THE STATE OF
Linda Angus, Respondent,
Burroughs & Chapin Co., Myrtle Beach Herald, Doug Wendel, Pat Dowling, Deborah Johnson, Chandler C. Prosser, Marvin Heyd, Chandler Brigham, and Terry Cooper
Burroughs & Chapin Co., Doug Wendel, Pat Dowling, Myrtle Beach Herald and Deborah Johnson are Petitioners.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO
THE COURT OF APPEALS
J. Michael Baxley, Circuit Court Judge
Opinion No. 26127
Heard February 1, 2006 - Filed March 20, 2006
Robert L. Widener and Celeste T. Jones, of McNair Law Firm, P.A., of
Columbia, for petitioner Burroughs & Chapin Co.
L. Morgan Martin, of Hearn, Brittain & Martin, P.A., of
Conway; Thomas C. Brittain, of Hearn, Brittain & Martin, P.A., of Myrtle Beach; and Scott B. Umstead, of Myrtle Beach, for petitioners Doug Wendel and Pat Dowling.
William E. Lawson, of Lawson & Gwin Law Offices, of
Myrtle Beach, for petitioner Doug Wendel.
Jay Bender and Holly Palmer Beeson, of Baker, Ravenel & Bender, L.L.P., of Columbia, for petitioners Myrtle Beach Herald and Deborah Johnson.
L. Sidney Connor, IV, of Kelaher, Connell & Connor, of
Surfside Beach, for respondent.
JUSTICE MOORE: We granted a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Appeals’ decision reversing the grant of summary judgment to petitioners in this civil conspiracy case. We reverse.
Respondent Linda Angus was hired as county administrator for
All the defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial judge granted summary judgment on the ground that the termination of at-will employment cannot support a cause of action for civil conspiracy, citing Ross v. Life Ins. Co. of Virginia, 273 S.C. 764, 259 S.E.2d 814 (1979). Angus appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment as to County Council members based on Ross, but reversed as to Newspaper and Developer.
Can a public official who is an at-will employee maintain an action for civil conspiracy?
A civil conspiracy is a combination of two or more parties joined for the purpose of injuring the plaintiff, thereby causing her special damages. Lawson v.
We disagree with the Court of Appeals’ analysis and find Ross controlling. The critical factor here is Angus’s status as an at-will public official. In our democratic society, a public official is answerable to the public; members of the public are not third-party interlopers. Because of Angus’s status as a public official, we conclude her action for civil conspiracy cannot be maintained against any of these defendants. The Court of Appeals’ decision overturning the grant of summary judgment to Newspaper and Developer is therefore
TOAL, C.J., BURNETT, PLEICONES, JJ., and Acting Justice Brooks P. Goldsmith, concur.
Angus v. Burroughs & Chapin, 358 S.C. 498, 596 S.E.2d 67 (
 Her causes of action for tortious interference with contract, defamation, and unfair trade practices were dismissed.