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Coastal Federal Credit Union v. Brown

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

June 30, 2016

Coastal Federal Credit Union, Appellant,
v.
Angel Latoria Brown, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2014-002079

          Submitted April 1, 2016

         Appeal From Charleston County R. Markley Dennis, Jr., Circuit Court Judge

          Sarah Dalonzo-Baker, of Kirschbaum Nanney Keenan & Griffin, PA, of Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          Kirby Rakes Mitchell, of Greenville, and Matthew M. Billingsley, of North Charleston, both of S.C. Legal Services, for Respondent.

          OPINION

          CURETON, A.J.:

         Coastal Federal Credit Union (CFCU) appeals a circuit court order granting summary judgment to Angel Brown and denying summary judgment to CFCU. On appeal, CFCU argues the circuit court erred by (1) ruling the South Carolina Consumer Protection Code (SCCPC) and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) apply to this case, (2) ruling the applicable statute of limitations was three years and granting Brown summary judgment on that basis, and (3) denying its motion for summary judgment. We vacate the circuit court's order as to the first issue, reverse as to the second issue, find the third issue is not appealable, and remand for further proceedings.[1]

         I. FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 4, 2008, Brown entered into a retail installment sales contract with Johnny's Subaru Isuzu, LLC (the dealership), to purchase a vehicle. Brown financed the purchase, and the contract gave the dealership a security interest in the vehicle. The contract also provided that the financed portion of Brown's purchase would accrue interest at an annual rate of 12.4 percent. The dealership immediately assigned the contract to CFCU, and Brown's certificate of title listed CFCU as first lienholder. Brown failed to make payments as required by the contract, [2] and in October 2009, CFCU repossessed the vehicle. On November 19, 2009, CFCU sold the vehicle at auction, leaving an outstanding balance under the contract. On November 24, 2009, CFCU sent Brown a letter notifying her of the sale and resulting deficiency.

         On October 21, 2013, CFCU filed the summons and complaint in the current action seeking to collect Brown's debt. The caption of the complaint stated the action was for "debt collection, " and the complaint alleged Brown "defaulted in making the regularly-scheduled monthly payments due under the [c]ontract." The complaint further alleged CFCU repossessed and sold the vehicle "in accordance with the terms of the [c]ontract and applicable law, " CFCU applied the proceeds "to the [c]ontract, " and Brown owed an outstanding balance including interest and collection costs pursuant to the contract. Brown answered, asserting a statute of limitations defense. CFCU filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing the six-year statute of limitations contained in Article 2 of the South Carolina Uniform Commercial Code (SCUCC) [3] applied to the case, while neither the SCCPC nor the FDCPA were applicable. Brown filed a motion for summary judgment asserting the case was barred by the general three-year statute of limitations contained in section 15-3-530 of the South Carolina Code (2005).

          At a hearing on the motion, the circuit court engaged in the following exchange with CFCU:

THE COURT: Did you sell the car?
CFCU: We did Your Honor.
COURT: And then you established a balance owing.
CFCU: Correct, in deficiency only.. . . .
COURT: You're now suing on the deficiency, and now you've got a situation [in which] you needed to do it sooner. I grant ...

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