Heard May 4, 2016
From Orangeburg County Maité Murphy, Circuit Court
Todd Rutherford, of The Rutherford Law Firm, LLC, and Robert
F. Goings, of Goings Law Firm, LLC, both of Columbia, for
CM. Walker and Jessica A. Waller, both of Gallivan, White &
Boyd, P.A., of Columbia, for Respondent Sunshine Recycling,
D. Johnson, III, of Columbia, for Respondent Aiken Electric
action for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution,
Appellant Meredith Huffman seeks review of the circuit
court's order granting summary judgment to Respondents,
Sunshine Recycling, LLC (Sunshine) and Aiken Electric
Cooperative, Inc. (Aiken) (collectively, Respondents).
Huffman argues there were genuine issues of material fact
concerning whether Respondents caused, instigated, or
procured her arrest and the extent of Respondents'
participation in law enforcement's charging Huffman with
receiving stolen goods. We reverse and remand for a trial on
the merits of Huffman's false imprisonment and malicious
16, 2010, an unidentified black male broke into Aiken's
Orangeburg facility. Shortly thereafter, a white Ford F-150
truck was seen leaving the facility's parking lot. The
next day, Mark Goss, Aiken's Loss Control and Safety
Coordinator, viewed the surveillance video and advised Deputy
Maurice Huggins of the Orangeburg County Sheriff's
Department that several pounds of solid copper and several
pounds of aluminum tie wire had been stolen from Aiken. At
that time, Goss estimated the value of the stolen metal to be
same day, Goss also checked with Sunshine, a metal recycling
business, to see if anyone had tried to sell the stolen metal
to Sunshine. Goss discovered the stolen metal at Sunshine and
spoke with Sunshine's owner, Joseph Rich. Goss told Rich
he was looking for a black male in a white Ford pickup truck.
Ashley Aldridge of the Orangeburg County Sheriff's
Department also appeared at Sunshine to investigate the
theft. Rich, who claimed to speak Spanish, spoke to an
unnamed Spanish-speaking employee working in the metal
drop-off area but failed to mention that Goss was looking for
a black male in a white Ford pickup truck. Rich's
employee allegedly told Rich that a white woman was the first
person to drop off metal that morning. Although the
individual who stole the metal from Aiken was a black male,
Goss testified in his deposition that in the metal industry,
"it's not uncommon for girlfriends and wives to
bring metal in and drop them off. It happens all the
told Officer Aldridge and Goss they were welcome to view the
receipts documenting the amount paid to customers who had
sold metal to Sunshine and the time-stamped video footage of
customers waiting at the payment window. Officer Aldridge
viewed this video and saw Huffman waiting for her payment.
Officer Aldridge also obtained a receipt for the metal sold
by Huffman, which indicated a payment of $53 to her.
Goss spoke with Officer James Ethridge of the Orangeburg
County Sheriff's Department and told Officer Ethridge
that he had spoken with Huffman while she was waiting to get
paid for "the items that she had just brought
in."Goss also told Officer Ethridge that
"he viewed the items after she left and identified them
as" belonging to Aiken. Actually, when Goss identified
the metal left in Sunshine's drop-off area as the metal
stolen from Aiken, he was viewing what had been commingled
with the metal left by Huffman. Goss recognized that some of
the copper and aluminum in the area had characteristics
distinguishable from those of the copper and aluminum stolen
from Aiken. Goss admitted in his deposition, "it was all
right there in like a big pile kind of, and I don't
remember if it was on top of each other or what. It was all
right there in one section." When Rich advised Goss that
Huffman left the stolen metal, Goss apparently did not
mention the distinction he had made between the different
types of copper and aluminum in the area. Further, Rich's
employee apparently did not tell Rich that a black male in a
white Ford pickup truck dropped off metal immediately after
Huffman dropped off her metal.
next day, May 18, 2010, Officer Ethridge visited Sunshine to
photograph the metal identified as stolen. While he was
there, he also spoke with Rich, who stated he had not yet
obtained a copy of the video showing customers dropping off
their metal but he would contact Palmetto Security Cameras to
request Alan Price to "burn" a copy of the video
for Officer Ethridge. During the next three days, Goss called
Officer Ethridge several times, asking him what he was going
to do with the case. During this same time period, Officer
Ethridge called Rich several times, asking when he could
obtain the video of customers dropping off metal.
still waiting on this video, Officer Ethridge contacted a
local magistrate on May 21, 2010, to obtain a warrant for
Huffman's arrest for receiving stolen
goods. After Huffman learned about the warrant,
she advised Officer Ethridge that she sold metal to Sunshine
but it was not stolen; rather, it was salvaged from a mobile
home belonging to her and her husband after they tore down
the home. Officer Ethridge instructed Huffman to meet him at
the Sheriff's Department at 9:00 a.m. the next morning,
June 2, 2010. At that time, Huffman gave a statement to
Officer Ethridge, and he formally served Huffman with the
arrest warrant. Officer Ethridge then placed Huffman in
handcuffs, and she was required to change into a prison
jumpsuit and wait for the next bond hearing. She was unable
to telephone her home to check on her children, who were not
being supervised by an adult, and she was required to appear
at the bond hearing handcuffed and shackled. Huffman obtained
a personal recognizance bond, and she was finally released at
approximately 5:00 p.m.
