THE STATE OF
In The Court of Appeals
Robert D. Rutland, Appellant,
Holler, Dennis, Corbett, Ormond & Garner (Law Firm) and James J. Corbett (Individual), Respondents.
L. Casey Manning, Circuit Court Judge
Opinion No. 4171
Submitted October 1, 2006 – Filed October 30, 2006
Robert D. Rutland, pro se, of
Cynthia K. Mason, of
Columbia; Daniel Roy Settana, Jr., of Columbia; for Respondents.
BEATTY, J.: Robert Rutland appeals the circuit court’s order awarding attorney’s fees and costs to Respondents pursuant to the South Carolina Frivolous Civil Proceedings Sanctions Act. We affirm.
Subsequently, Rutland, proceeding pro se, sued Corbett and his law firm for legal malpractice, breach of contract, and fraud in case number 02-CP-40-1724. On January 30, 2004, Circuit Court Judge Alison Lee issued a form order, and ultimately a formal order, granting summary judgment in favor of Corbett and his law firm on the cause of action for legal malpractice and denying summary judgment for the remaining claims. On February 11, 2004, Circuit Court Judge Reginald Lloyd dismissed
While case number 02-CP-40-1724 was pending,
On February 24, 2004, Rutland filed a third lawsuit, case number 04-CP-40-0900, against Corbett and his law firm for breach of contract and fraud based on the above-outlined facts. After a hearing, Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning issued a form order on August 9, 2004, granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Judge Manning indicated that he would issue a formal order. The clerk of court’s office mailed a copy of the form order to the parties on August 10, 2004.
On September 1, 2004, Respondents filed a motion for attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to the South Carolina Frivolous Civil Proceedings Sanctions Act. On December 7, 2004, Judge Manning issued his formal order in which he dismissed
By order dated September 20, 2005, Judge Manning granted Respondents’ motion for attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $2,585.79.
Rutland argues Judge Manning did not have jurisdiction to rule on Respondents’ motion for attorney’s fees and costs because the motion was untimely. Specifically,
“The established case law is that a trial judge loses jurisdiction over a case when the time to file post-trial motions has elapsed.” Ex parte Beard, 359 S.C. 351, 358, 597 S.E.2d 835, 838 (Ct. App. 2004). “[B]ecause a trial judge retains jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 59(e), SCRCP, to alter or amend a judgment within ten days of its issuance, a motion for sanctions would be timely if filed within ten days of judgment.” Pitman v. Republic Leasing
In the instant case, Judge Manning issued a form order dismissing
Turning to the merits of the appeal,
“The determination of whether attorney’s fees should be awarded under the Frivolous Proceedings Act is treated as one in equity.” Hanahan v. Simpson, 326 S.C. 140, 156, 485 S.E.2d 903, 912 (1997). In reviewing the award in issue, this Court may take its own view of the preponderance of the evidence.”
The South Carolina Frivolous Civil Proceedings Sanctions Act provides:
Any person who takes part in the procurement, initiation, continuation, or defense of any civil proceeding is subject to being assessed for payment of all or a portion of the attorney’s fees and court costs of the other party if:
(1) he does so primarily for a purpose other than that of securing the proper discovery, joinder of parties, or adjudication of the claim upon which the proceedings are based; and
(2) the proceedings have terminated in favor of the person seeking an assessment of the fees and costs.
S.C. Code Ann. § 15-36-10 (2005).
In order for a litigant to receive attorney’s fees and costs under the Act, he has the burden of proving:
(1) the other party has procured, initiated, continued, or defended the civil proceedings against him;
(2) the proceedings were terminated in his favor;
(3) the primary purpose for which the proceedings were procured, initiated, continued, or defended was not that of securing the proper discovery, joinder of parties, or adjudication of the civil proceedings;
(4) the aggrieved person has incurred attorney’s fees and court costs; and (5) the amount of the fees and costs set forth in item (4).
S.C. Code Ann. § 15-36-40 (2005). “Section 15-36-20 creates a presumption that a person taking part in the initiation or continuation of proceedings acted with a proper purpose ‘if he reasonably believes in the existence of facts upon which his claim is based’ and . . . reasonably believes under the facts that his claim may be valid under existing or developing law.” Hanahan, 326 S.C. at 156, 485 S.E.2d at 912 (quoting S.C. Code Ann. § 15-36-20(1)(Supp. 1995)).
Here, Judge Manning found Respondents established that
Taking our own view of the preponderance of the evidence, we find Judge Manning properly imposed sanctions and awarded Respondents attorney’s fees and costs. In terms of Respondents’ burden of proof, they established the requisite elements of section 15-36-40. Respondents offered evidence: (1) that
In the alternative,
In support of their motion for attorney’s fees and costs, Respondents submitted an affidavit on September 1, 2004, in which they requested an award of $1,397.39. At the hearing on the motion, which was held on April 12, 2005, Respondents requested a total of $2,585.79 for additional fees and costs incurred for the continued defense of
It is indisputable Respondents incurred attorney’s fees and costs in defending against case number 04-CP-40-0900 at the trial level and in preparing for the appeal of Judge Manning’s dismissal of the case. Respondents offered evidence of the amount requested through Corbett’s affidavit. Respondents’ counsel also indicated that Respondents had incurred additional fees since the affidavit was submitted for a total of $2,585.79. Thus, we find Judge Manning did not abuse his discretion in awarding the entire amount requested by Respondents.
Accordingly, the decision of the circuit court is
GOOLSBY and WILLIAMS, JJ., concur.
 Because oral argument would not aid the court in resolving the issues on appeal, we decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.
 The provisions of this Act are outlined in sections 15-36-10 through 15-36-50 of the South Carolina Code. S.C. Code Ann. §§ 15-36-10 to -50 (2005). We note that section 15-36-10 was completely revised by Act No. 27, 2005 S.C. Acts 114, § 5, which became effective on July 1, 2005, and sections 15-36-20 through -50 were repealed by Act No. 27, 2005 S.C. Acts 121, § 12, which became effective on March 21, 2005. Because Respondents filed their motion on September 1, 2004, we believe the original Act still governed Judge Manning’s decision. Moreover,