Articles Posted in Personal Injury

by
A minor may bring an action for her own medical expenses if she the "real party in interest.” Alexia L. was born on April 5, 2007, delivered by obstetrician Gregory Miller, M.D. Alexia's mother, Angela Patton, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in November 2009 against Dr. Miller and the professional association where he practiced, Rock Hill Gynecological & Obstetrical Associates, P.A. Patton's theory of liability was that the defendant improperly managed the resolution of shoulder dystocia, and that such mismanagement caused permanent injury to Alexia's left-sided brachial plexus nerves. Patton sought damages for Alexia's pain and suffering, disability, loss of earning capacity, and other harm she contends resulted from this injury. Patton also sought damages for Alexia's medical expenses. Patton filed the lawsuit only in her capacity as Alexia's "next friend." In March 2012, Patton filed a separate medical malpractice lawsuit against Amisub of South Carolina, which owned and did business as Piedmont Medical Center. Patton did not make any claim in her individual capacity; the only claims she made were Alexia's claims, which she made in her representative capacity as Alexia's next friend. Defendants moved to dismiss based on Patton’s status as “next friend” to Alexia. The trial court granted summary judgment, finding Patton could recover for Alexia's medical expenses if she sued in her own capacity, but not as Alexia's representative. The court found "the minor plaintiff may not maintain a cause of action for [her medical] expenses in her own right." The South Carolina Supreme Court did “nothing more” than apply the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. Pursuant to Rule 17(c), "Whenever a minor . . . has a representative, . . . the representative may sue . . . on behalf of the minor . . . ." If a dispute arises as to whether that representative is "the real party in interest," Rule 17(a) governs the dispute. If the representative seeks to amend the complaint, Rules 15(a), 15(c), and 17(a) provide there should be no unnecessary dismissal, but rather the parties and the trial court should work to reach the merits. In this case, the circuit court failed to apply these Rules, and unnecessarily dismissed a claim it should have tried on the merits. View "Patton v. Miller" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Henton Clemmons, Jr. injured his back and neck while working at Lowe's Home Center and brought a claim for disability benefits under the scheduled-member statute of the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act (the Act). Although all the medical evidence indicated Clemmons had lost fifty percent or more of the use of his back, the Workers' Compensation Commission awarded him permanent partial disability based upon a forty-eight percent impairment to his back. The court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed, holding the Commission's finding of only forty-eight percent loss of use was not supported by substantial evidence. View "Clemmons v. Lowe's Home Centers" on Justia Law

by
Comparative negligence does not apply in crashworthiness cases, and that South Carolina's public policy does not bar a plaintiff, allegedly intoxicated at the time of the accident, from bringing a crashworthiness claim against the vehicle manufacturer. This case concerned the applicability of comparative negligence to strict liability and breach of warranty claims in a crashworthiness case brought by Plaintiff Reid Donze against Defendant General Motors ("GM"). The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina certified two questions to the South Carolina Supreme Court Court addressing the defenses available to a manufacturer in crashworthiness cases brought under strict liability and breach of warranty theories. View "Donze v. General Motors" on Justia Law

by
Respondent Walter Smith was injured in December 2012 following a motor vehicle accident. Smith settled with respondent Corbett Mizzell for the policy limits of Mizzell's liability coverage in exchange for a covenant not to execute. Smith then sued Appellants Norman Tiffany, Individually, Brown Trucking Company and Brown Integrated Logistics, claiming Appellants' negligence was a proximate cause of the accident. The issue before the South Carolina Supreme Court stemmed from Appellants' efforts to have Mizzell added as a defendant. In the South Carolina Contribution Among Joint Tortfeasors Act (Act), the legislature abrogated pure joint and several liability for tortfeasors who were less than fifty percent at fault. The Act directed the fact-finder to apportion one-hundred percent of the fault between the plaintiff and "each defendant whose actions were the proximate cause of the indivisible injury." The trial court rejected Appellants' various arguments and, in granting Mizzell summary judgment, applied the Act as written. In affirming the trial court, the Supreme Court was “likewise constrained by the plain meaning of the unambiguous language in the Act. While we appreciate the equity-driven argument of Appellants, we must honor legislative intent as clearly expressed in the Act, lest we run afoul of separation of powers.” View "Smith v. Tiffany" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
Petitioner Henton Clemmons, Jr. injured his back and neck while working at Lowe's Home Center in Columbia. Although all the medical evidence indicated Clemmons had lost more than fifty percent of the use of his back, the Workers' Compensation Commission awarded him only permanent partial disability. The court of appeals affirmed. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court’s review was whether a claimant's ability to work could affect his entitlement to disability benefits under the scheduled-member statute of the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act (the Act). The Court reversed and held evidence of a claimant's ability to hold gainful employment alone cannot preclude a determination of permanent disability under the scheduled-member statute. View "Clemmons v. Lowe's Home Centers" on Justia Law

by
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

by
The issue in this case centered on a workers' compensation lump-sum award to a claimant who passed away while an appeal of her award was pending. At issue before the Supreme Court was a Court of Appeals opinion that refused to reach Respondents-Petitioners' argument that the award abated upon the beneficiary's death; granted the entire lump-sum award to beneficiary's dependent grandsons; reversed the grant of interest on the award; and affirmed the reinstatement of a ten-percent penalty. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision with respect to the abatement issue and that court's holding that the ten-percent penalty should have been imposed in this case. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision requiring the entire lump-sum award be paid to the Grandsons, and reinstated the Estate's and Grandsons' settlement. The Court also reversed the Court of Appeals decision to remove the assessment of interest. The case was remanded for further proceedings on what sums were due pursuant to the Court's holding here. View "Hudson v. Lancaster Convalescent Center" on Justia Law

by
Appellants John Doe, Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3 separately sued Respondents the Bishop of Charleston and the Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston in his official capacity (respondents). The cases were consolidated, and respondents moved to dismiss on the pleadings. The trial court granted the motion. In 2007, respondents entered into a class action settlement agreement (the settlement) to settle the claims of "[a]ll individuals born on or before August 30, 1980 who, as minors, were sexually abused at any time by agents or employees of the Diocese of Charleston" as well as their spouses and parents, except those whose claims had been independently resolved. The settlement established a fund from which awards would be made to claimants who established their sexual abuse claims by arbitration. Appellants alleged they did not receive notice of the settlement. In 2009, after the claims and opt-out period provided for in the settlement had expired, they brought suit alleging claims of the type covered by the settlement. After careful consideration of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded: (1) the language of the settlement did not waive its res judicata effect as to future claimants, so that appellants were not entitled to treatment as class claimants; (2) however, dismissal on the pleadings was not warranted on the questions whether appellants were deprived of notice or adequate representation in the underlying class settlement and, if so, whether the statute of limitations was tolled on their claim of negligent supervision. If appellants could establish on remand that they were denied due process owing to lack of notice or because of inadequate representation in the class action proceedings, and that the statute of limitations was tolled, the Supreme Court held that they could proceed on their claims. View "Doe v. The Bishop of Charleston" on Justia Law