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24920 - Gynecology Clinic, Inc., etc. v. Cloer, et al.

Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 11
S.E. 2d

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

In The Supreme Court



The Gynecology Clinic,

Inc., d/b/a Palmetto

State Medical Center, Respondent,

v.

Pastor Michael Cloer

and Pastors for Life,

Inc., Appellants.



Appeal From Greenville County

Costa M. Pleicones, Circuit Court Judge

opinion No. 24920

Heard February 2, 1999 - Filed March 15, 1999



AFFIRMED



Terry Haskins, of Greenville; and James Matthew

Henderson, Sr., of The American Center for Law and

Justice, of Washington, DC, for appellants.



Suzanne E. Coe, of Law Office of Suzanne E. Coe, of

Greenville, for respondent.





PER CURIAM: This is an appeal from an order finding

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GYNECOLOGY CLINIC, INC., etc. v. CLOER, et al.





appellants engaged in a civil conspiracy, and enjoining their picketing

activities directed towards respondent, an abortion services provider. We

affirm.





Appellants first assert that, because their actions are protected

by the First Amendment, they cannot be the basis for a civil conspiracy.

Under South Carolina law, "lawful acts may become actionable as a civil

conspiracy when the object is to ruin or damage the business of another."'

LaMotte v. Punch Line of Columbia, Inc., 296 S.C. 66, 370 S.E.2d 711

(1988). The record is replete with evidence that appellants' goal is to

discourage women from patronizing respondent's business with the goal of

making abortion unavailable. Assuming appellants' acts were lawful, that

fact does not prevent the finding of a civil conspiracy. LaMotte v. Punch

Line of Columbia, Inc., supra.





Appellants next contend that respondent did not prove a

conspiracy because respondent did not show special damages. An action for

civil conspiracy is an action at law, and the trial judge's findings will be

upheld on appeal unless they are without evidentiary support. Future

Group II v. Nationsbank, 324 S.C. 89, 478 S.E.2d 45 (1996). In a conspiracy

action, what is required is proof of the fact of damages, not certainty of

amount. Charles v. Texas Co., 199 S.C. 156, 18 S.E.2d 719 (1942). "The

elements which go to make up such damages must depend on the nature of

the act and the injury." Id. Appellants' own literature, which claims to have

damaged respondent by causing a dramatic drop in the number of abortions

performed at the clinic, is itself evidence of damages. We affirm the trial

judge's damages findings. Future Group II v. Nationsbank, supra.





Finally, appellants raise numerous evidentiary challenges to the

findings of the trial judge which form the basis for the injunctive relief

granted respondent. We find no evidentiary or constitutional error in the

injunction issued here. Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New

York, 519 U.S. 357, 117 S.Ct. 855, 137 L.Ed. 1 (1997); Madsen v. Women's

Health Center, Inc., 512 U.S. 753~ 114 S.Ct. 2516, 129 L.Ed. 2d 593 (1994).

Accordingly, the order appealed from is







AFFIRMED.



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GYNECOLOGY CLINIC, INC. etc. v. CLOER, et al.

C.J.

A.J.

A.J.

A.J.

A.A.J.

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