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2012-MO-001 - Adams v. SC Lightning Protection, Inc.

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court

Ryan Adams (Deceased), Shawna Adams, Christine and Lee Adams, Claimants,

of whom Christine and Lee Adams are, Appellants,

and Shawna Adams is, Respondent,

v.

South Carolina Lightning Protection, Inc., Employer, and Travelers Ins. Co., Carrier, Respondents.


Appeal from Workers' Compensation Commission


Memorandum Opinion No. 2012-MO-001
Heard February 22, 2012 – Filed March 7, 2012  


AFFIRMED


William Harold Nixon, Jr, of Charleston, for Appellants.

Katie L. Veatch, of Wilson, Jones, Carter & Baxley, of Mt. Pleasant, and William B. Jung,of Mt. Pleasant, for Respondents.


PER CURIAM: Christine and Lee Adams (Appellants) appeal the Workers' Compensation Commission's decision that Shawna Adams was Ryan Adams' surviving spouse.  The code defines a surviving spouse as "only the decedent's wife or husband living with or dependent for support upon the decedent at the time of the decedent's death or living apart from the decedent for justifiable cause or by reason of desertion by the decedent at such time." S.C. Code Ann. § 42-1-175 (1976).  On appeal, Appellants argue (1) there is not substantial evidence to support the Commission's finding that Shawna separated from Ryan because of an incident of domestic abuse, and (2) the commission erred as a matter of law in finding justifiable cause.  We affirm pursuant to Rule 220(b)(1), SCACR, and the following authorities:

1. Substantial Evidence: S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-380(5)(e) (Supp. 2011) ("The court may not substitute its judgment for the judgment of the agency as to the weight of the evidence on questions of fact. . . .  The court may reverse or modify the decision if substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because the administrative findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions are . . . clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, probative, and substantial evidence on the whole record . . . ."); Whitworth v. Window World, Inc., 377 S.C. 637, 640, 661 S.E.2d 333, 335 (2008) ("Substantial evidence is not a mere scintilla of evidence but is evidence which, considering the record as a whole, would allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion the agency reached."); Lark v. Bi-Lo, Inc., 276 S.C. 130, 136, 276 S.E.2d 304, 307 (1981) ("While the 'substantial evidence' rule allows more appellate authority to the courts, we think the language of the statute clearly indicates that its application is only in those cases where a manifest or gross error of law has been committed by the administrative agency.").

2.  Justifiable Cause as Matter of Law: Rogers v. Univ. Motor Inn, 405 S.E.2d 770, 773 (N.C. Ct. App. 1971) ("There is no specific formula for the definition of 'justifiable cause' under the statute.  One must consider the complexity and history of the particular relationship in order to determine whether the appellant was separated for justifiable cause . . . ."); see also Theisen v. Theisen, 394 S.C. 434, 442, 716 S.E.2d 271, 275 (2011) (holding a spouse does not need grounds that would merit a fault-based divorce in order to live separate and apart from the other spouse); 99 C.J.S. Workers' Compensation § 263 ("The words 'justifiable cause,' as employed in the workers' compensation acts, have the meaning given to them in separation and divorce cases, basically requiring a showing of matrimonial misconduct . . . .").

AFFIRMED.

TOAL, C.J., PLEICONES, BEATTY, KITTREDGE and HEARN, JJ., concur.