Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
Site Map | Feedback
2007-UP-546 - Harris v. Penn Warranty Corporation

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


Ronald C. Harris, Appellant,

v.

Penn Warranty Corporation and West Main Automotive, Respondents.


Appeal From Richland County
Thomas Russo, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No.  2007-UP-546
Submitted November 1, 2007 – Filed December 11, 2007 


AFFIRMED


Ronald C. Harris, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Robert Charles Brown, of Columbia and Steven P. Bucher, of Mt. Pleasant, for Respondents.

PER CURIAM:  Ronald C. Harris filed this action against Penn Warranty Corporation (Penn) and West Main Automotive (West Main) arising out of Harris’ purchase of an automobile.  At a jury trial, the court granted a directed verdict for the defendants as to five causes of action and the parties then reached a settlement.  The court recorded the settlement on the record and dismissed the remaining causes of action.  Harris appeals.  We affirm.

FACTS

Harris purchased a used automobile from West Main and a warranty from Penn.  The warranty included a clause invalidating the warranty if the odometer was inoperable.  Several months later, Harris returned the vehicle for repairs.  Penn refused to honor the warranty as the odometer was inoperable and refunded the payment for the warranty. 

At trial, after Harris’ presentation of his case, the court directed a verdict as to five of the ten causes of action and held the issue of directed verdicts on the remaining causes of action under consideration.  The court recessed and the parties negotiated a settlement.  When court reconvened, the parties discussed the settlement on the record and all parties agreed to the settlement of “all issues involved in this case.”     

The court issued an order stating:  “Regarding Causes of Action #[ ] 2,7,8,9 and 10 of Plaintiff’s Complaint the Court Directed a Verdict for Defense.  As to all other issues, the parties have settled the balance [of the] action thereby disposing [of] the entire case.”  Harris did not file any post-trial motions.  Harris filed a notice of appeal and refused to accept the settlement funds.

LAW/ANALYSIS

In his appeal, Harris summarily argues his attorney “failed to disclose to the court . . . the evidence of documents, deposition, exhibits, complaints and transcripts . . . .”  We find no ground for reversal of the trial court’s order. 

“It is a long-standing and well-settled rule that an attorney may settle litigation on behalf of his client and that the client is bound by his attorney’s settlement actions.”  Motley v. Williams, 374 S.C. 107, 111, 647 S.E.2d 244, 246 (Ct. App. 2007).  “Acts of an attorney are directly attributable to and binding upon the client.  Absent fraud or mistake, where attorneys of record for a party agree to settle a case, the party cannot later repudiate the settlement.”  Arnold v. Yarborough, 281 S.C. 570, 572, 316 S.E.2d 416, 417 (Ct. App. 1984).  “Any communication failure or mistake on the part of an attorney is directly attributable to his client.”  Motley, 374 S.C. at 112, 647 S.E.2d at 247.

In this case, Harris’ attorney settled the case on the record.  Harris’ attorney stated:  “Your honor, it appears that we have come to a resolution. . .  We’d like to go on the record.  Both defendants have settled with the plainitiff.”  Harris’ attorney explained that Penn and West Main agreed to pay Harris $1,000 and $900 respectively to settle the matter.  The trial judge queried the attorneys and Harris himself to verify all issues were settled and then asked:  “Mr. Harris, do you have any questions, sir, at all?”  Harris asked about any possible counterclaims and was assured all potential counterclaims were also settled.  The trial court concluded the proceeding and issued the order of dismissal.    

We find no merit to Harris’ appeal.  He is bound by the settlement negotiated by his attorney.  When a party settles through the authorized actions of his attorney, “the settlement cannot be attacked on the basis of inadequate representation by the litigant’s attorney.”  Id.

Based on the foregoing, the order on appeal is

AFFIRMED.

ANDERSON, SHORT, and WILLIAMS, JJ., concur.