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The Respondents were the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina (Disassociated Diocese); the Trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina (Trustees); and thirty-six individual parishes that have aligned themselves with the Disassociated Diocese (Parishes). The Appellants were The Episcopal Church a/k/a The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the diocese that remained affiliated with the TEC (Associated Diocese). This case was an appeal of a circuit court order holding that the Appellants have no legal or equitable interests in certain real and personal property located in South Carolina, and enjoining the Appellants from utilizing certain disputed service marks and names. “Overly simplified,” the issue in this case was whether the Disassociated Diocese, the Trustees, and the Parishes or appellant Associated Diocese and its parishes "owned" the real, personal, and intellectual property that the Appellants alleged was held in trust for the benefit of TEC in 2009. After a lengthy bench trial, and based upon the application of "neutral principles of law," the circuit court found in favor of the Respondents on property and the service mark causes of action. The circuit court order was reversed in part, and affirmed in part, with each South Carolina Supreme Court justice writing separately. Justice Hearn joined Acting Justice Pleicones and Chief Justice Beatty in reversing the trial court as to the twenty-nine parishes that documented their reaffirmation to the National Church. Chief Justice Beatty joined Acting Justice Toal and Justice Kittredge with respect to the remaining seven parishes. Four justices agreed the Dennis Canon created an enforceable trust, but Justice Kittredge disagreed with the majority and would have found the trust was revoked at the time of the schism. Moreover, though Acting Justice Pleicones and Justice Hearn believed ecclesiastical deference was required in this case, both opinions found all thirty-six parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon such that a legally cognizable trust was created in favor of the National Church. View "Protestant Episcopal Church v. Episcopal Church" on Justia Law

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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

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Petitioner Daufuskie Island Utility Company ("DIUC") appeals an order of the South Carolina Public Service Commission ("Commission") granting only thirty-nine percent of the additional revenue requested in its application. DIUC applied to the Commission for approval of a new rate schedule which would provide a 108.9% revenue increase. Due to the substantial increase in its tax liability and its inability to seek further revenue increases until July 2014, DIUC entered into an agreement with Beaufort County to pay the back taxes for years 2012, 2013, 2014, and the projected tax for 2015. Critical to this case was the ownership of an elevated water tank, well, water pump, system pipes, and other DIUC equipment located on a site which was sold at a tax sale in 2010 (“Elevated Tank Site”). Due to a clerical error, tax on the property was not paid, and DIUC did not discover the property had been sold until 2012. Although the tax deed purported to convey the property "all and singular . . . with the appurtenances," DIUC presented testimony from the Beaufort County Treasurer, Maria Walls, that the tax deed did not convey "the elevated water tank, the well, the water pump, system pipes, or other DIUC property located on the Elevated Tank[] Site." Despite providing no evidence to the contrary to support its recommendation, ORS proposed excluding the value of the utility equipment located on the property when calculating DIUC's rate base and property taxes. A hearing on the merits of DIUC's application was held in October 2015. The day before the hearing, several intervening property owner associations (POAs) filed a Settlement Agreement they had entered with ORS for the Commission's consideration. Pursuant to the Agreement, ORS and the POAs stipulated to each party's testimony and exhibits in the record, and the parties agreed to accept all of ORS's adjustments and recommendations, with the exception of the bad debt expense for which they agreed to adopt DIUC's proposal.5 At the hearing, DIUC objected to the admission of the Settlement Agreement, arguing it was irrelevant and prejudicial because it bolstered ORS's recommendations without providing any new or additional evidence to support them. Over DIUC's objection, the Commission admitted the Agreement, reasoning it was more probative than prejudicial. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the Commission erred in admitting evidence of the POA settlement; and the Commission’s findings and conclusions with respect to DIUC’s property taxes were not supported by substantial evidence. The Court remanded for a new hearing. View "Daufuskie Island v. Regulatory Staff" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case arose from classifications contained in South Carolina's domestic violence statutes. Specifically, the classifications provided that only "Household member[s]," defined as, inter alia, a "male and female who are cohabiting or formerly have cohabited," are protected under the statutes. Petitioner challenged these classifications, arguing they unconstitutionally exclude unmarried, cohabiting or formerly cohabiting, same-sex couples from the protection of the domestic violence statutes. Petitioner asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to declare that the subsections which exclude same-sex couples, S.C. Code Ann. 16-25-10(3)(d) (effective June 4, 2015), of the Domestic Violence Reform Act, and S.C. Code Ann. 20-4-20(b)(iv) (effective June 4, 2015), of the Protection from Criminal Domestic Violence Act (collectively "the Acts"), violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court agreed the definitional subsections at issue offend the Equal Protection Clause, and, therefore, struck the subsection from each Act. View "Doe v. South Carolina" on Justia Law

