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Week 10, 2021

Advance Sheet No. 10: Mar. 24, 2021

S.C. Supreme Court Published Decisions

Torrence v. S.C. Dep’t of Corr., Op. No. 28017

Justice Kittredge: Mar. 24, 2021

The South Carolina Department of Corrections appealed from an adverse ruling rendered by the Administrative Law Court (“ALC”). The South Carolina Supreme Court held that the ALC’s order, which included a remand to the state agency was a final decision and thus appealable. Acknowledging the general rule that where an ALC order includes a remand to an administrative agency, there is no final judgement, the Court nevertheless found that the facts of the case presented an exception to this rule. The Court reasoned that, because the ALC ruled as a matter of law on the dispositive issues and granted the claimant the very relief he sought, the remand left the agency with no further discretion or decision to make and merely ordered the agency to award the claimant a sum-certain based on a defined method. Because the remand was “ministerial,” the Court held that the ALC determined the rights of the parties with finality. Thus, the Court reversed and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to address the merits.

S.C. Court of Appeals Published Decisions

Pressley v. Sanders, Op. No. 5811

Chief Judge Lockemy: Mar. 24, 2021

In this case, the appellant, Sanders, appealed the trial court’s order granting Pressley’s motion for a new trial nisi additur. Sanders argued that the trial court erred by granting the motion after he challenged the nature and extent of Pressley’s injuries and that substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict. The court disagreed. It found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the motion. The court concluded that Sanders failed to dispute causation and necessity of treatment because he did not present any adverse witnesses or evidence. The court further pointed out that no evidence was offered to dispute that Pressley’s treatment and bills resulted from the accident, that Pressley suffered injuries prior to the accident, or that Pressley was in pain. Accordingly, the court concluded that the trial court articulated compelling reasons to support its conclusion that the verdict was inadequate in light of the evidence presented at trial. The court thus affirmed the trial court’s decision.

State v. Barksdale, Op. No. 5812

Judge Williams: Mar. 24, 2021

In this case, the State appealed the trial court’s decision to suppress incriminating statements made by Barksdale, the defendant, about his alcohol consumption following a traffic accident. In particular, the State argued Barksdale was not in custody at the time his statements were made and, thus, that Miranda warnings were not required. The court agreed with the State. It found that the trial court improperly relied on the subjective intent and views of the questioning officer to determine if Barksdale was in custody when he made the incriminating statements. Because the officer’s questions occurred during a routine investigation, and Barksdale’s freedom of movement was not restricted such that a reasonable person would believe he was in custody, the court concluded that Barksdale was not in custody at the time of questioning. Thus, the court held that the trial court erred in suppressing Barksdale’s statements, and it reversed and remanded for a new trial.

John Bozeman