Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court

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The South Carolina Supreme Court granted certiorari to review a Court of Appeals' decision affirming a circuit court order denying petitioner's John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods of the Carolinas, Inc.'s ("JWH") motion to compel arbitration. JWH sold lots and "spec" homes on a sixty-five acre residential subdivision. In 2007, respondents ("the Parsons") executed a purchase agreement to buy a home built and sold by JWH ("the Property"). In 2008, the Parsons discovered PVC pipes and a metal lined concrete box buried on their Property. The PVC pipes and box contained "black sludge," which tested positive as a hazardous substance. JWH entered a cleanup contract with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. JWH completed and paid for the cleanup per the cleanup contract. The Parsons claim they were unaware the Property was previously an industrial site and contained hazardous substances. In 2011, the Parsons filed the present lawsuit alleging JWH breached the purchase agreement by failing to disclose defects with the Property, selling property that was contaminated, and selling property with known underground pipes. The Parsons further alleged breach of contract, breach of implied warranties, unfair trade practices, negligent misrepresentation, negligence and gross negligence, and fraud. JWH moved to compel arbitration and dismiss the complaint. The motion asserted that all of the Parsons' claims arose out of the purchase agreement, and the Parsons clearly agreed that all such disputes would be decided by arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion and found the arbitration clause was unenforceable. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's finding that the scope of the arbitration clause was restricted to Warranty claims and declined to address the circuit court's application of the outrageous torts exception doctrine. The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court's conclusion and reversed. View "Parsons v. John Wieland Homes" on Justia Law

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In August 2005, D.R. Horton, Inc. completed construction of the Smiths' home, and the Smiths closed on the property and received the deed. Thereafter, the Smiths experienced a myriad of problems with the home that resulted in severe water damage to the property. D.R. Horton attempted to repair the alleged construction defects on "numerous occasions" during the next five years, but was ultimately unsuccessful. In 2010, the Smiths filed a construction defect case against D.R. Horton and seven subcontractors. In response, D.R. Horton filed a motion to compel arbitration. The Smiths opposed the motion, arguing, inter alia, that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and therefore unenforceable. The circuit court denied D.R. Horton's motion to compel arbitration, finding that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable. D.R. Horton appealed, but finding no error in the circuit court's decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. D.R. Horton, Inc" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Linda Johnson enrolled her mother, Inez Roberts (Mrs. Roberts), in Heritage Healthcare of Estill (HHE) to receive nursing home care. Johnson held a general power of attorney for Mrs. Roberts, and as such, signed an arbitration agreement with HHE on her mother's behalf upon Mrs. Roberts's admission to HHE. Within six months of entering HHE, she developed severe pressure ulcers, resulting in the amputation of her leg and ultimately, her death in 2009. Prior to Mrs. Roberts's death, in August 2008, Johnson requested HHE allow her access to Mrs. Roberts's medical records, but HHE refused, citing privacy provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Johnson then filed an ex parte motion seeking to obtain a copy of Mrs. Roberts's medical records from HHE and to restrain HHE from changing, altering, or destroying the records. The circuit court granted a restraining order, and HHE filed a motion to dissolve the order, again citing HIPAA's privacy provisions. Subsequently, at Johnson's request, the circuit court appointed her Mrs. Roberts's guardian ad litem (GAL) in order to pacify HHE's HIPAA concerns. However, HHE still refused to produce the records. The court again ordered HHE to produce the records, and HHE appealed. During the pendency of the appeal, Mrs. Roberts died, and Johnson became her personal representative. HHE then produced the records, and the parties dismissed the appeal by consent. Several months after obtaining the records, in August 2010, Johnson filed a notice of intent (NOI) for a wrongful death and survival action against HHE. In October 2010, following an impasse at pre-suit mediation, Johnson filed her complaint. In November 2010, HHE filed its answer and asserted arbitration as one of several defenses, but did not move to compel arbitration at that time. Instead, HHE filed arbitration-related discovery requests on Johnson. Johnson asks this Court to review the court of appeals' decision to reverse the circuit court's finding that Heritage Healthcare of Estill (HHE) waived its right to arbitrate the claims between it and Johnson. Finding that HHE indeed waived its right to arbitrate the claims, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals. View "Johnson v. Heritage Healthcare" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case concerned the scope of an arbitration clause under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Respondent Christopher Landers served as Appellant Atlantic Bank & Trust's executive vice president pursuant to an employment contract. The contract contained a broad arbitration provision. Respondent alleged five causes of action, namely that he was constructively terminated from his employment as a result of Appellant Neal Arnold's tortious conduct towards him. Appellants moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the employment contract. The trial court found that only Respondent's breach of contract claim was subject to the arbitration provision, while his other four causes of action comprised of several tort and corporate claims were not within the scope of the arbitration clause. Upon review, the Supreme Court disagreed: "Landers' pleadings provide a clear nexus between his claims and the employment contract sufficient to establish a significant relationship to the employment agreement. We find the claims are within the scope of the agreement's broad arbitration provision." The Court reversed the trial court's order and held that all of Respondent's causes of action must be arbitrated. View "Landers v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp." on Justia Law

