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2007-UP-401 - Weatherford v. Jordan’s Scrap Metal Co.

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


Bob J. Weatherford, Appellant,

v.

Jordan’s Scrap Metal Co., Inc., Employer, and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Carrier, Respondents.


Appeal From Marion County
 Thomas W. Cooper, Jr., Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2007-UP-401
September 1, 2007 – Filed September 28, 2007


VACATED


Bob J. Weatherford, of Bennettsville, pro se.

Brown W. Johnson, of Florence, for Respondents.

PER CURIAM:  This is a workers compensation case.  The single commissioner awarded appellant Bob J. Weatherford, the claimant, additional workers’ compensation benefits, finding he had suffered a change of condition for the worse as the result of an earlier admitted workplace injury.  Respondents, Jordan’s Scrap Metal Co., Inc., and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, appealed the single commissioner’s order to the full commission; however, the appellate panel dismissed the appeal and assessed hearing costs against them when their counsel failed to appear for oral argument.  Respondents then appealed to the circuit court, which issued an order purporting to reverse the appellate panel’s order based on a lack of substantial evidence to support the award of benefits to Weatherford.  We vacate the order of the circuit court.[1]

1.  Respondents’ complaints about the sufficiency of the evidence supporting Weatherford’s claim concerned the single commissioner’s order.  Any challenge to this order cannot, under the Administrative Procedures Act, be the subject of judicial review by the circuit court.  See S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(A) (Supp. 2006) (stating that one “who is aggrieved by a final decision in a contested case is entitled to judicial review) (emphasis added); Ross v. American Red Cross, 298 S.C. 490, 492, 381 S.E.2d 728, 730 (1989) (referring to the full commission as the “ultimate fact finder” in workers’ compensation cases).

2.  In the appealed order, the circuit court appears to have assumed the appellate panel adopted the findings of the single commissioner.[2]  To the contrary, however, the appellate panel made no direct or indirect findings of fact concerning the merits of either Weatherford’s claim or the single commissioner’s order.  Instead, the appellate panel limited its decision to a dismissal of Respondents’ appeal with prejudice on procedural grounds and a mandate that they were to pay the hearing costs.  Respondents neither moved to reinstate their appeal nor argued the appellate panel was incorrect in finding that they failed to perfect it; therefore, the dismissal of Respondents’ appeal of the single commissioner’s order stands.  See Parker v. S.C. Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 288 S.C. 304, 308, 342 S.E.2d 403, 405 (1986) (“No objection can be made to an appealable order from which no appeal has been taken.”); Buckner v. Preferred Mut. Ins. Co., 255 S.C. 159, 161, 177 S.E.2d 544, 544 (1970) (stating an unchallenged ruling “right or wrong, is the law of this case and requires affirmance”). 

Based on the foregoing, we hold the circuit court exceeded its authority under the Administrative Procedures Act.  We therefore vacate the appealed order in its entirety and reinstate both the single commissioner’s award and the appellate panel’s assessment of hearing costs against Respondents.

VACATED.

HEARN, C.J., ANDERSON and THOMAS, JJ., concur.


[1]  We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.

[2]  The appealed order states:  “The finding of the Commissioner, and subsequently of the Full Commission, both lacks substantial evidence and is controlled by an error of law, in that no expert medical testimony was presented.”