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Jones v. Builders Inv. Grp., LLC

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

December 30, 2015

Robert S. Jones, Appellant,
v.
Builders Investment Group, LLC, Brian D. Boone, and Arden Homebuilders, LLC, Defendants, of whom Builders Investment Group, LLC and Brian D. Boone are Respondents

Heard September 10, 2015.

Appellate Case No. 2013-002673. Appeal From Richland County L. Casey Manning, Circuit Court Judge.

D. Reece Williams, III and Kathleen McColl McDaniel, both of Callison Tighe & Robinson, LLC, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Thornwell F. Sowell, III, of Sowell Gray Stepp & Laffitte, LLC, of Columbia, and David Cochran Dick, Jr., of the Law Office of David C. Dick, of Charleston, for Respondents.

WILLIAMS, J. HUFF and THOMAS, JJ., concur.

OPINION

WILLIAMS, J.:

In this civil appeal, Robert Jones contends the circuit court erred in granting Builders Investment Group, LLC (BIG) and Brian D. Boone's (collectively " Respondents" ) motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). Jones claims the circuit court (1) erroneously held his personal payment of the parties' business loan discharged Respondents from their legal responsibility to contribute toward the payoff of the business loan and (2) misconstrued the terms of the parties' operating agreement regarding personal guaranties. We affirm.

FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This appeal stems from a dispute between Jones and Respondents over whether Jones is entitled to contribution from Respondents for debts arising out of a joint business venture. In 2005, Holt Family Homes, LLC was formed to develop, build, and sell residential homes. At its inception, the company had four Class A members, one of whom was Jones.[1] BIG was a Class B member, and Boone had no ownership interest in Holt Family Homes.

In January 2007, Holt Family Homes obtained a loan from Southern First Bank[2] (SFB) for $300,500. Three of the Class A members--Jones, Keisler, and Buck--signed and personally guaranteed the loan. In April 2007, Holt Family Homes obtained a second loan from SFB for $199,250. The same Class A members signed and guaranteed this second loan.

In the summer of 2007, Boone and BIG agreed to make capital contributions and investments in Holt Family Homes.[3] BIG contributed additional capital of $625,000,[4] and Boone contributed capital of $125,000. In exchange for these investments, Boone and BIG became Class A members. To reflect these investments and changes in membership status, the company amended its operating agreement (Arden Operating Agreement) on July 31, 2007. As part of these amendments, the company's name was also changed from Holt Family Homes to Arden Homebuilders, LLC (Arden).

On September 25, 2007, Jones, Keisler, and Buck--the guarantors on the initial two loans with SFB--consolidated these two loans into one new loan for $498,000 in Arden's name (Arden Loan). Similar to the initial two loans, only these three individuals signed and personally guaranteed the newly consolidated Arden Loan.

Almost one year later, on September 24, 2008, Buck was removed as a personal guarantor on the Arden loan. Only Jones and Keisler signed the renewed note. Jones confirmed that neither Boone nor BIG was asked about removing Buck as a personal guarantor, and neither Boone nor BIG personally guaranteed the amended Arden loan. On December 8, 2009, Jones obtained a personal loan with SFB in the amount of $449,326.33 to satisfy the Arden loan.[5] SFB marked the Arden loan as satisfied and transferred the balance to Jones's personal loan.

Jones was unable to repay the personal loan and subsequently executed a confession of judgment to SFB regarding his personal loan on November 8, 2012. Jones testified at trial that he had not made any payments on his personal loan or on the confession of judgment. The president of SFB, Justin Strickland, also affirmed Jones's testimony. Strickland acknowledged that Jones's personal loan was charged off in varying increments between December 29, 2009, and December 20, 2010. Despite writing off Jones's personal ...


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