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Brentwood Homes, Inc. and the other appellants in this case (collectively "Brentwood Homes") appealed a circuit court's order denying a motion to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration in a lawsuit filed by Petitioner Fred Bradley that arose out of his purchase of a home in South Carolina. Although Brentwood Homes conceded the Home Purchase Agreement did not meet the technical requirements of the South Carolina Uniform Arbitration Act (the "UAA"), it claimed the court erred in denying the motion because the transaction involved interstate commerce and thus was subject to the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"). Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that because the essential character of the Agreement was strictly for the purchase of a completed residential dwelling and not the construction, the Court found the FAA did not apply. Furthermore, the existence of the national warranty and Bradley's use of out-of-state financing did not negate the intrastate nature of the transaction. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the circuit court's order denying Brentwood Homes' motion to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration as Brentwood Homes failed to offer sufficient evidence that the transaction involved interstate commerce to subject the Agreement to the FAA. View "Bradley v. Brentwood Homes" on Justia Law

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This case returned to the South Carolina Supreme Court from the United States Supreme Court for reconsideration in light of "AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion." The underlying action originally came to the Court on appeal of the trial court's denial of Appellant Century BMW's motion to compel arbitration. The Court affirmed the trial court's denial of the motion to compel. Following that decision, Appellant filed a petition for rehearing, contending the Supreme Court's opinion was inconsistent with the federal Supreme Court's decision in "Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. Animalfeeds International Corp." which found that the federal Arbitration Act preempted South Carolina law. The South Carolina Court emphasized that its opinion was based on state law grounds, and admonished Appellant for "attempting to reframe the issues and miscast [the Court's] holding as disingenuous to the opinion and a holding [it] never made." Thereafter, Appellant petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The South Carolina Court's opinion was vacated by the federal Supreme Court and remanded for consideration in light of its decision in "AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion." Respondents Heather Herron and several others "individually and for the benefit of all car buyers who paid 'administrative fees'" argued that the matter of preemption was not preserved in the South Carolina proceedings. The South Carolina Court agreed and therefore adhered to its initial opinion. View "Herron v. Century BMW" on Justia Law

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Gregory and Kerry Brown appealed the circuit court's confirmation of an arbitration award that was granted to their former general contractor C-Sculptures. C-Sculptures built the Browns' house. The Browns claimed C-Sculptures was precluded from enforcing a contract between them because the contractor's license limited the contractor to work totaling $100,000. C-Sculptures' final invoice totaled over $800,000, and when the Browns refused to pay, the contractor placed a lien on their property for the unpaid amount. The arbitrator awarded C-Sculptures the money it was owed, and the Browns appealed the arbitrator's award to the circuit court, arguing that the statutory limit on the contractor's license limited payment to $100,000. On review, the Supreme Court found that the arbitrator followed the statutory scheme to make his determination in favor of the contractor. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the lower court's confirmation of the arbitrator's award.