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Ex parte S.C. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Guar. Ass'n

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

January 28, 2015

Ex parte: South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association, Appellant, and South Carolina Uninsured Employers' Fund, Respondent, In re: Artemio Alvarez, Steven Cameron, William Brockman, Martha Burke, Lucille Dwight, Robert Hunter, Tammy Miller, Patricia Wade-Portee, Jessie Pringle, and Ruth Harmon, Claimants,
v.
Quality HR Services, Inc., Spectrum HR, LLC, Keith's Welding Service, Inc., and Capital City Insurance Co. Inc., Defendants, of whom Quality HR Services, Inc., Keith's Welding Service, Inc., and Capital City Insurance Co. Inc. are Respondents

Heard November 6, 2014

Appeal From Greenville County. Charles B. Simmons, Jr., Special Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2013-000575.

J. Hubert Wood, III and Kathryn F. Walton, Wood Law Group, LLC, of Charleston, for Appellant.

David Hill Keller, Constangy Brooks & Smith, LLP, of Greenville, for Respondent South Carolina Uninsured Employers' Fund; Duke K. McCall, Jr. and Zandra L. Johnson, Smith Moore Leatherwood, LLP, of Greenville, for Respondent Quality HR Services, Inc.; and Wesley Jackson Shull and Benjamin Mason Renfrow, Willson Jones Carter & Baxley, P.A., of Greenville, and Candace G. Hindersman, Willson Jones Carter & Baxley, P.A., of Columbia, all for Respondents Keith's Welding Service, Inc. and Capital City Insurance Co. Inc.

FEW, C.J. LOCKEMY, J., and CURETON, A.J., concur.

OPINION

Page 671

[411 S.C. 502] FEW, C.J.

The workers' compensation commission issued an order determining whether the South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association or the South Carolina Uninsured Employers' Fund was liable to pay benefits in ten consolidated workers' compensation cases. However, the commission never determined whether any of the ten claimants are entitled to benefits. We find the commission's order was not a final decision, and thus not immediately appealable. We vacate the circuit court's order on appeal from the commission and remand to the commission with instructions to promptly decide the merits of each claim.

I. Facts and Procedural History

This appeal involves ten separate workers' compensation cases, each filed more than ten years ago. The claimants [411 S.C. 503] were employed by one of two professional employment organizations--Quality HR Services, Inc. and Spectrum HR, LLC--both of which attempted to obtain workers' compensation insurance coverage in 2003 from Realm National Insurance Company. Realm subsequently became insolvent after a proposed purchase of the company fell through.

Before Realm became insolvent, however, its prospective purchaser, American Insurance Managers (AIM), issued certificates of workers' compensation insurance to Quality and Spectrum on behalf of Realm. The ten claimants filed workers' compensation claims, with accident dates after AIM issued the certificates of insurance. Realm disavowed these certificates and denied coverage, arguing AIM had no authority to bind Realm by issuing the certificates.

The single commissioner consolidated the cases to address whether Realm provided coverage to Quality and Spectrum based on AIM's issuance of the certificates of insurance. Due to Realm's insolvency, the Guaranty Association, which was established by statute to pay the claims of insolvent insurance companies, became a party to the consolidated case. See S.C. Code Ann. § 38-31-60(b) (2002) (stating the Guaranty Association " is considered the insurer to the extent of its obligation on the covered claims . . . as if the insurer had not become insolvent" ). The Uninsured Employers' Fund also became a party based on Realm's assertion that Quality and Spectrum were uninsured employers. See S.C. Code Ann. § 42-7-200(A)(1) (2015) (stating the Uninsured Employers' Fund was " created to ensure payment of workers' compensation benefits to injured employees whose employers have failed to acquire necessary coverage" ).

In 2008, the commissioner held a hearing on the consolidated case. During the hearing, the commissioner clarified that the only issue before it was " which party would be liable [to pay] these claims," and stated, " we're not ...


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