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The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted a declaratory judgment matter in its original jurisdiction to determine if Respondents-Petitioners Quicken Loans, Inc. and Title Source, Inc. engaged in the unauthorized practice of law (UPL). Petitioners-Respondents (collectively "Homeowners"), alleged the residential mortgage refinancing model implemented by Quicken Loans and Title Source in refinancing the Homeowners' mortgage loans constituted UPL. In addition to seeking declaratory relief, Homeowners' complaint also sought class certification and requested class relief. The Supreme Court found the record in this case showed licensed South Carolina attorneys were involved at every critical step of these refinancing transactions, and that requiring more attorney involvement would not effectively further the Court’s stated goal of protecting the public from the dangers of UPL. The Court therefore reject the Special Referee's conclusion that Quicken Loans and Title Source committed UPL. View "Boone v. Quicken Loans" on Justia Law

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Farid Mangal was convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, lewd act upon a child, and incest. After his convictions were affirmed, Mangal filed this action for post-conviction relief (PCR), arguing trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting to improper bolstering testimony. The PCR court refused to rule on the improper bolstering issue because the court found Mangal did not raise it in his PCR application or at the PCR hearing. The court of appeals reversed, finding the improper bolstering issue was raised to the PCR court. The court of appeals then proceeded to grant PCR on the merits of the issue before it was considered by the PCR court. Finding the appellate court erred in its conclusion, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the PCR court's order. View "Mangal v. South Carolina" on Justia Law

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The Surface Water Withdrawal, Permitting, Use, and Reporting Act regulated surface water withdrawals in South Carolina. Surface water is defined as "all water that is wholly or partially within the State . . . or within its jurisdiction, which is open to the atmosphere and subject to surface runoff, including, but not limited to, lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, creeks, runs, springs, and reservoirs . . . ." Agricultural users are treated differently under the Act. Plaintiffs jointly filed this action against DHEC in Barnwell County, challenging the Act's registration system for agricultural users, contending, amongst other things, that the Act’s provisions were an unconstitutional taking, a violation of due process, and a violation of the public trust doctrine. The circuit court granted summary judgment against the plaintiffs on the grounds the case did not present a justiciable controversy, both because the plaintiffs lacked standing and the dispute was not ripe for judicial determination. Finding no reversible error with that holding, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jowers v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner and his “enlisted cohorts” went to, in petitioner’s estimation, peacefully retrieve his forty-seven-inch plasma-screen television from Kevin Bowens (Victim). Victim was shot and killed on his property by one of Petitioner's accomplices during the confrontation. Petitioner was convicted of murder. The State contended the evidence demonstrated that Petitioner intended to retrieve his television by any means necessary, including the use of force. According to the State, Victim's death was therefore a natural and foreseeable consequence of Petitioner's plan to retrieve his television and, under the theory of accomplice liability that says the “hand of one is the hand of all,” Petitioner was guilty of murder. Petitioner countered he only wanted to peacefully reclaim his television, he had no idea his accomplice was armed, and he actually tried to be a calming influence when the situation became tense. The court of appeals affirmed, holding the trial court properly denied Petitioner's motion for a directed verdict. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed. View "South Carolina v. Harry" on Justia Law

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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

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Appellant's unrelenting inappropriate conduct in the South Carolina courts necessitated that certain restrictions be placed upon Appellant's pro se access to the courts to curb her abuse of the judicial process. In a direct appeal, Appellant Marie-Therese Assa'ad-Faltas appealed her simple assault conviction and sentence, arguing her right to self-representation was violated and that she was entitled to a new trial in which she represents herself. For many years, Appellant has engaged in a pattern of frivolous filings and inappropriate conduct towards the courts, court officers, and court employees of this State. Appellant's abuse of the justice system even reached the United States Supreme Court. In light of this and after carefully considering the facts of this case, for the reasons that follow, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed Appellant's conviction and sentence. View "City of Columbia v. Assa'ad-Faltas" on Justia Law