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2005-UP-103 - Rayfield v. LifeQuest

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT
BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING
EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

Jadie C. Rayfield,        Appellant,

v.

LifeQuest,        Respondent.


Appeal From Charleston County
Roger M. Young, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2005-UP-103
Submitted January 1, 2005 – Filed February 10, 2005


AFFIRMED


Marvin Lee Robertson, Jr., of Mt. Pleasant, for Appellant

Steven McKelvey and Thomas William McGee, III, both of Columbia, for Respondent.


PER CURIAM:   Jadie C. Rayfield appeals the circuit court’s order dismissing a rule to show cause, arguing the court erred in finding no contempt of its order prohibiting the transfer of assets by a judgment debtor in Rayfield’s personal injury action.  We affirm.

FACTS

Rayfield brought a personal injury action in 1998 in connection with injuries he sustained while using weightlifting equipment at LifeQuest Fitness Center in Mount Pleasant.  In January 2000, he obtained a $35,000 default judgment against “LIFEQUEST” and subsequently filed an execution against property that was executed nulla bona

This case involves multiple corporate entities with similar names, a common registered agent for service of process, and some common shareholders.  The first entity is Life Quest, Inc. (LQ1), which incorporated in August 1991.  In January 1992, LQ1’s shareholders changed the company’s name to LifeQuest of Mount Pleasant, Inc. (LQMP) and filed the change with the secretary of state’s office in April 1992.  The second entity, LifeQuest, Inc. (LQ2), incorporated in April 1992.  The third entity, LifeQuest of Charleston, Inc., (LQC) incorporated later.  Wayne K. Caparas served as the registered agent for each of these corporations. Steve DeGuzman and he owned LifeQuest shares. 

From 1992 to 1994, entities identified as “Life Quest, Inc.” or “LifeQuest, Inc.” opened utility accounts with South Carolina Electric and Gas, Inc. (SCE&G) for Mount Pleasant and Charleston locations.  The entities made security deposits with SCE&G to open the accounts.

In 1998, a foreclosure action against LQMP and LQC resulted in the judicial sale of all of their assets.  SSN, Inc. purchased LQMP’s assets and SKS, Inc. purchased LQC’s assets.  Timothy R. Sebold was SSN’s registered agent for service of process. 

In November 2002, following return of the nulla bona execution, Rayfield obtained a circuit court order for supplemental proceedings seeking to determine whether his judgment debtor, generally referred to as “LifeQuest,” possessed any nonexempt property and assets that could be used to satisfy his judgment.  Among other things, the order “enjoined the judgment debtor … from making any transfer or other disposition of the property of the judgment debtor, including … any funds due to the judgment debtor.”  In February 2003, the court filed a second order for supplemental proceedings with a similar prohibition on asset transfers after Rayfield discovered SCE&G held approximately $19,375 of deposits in LifeQuest’s name.

Later in February 2003, Caparas and DeGuzman went to SCE&G and requested that the LifeQuest accounts be closed and the deposits be refunded to them.  SCE&G closed the accounts as requested.  However, pursuant to company policy, SCE&G first applied the deposits against LifeQuest’s unpaid bill and current usage.  SCE&G did not terminate service because LifeQuest continued to operate in the buildings.  Instead, it opened new accounts in SSN’s name and credited the remainder of the deposits to the new accounts. 

The court issued a rule to show cause in March 2003.  After a hearing, the court dismissed the rule to show cause, finding SSN had bought all LifeQuest assets, including rights to the SCE&G deposits, at the 1998 foreclosure sale.  Rayfield’s motion to reconsider was denied.  This appeal followed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This appeal comes to us in the posture of a dismissal of a rule to show cause.  As such, we may reverse the trial court’s decision regarding contempt only if it is without evidentiary support or is an abuse of discretion.  Stone v. Reddix-Smalls, 295 S.C. 514, 516, 369 S.E.2d 840, 840 (1988).  An abuse of discretion occurs where the trial court’s ruling is based on an error of law.  First Union Nat’l Bank v. First Citizens Bank & Trust Co., 346 S.C. 462, 466, 551 S.E.2d 301, 303 (Ct. App. 2001).

DISCUSSION

Having carefully reviewed the record, and based on our deferential standard of review, we find evidence to support the findings of the trial court, even if were to consider the conflicting evidence proferred by Rayfield.  Moreover, the confusion engendered by the various corporate entities leads us to additionally conclude that, in any event, there was no willful disobedience of a court order.  See I’On, L.L.C. v. Town of Mt. Pleasant, 338 S.C. 406, 417, 526 S.E.2d 716, 722 (2000) (stating that the appellate court may affirm for any reason appearing in the record).

“It is well settled that contempt results from willful disobedience of a court order; and before a person may be held in contempt, the record must be clear and specific as to acts or conduct upon which the contempt is based.”  Cheap-O’s Truck Stop, 350 S.C. 596, 607, 567 S.E.2d 596, 519 (Ct. App. 2002).  “A willful act is defined as one done voluntarily and intentionally with the specific intent to do something the law forbids, or with the specific intent to fail to do something the law requires to be done; that is to say with bad purpose either to disobey or disregard the law.”  Id. at 607-08, 567 S.E.2d at 520.

AFFIRMED.

HUFF, KITTREDGE, and BEATTY, JJ., concur.