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Case of the Month
February 2005

Case Overview

Karl Albert Overcash, III, v. South Carolina Electric and Gas Company

On July 17, 1999, Mr. Overcash was riding in a boat on Lake Murray.  SCE&G owns Lake Murray.  Mr. Overcash's boat collided with a 250-foot wooden dock which connected property owned by Sarah and Crawford Clarkson to a small island located 100 yards away.  SCE&G had allowed the dock to be built and deeded the island to the Crawfords, but reserved the right to enforce covenants to prevent a nuisance or dangerous condition. 

Mr. Overcash filed a lawsuit against SCE&G in circuit court in Richland County.  He sought damages for the injuries he sustained.  He alleged, among other things, that the dock was a public nuisance for which SCE&G was responsible.  SCE&G asked the circuit court to dismiss the lawsuit because Mr. Overcash failed to establish that he suffered a special injury, different in kind from the general public, that would form the basis for a private cause of action for a public nuisance.  SCE&G argued that a "special injury" must involve an injury to property interests.  The circuit court dismissed that portion of Mr. Overcash's lawsuit that alleged a public nuisance.

Mr. Overcash appealed to the South Carolina Court of Appeals.  The Court of Appeals determined Mr. Overcash was entitled to bring a private cause of action for a public nuisance under S.C. Code Ann. § 49-1-10.  That law states that anyone who obstructs a navigable stream is guilty of a nuisance.  The Court of Appeals also determined that Mr. Overcash's accident constituted a "special injury" which entitled him to bring a private cause of action for public nuisance.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court's decision and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings.  A copy of the Court of Appeals' opinion is enclosed.

However, SCE&G filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the South Carolina Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals' decision that a private cause of action can be based on a violation of S.C. Code Ann. § 49-1-10 and that a personal injury may be considered a "special injury" which provides a basis for a private cause of action for public nuisance.    


Case Briefs

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Petitioner's Brief (893 KB)

Respondent's Brief (1.568 MB)
Petitioner's Reply Brief (489 KB)

 


Oral Arguments

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