A jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants, and Petitioner appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding the trial judge did not err in admitting certain evidence, charging the jury, and in denying Petitioner's motions for a directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict ("JNOV"). The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Petitioner's request for a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the Court of Appeals regarding the denial of Petitioner's JNOV motion and the jury charge issues that it addressed. However, the Court found the Court of Appeals erred in restricting its analysis only to those jury charge issues related to the breach of CSX's and SCDOT's duty of reasonable care. Because portions of the judge's charge were erroneous and prejudiced Petitioner, the case was reversed and remanded for a new trial. View "Stephens v. CSX Transportation" on Justia Law

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This products liability action arose following the death of Benjamin Riley, who was killed in a motor vehicle accident involving a negligently designed door-latch system in his 1998 Ford F-150 pickup truck. Petitioner Laura Riley, as the Personal Representative of the Estate, filed suit against Respondent Ford Motor Company and the at-fault driver, Andrew Marshall Carter, II. Carter settled with the Estate for $25,000, with $20,000 allocated to the survival claim and $5,000 allocated to the wrongful death claim. Petitioner and Ford proceeded to trial on the wrongful death claim. The jury returned a verdict for Petitioner in the amount of $300,000. The trial court granted a nisi additur of $600,000, bringing the judgment to $900,000. Ford appealed. The court of appeals upheld the finding of liability but reversed the trial court as to nisi additur, as well as the allocation and setoff of settlement proceeds. On appeal, Petitioner argued the court of appeals departed from well-established law concerning nisi additur and that the court of appeals erred in modifying the negotiated, court-approved settlement allocation and in finding Ford was entitled to offset the amount of $20,000. The Supreme Court agreed, reversed and reinstated the judgment of the trial court. View "Riley v. Ford Motor Co." on Justia Law

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In 2003, Kristy Orlowski, who was twenty-two years old and thirty-six weeks pregnant, was found unresponsive in her home by a family member. Less than twenty-four hours earlier, Orlowski had been seen by her prenatal care physician, Dr. Norman Taylor, to whom she complained of headaches, dizziness, nausea, and swelling of her hands and feet, all of which were symptoms of pre-eclampsia. Despite Orlowski's reported symptoms, Dr. Taylor failed to diagnose Orlowski's pre-eclampsia and sent her home from her doctor's visit without any special instructions or warnings. The Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision in which the court of appeals affirmed as modified the dismissal of this action, which was the second medical malpractice case filed by a conservator on behalf of Orlowski. The first medical malpractice action was filed in August 2006 against a different physician. When the trial of that action resulted in a defense verdict, Petitioner Gladys Sims filed this action on Orlowski's behalf seeking the same damages against different defendants, Respondents, Dr. Edward Creagh and Amisub of South Carolina, Inc., d/b/a Piedmont Medical Center ("Piedmont"). Respondents moved for summary judgment, asserting Petitioner's claim was barred by the statute of limitations. Petitioner contended her suit was timely filed because the three-year medical malpractice statute of limitations in section 15-3-545 of the South Carolina Code was subject to the tolling provision for insanity in section 15-3-40. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Respondents. Upon review, the Supreme Court found the court of appeals properly construed section 15-3-545 in rejecting Petitioner's reliance on section 15-3-40 in arguing for an eight-year statute of limitations, and accordingly, affirmed. View "Sims v. Amisub of SC" on Justia Law

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Respondent AVX Corporation manufactured electronic parts at a plant in North Myrtle Beach. In 1980, respondent began using a chemical called trichloroethylene (TCE) as a degreaser to clean machine tools and parts. At some point, TCE escaped the plant and migrated beyond the boundaries of respondent's property, contaminating surrounding properties and groundwater. In December 1996, respondent entered into a consent order with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), in which respondent admitted that it had violated certain state environmental statutes and regulations. DHEC required respondent to implement a plan to clean up the TCE. In 2007, environmental testing performed in a ten block section north of respondent's plant showed levels of TCE greater than considered safe. On November 27, 2007, a group of residents who own real property near respondent's plant filed suit alleging causes of action for trespass, nuisance, negligence, and strict liability. The residents brought the suit both individually and as class representatives pursuant to Rule 23, SCRCP. The circuit court granted respondent's Rule 12(b)(6) motion and dismissed appellants' claims with prejudice. In dismissing appellants' trespass, negligence, and strict liability claims, the circuit court stated that such claims "cannot be maintained when there is no evidence that alleged contamination has physically impacted [appellants'] properties." Further, with respect to appellants' nuisance claim, the circuit court noted that a claimant must plead an unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of his or her property in order to state a claim for nuisance. Therefore, the circuit court found that because their properties are not contaminated, appellants' allegations did not state a claim for nuisance. Appellants appealed. We affirm the circuit court's dismissal of both appellants' nuisance and strict liability claims because the complaint alleges actual contamination of the property in pleading both of these causes of action. Since each of these claims was pled only on behalf of the Subclass A plaintiffs and not on behalf of appellants, we uphold the circuit court's dismissal of these two causes of action pursuant to Rule 220(c), SCACR. As explained below, however, we find the complaint sufficiently pleads a negligence cause of action on behalf of appellants, and therefore reverse the dismissal of this claim. View "Chestnut v. AVX Corporation" on Justia Law