Huffman's arrest and release, Officer Ethridge finally
was able to view the video of Huffman dropping off her metal
at Sunshine. Goss viewed this video around the same time that
Officer Ethridge viewed it, although Goss had actually
received the video before Huffman was
arrested. Rich never viewed the video.
report, Officer Ethridge stated that he watched "the
video of where [Huffman] took the items off of her truck and
she did have some copper that resembles what was taken in the
back of her truck, but the aluminum was sheeting[, ] not
wire." He further stated he advised Rich "that
after viewing the video, it does not show her with the same
items that w[ere] taken. Due to these facts[, ] there is not
enough evidence to support this case. I will be dismissing
these charges on Huffman." Notably, the video also
showed that the customer following Huffman was the black male
Goss had seen on Aiken's surveillance video, Eugene
James, unloading metal from the white Ford pickup truck he
the end of his report, Officer Ethridge noted, "At this
time[, ] I am not comfortable with this case due to the
witnesses gave [sic] me false information the first
time." After Officer Ethridge dropped the charge of
receiving stolen goods against Huffman, the Sheriff's
Department finally located James. James ultimately pled
guilty to the charges brought against him.
9, 2012, Huffman filed a complaint against the Sheriff's
Department and Sunshine, asserting claims for negligence,
false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. In May 2013,
Huffman amended her complaint to add Aiken as a defendant. On
or about June 27, 2013, Aiken filed a motion to dismiss
Huffman's complaint against it. Huffman later settled her
claims against the Sheriff's Department, and the two
parties filed a stipulation dismissing the Sheriff's
Department from the action on or about December 18, 2014.
Several weeks later, Sunshine filed a motion for summary
judgment, and the circuit court conducted a hearing on this
motion as well as Aiken's motion to dismiss on March 10,
2014. Upon Aiken's request, the circuit court converted
Aiken's motion to dismiss into a summary judgment motion.
about April 3, 2014, the circuit court granted
Respondents' summary judgment motions. The circuit court
later denied Huffman's motion to alter or amend the
written order granting summary judgment. This appeal
1. Were there issues of fact material to whether
Huffman's arrest was lawful?
2. Were there issues of fact material to whether Respondents
caused, instigated, or procured Huffman's arrest?
3. Were there issues of fact material to whether there was
probable cause to charge Huffman with receiving stolen goods?
4. Were there issues of fact material to Respondents'
participation in local law enforcement's charging Huffman
with receiving stolen goods?
court reviews the grant of a summary judgment motion under
the same standard applied by the trial court pursuant to Rule
56(c), SCRCP. Jackon v. Bermuda Sands, Inc., 383
S.C. 11, 14 n.2, 677 S.E.2d 612, 614 n.2 (Ct. App. 2009).
Rule 56(c), SCRCP, provides summary judgment shall be granted
when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." "In determining
whether any triable issues of fact exist for summary judgment
purposes, the evidence and all the inferences [that] can be
reasonably drawn from the evidence must be viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party."
Hancock v. Mid-S. Mgmt. Co., 381 S.C. 326, 329-30,
673 S.E.2d 801, 802 (2009); Fleming v. Rose, 350
S.C. 488, 493-94, 567 S.E.2d 857, 860 (2002).
"[s]ummary judgment should not be granted even when
there is no dispute as to evidentiary facts if there is
disagreement concerning the conclusion to be drawn from those
facts." Lanham v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of S.C.,
Inc., 349 S.C. 356, 362, 563 S.E.2d 331, 333 (2002).
"On appeal from an order granting summary judgment, the
appellate court will review all ambiguities, conclusions, and
inferences arising in and from the evidence in a light most
favorable to the non-moving party below." Id.
"in cases applying the preponderance of the evidence
burden of proof, the non-moving party is only required to
submit a mere scintilla of evidence in order to withstand a
motion for summary judgment." Hancock, 381 S.C.
at 330, 673 S.E.2d at 803. "At the summary judgment
stage of litigation, the court does not weigh conflicting
evidence with respect to a disputed material fact."
S.C. Prop. & Cas. Guar. Ass'n v. Yensen, 345
S.C. 512, 518, 548 S.E.2d 880, 883 (Ct. App. 2001).
"[B]ecause summary judgment is a drastic remedy, it
should be cautiously invoked to ensure a litigant is not