Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
Site Map | Feedback
2012-UP-247 - Richardson v. P.V., 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 Court of Appeals

Leola Richardson, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Dominick Richardson, Respondent,

v.

P.V., Inc. and Harbor Inn, Inc., Appellants.


Appeal From Georgetown County
Benjamin H. Culbertson, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2012-UP-247
Heard January 26, 2012 – Filed April 25, 2012   


AFFIRMED


J. Dwight Hudson, of Myrtle Beach, for Appellants.

William P. Walker, Jr., of Lexington, and Frances I. Cantwell, of Charleston, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  P.V. Inc. and Harbor Inn, Inc. (Appellants) appeal the trial court's award of $1,500,000 in damages to Leola Richardson as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Dominick Richardson on her wrongful death claim.  We affirm.

1. We find no merit to Appellants' argument attempting to minimize their own negligence and shift the blame to the relatives who were with Dominick at the time he drowned.  See Roche v. Young Bros., 332 S.C. 75, 81, 504 S.E.2d 311, 314 (1998) (stating by suffering a default, the defaulting party is deemed to have admitted the truth of the plaintiff's allegations and to have conceded liability). 

2. We similarly find no merit to Appellants' contention that Richardson's main interest in Dominick was pecuniary and her shock, grief, and sorrow did not support the damages award.  Parents of a deceased child are entitled to a presumption of nonpecuniary damages such as mental shock, suffering, grief and sorrow.  Scott v. Porter, 340 S.C. 158, 168, 530 S.E.2d 389, 394 (Ct. App. 2000); Self v. Goodrich, 300 S.C. 349, 352, 387 S.E.2d 713, 714-15 (Ct. App. 1989).  A determination of reasonable compensation for nonpecuniary damages turns on the facts of each case and is usually left to the fact-finder's discretion.  Scott, 340 S.C. at 169-70, 530 S.E.2d at 395.  "Losses to parents from the untimely death of a child 'are intangibles, the value of which cannot be determined by any fixed yardstick.  Their loss to the beneficiaries must be estimated by the jury in the exercise of their sound judgment under all the facts and circumstances of the case.'"  Id. at 170, 530 S.E.2d at 395 (quoting Lucht v. Youngblood, 266 S.C. 127, 137, 221 S.E.2d 854, 859 (1976)).  "There is no mathematical formula which can easily establish the value of this kind of loss, and it is not this court's place to do so."  Id.  "Credibility determinations regarding testimony are a matter for the finder of fact, who has the opportunity to observe the witnesses, and those determinations are entitled to great deference on appeal."  Okatie River, L.L.C. v. Se. Site Prep, L.L.C., 353 S.C. 327, 338, 577 S.E.2d 468, 474 (Ct. App. 2003).  The trial court's award of $1,500,000 was consistent with other wrongful death damages that have been affirmed by our appellate courts.  See, e.g., Knoke v. S.C. Dep't of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, 324 S.C. 136, 141-42, 478 S.E.2d 256, 258-59 (1996) (affirming $3,000,000 verdict for parents' grief, shock, and sense of loss in wrongful death of twelve-year-old child); Scott, 340 S.C. at 170, 530 S.E.2d at 395 (finding $1,500,000 in actual damages in wrongful death of a toddler was not grossly excessive).

AFFIRMED.

HUFF, PIEPER, and LOCKEMY, JJ., concur.