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Supreme Court Published Opinions - October 2011

Note: Beginning in June 2012, opinions will be posted as Adobe PDFs. You can download a free copy of Adobe Reader here.

The summary following each opinion is prepared to offer lawyers and the public a general overview of what a particular opinion decides. The summary is not necessarily a full description of the issues discussed in an opinion.

10-3-2011 - Opinions

27048 - State v. Dickerson

This is a mandatory appeal following a death sentence. The Court first held the circuit court did not err in failing to excuse a juror for cause because, when considered as a whole, the voir dire demonstrated the juror could be fair and impartial. Next, the Court found the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the defense’s cross-examination of the State’s expert under Rule 403, SCRE, because the proffered testimony was misleading and would only serve to confuse the jury. The Court also held that a defendant is not entitled to a charge on a “lesser-related” offense, reasoning that a charge on an offense that is not included within the indicted offense diminishes the reliability of the proceedings. As to the last assignment of error, the Court held the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony of the defendant’s cousin as to how his execution would impact their family because it was an opinion of what punishment the jury should recommend. Finally, the Court found the death sentence was not the result of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor; supported by the evidence; and neither excessive nor disproportionate.

27049 - Charleston County DSS v. Marccuci

The Court reversed the family court's order terminating parental rights because there was not clear and convincing evidence the father willfully failed to visit or support his daughter and the circumstances of this case did not warrant terminating his rights on the ground the child had been in foster care for fifteen out of the last twenty-two months.

10-5-2011 - Orders

ORDER - In the Matter of Terry Lance Carter

This is an order transferring a lawyer to incapacity inactive status.
10-10-2011 - Opinions

27050 - In the Matter of Brian Charles Reeve

This is a disciplinary opinion in which the Court definitely suspended a lawyer.

27051 - In the Matter of John W. Harte, Jr.

This is a disciplinary opinion in which the Court disbarred a lawyer.

27052 - In the Matter of Richard M. Lovelace, Jr.

This is a disciplinary opinion in which the Court definitely suspended a lawyer.

27053 - In the Matter of Efia Nwangaza

This is a disciplinary order in which the Court definitely suspends a lawyer.

27054 - Bass v. Gopal

In this premises liability action, the Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision upholding the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Respondent after Petitioner was shot in the leg during an attempted robbery outside of his motel door. The Court opined that Respondent had a duty to protect Petitioner from the criminal acts of a third party because Petitioner presented more than a scintilla of evidence that the aggravated assault was foreseeable. In analyzing the foreseeability question, the Court adopted a balancing test, and rejected the imminent harm, prior incidents, and totality of circumstances tests. However, the Court found summary judgment appropriate because Petitioner did not offer evidence that Respondent's preventative measures were unreasonable under the circumstances.

10-17-2011 - Opinions

27055 - Spence v. Wingate

This Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals in Spence v. Wingate, 385 S.C. 316, 684 S.E.2d 188 (Ct. App. 2009).

10-24-2011 - Opinions

27056 - In the Matter of Thomas Maurice Gagne

This is a disciplinary opinion in which the Court definitely suspends a lawyer.

27057 - In the Matter of Amanda Graham Steinmeyer

This is a disciplinary opinion in wich the Court disbars a lawyer.

27058 - In the Matter of Michael Langford Brown, Jr.

This is a disciplinary opinion in which the Court publicly reprimands a lawyer.

27059 - Holmes v. National Service Industries

The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals decision finding the Workers’ Compensation Commission’s decision on the statute of limitations supported by substantial evidence in the record.

10-31-2011 - Opinions

27060 - Burch v. Burch

In this action for divorce and equitable division, Appellant Cheryl Burch (Wife) appealed (1) the family court's valuation of certain real properties at the filing date for divorce rather than the date the properties were actually sold; (2) the denial of a request for contribution from Respondent Thomas Burch (Husband) to their child's private school education; (3) the denial of reimbursement for delinquent interest payment advanced by Wife; (4) the amount of Husband's child support obligation; and (5) the assessment of attorney's fees against Wife for her delay and non-cooperation. The Court deemed the appreciation in one property (Avtex VII) passive and reversed. It affirmed the family court's distribution of the gains from the other property (Avtex VI) because Wife failed to satisfy her burden of proof. It also reversed the denial of reimbursement for an interest payment advanced by Wife on equitable grounds. However, it affirmed the family court's award of child support and attorney's fees.

27061 - Sloan Construction v. Southco Grassing

In this second appeal of a case involving the Subcontractors and Suppliers Payment Protection Act, the Court affirmed the circuit court's decision to hold SCDOT liable for its failure to ensure a payment bond was maintained on a project based on the law of the case doctrine. However, in the future, the Court held that governmental entities do not have a duty to ensure the continuous maintenance of a bond under this statute. Furthermore, the Court found that evidence existed in the record to support the circuit court's finding regarding mitigation of damages.

27062 - State v. Commander

Petitioner appealed State v. Commander, 384 S.C. 66, 681 S.E.2d 31 (Ct. App. 2009), claiming the court of appeals erred by affirming the trial court's admission of expert testimony concerning the victim's manner of death and refusal to instruct the jury on the defense of accident. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision as modified. The Court held that the forensic pathologist's opinion that the victim died as the result of a "homicide" was admissible under Rule 702, SCRE, and adopted a rule that expert opinion testimony concerning the cause and manner of death is admissible, so long as the expert does not opine on the criminal defendant's state of mind or guilt or testify to matters of law. Moreover, the Court affirmed the court of appeals as to the jury instruction, holding the trial court was not required to instruct the jury on the law of accident because the evidence demonstrated that Petitioner merely sought advice from the "jailhouse lawyer" and posed the scenario in which he accidentally killed the victim as part of a hypothetical question about what he should tell his attorney. Therefore, the Court agreed with the court of appeals that this "strategy session" could not form the basis of an accident charge.