Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Buchanan v. South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

July 13, 2016

Janette Buchanan and Shana Smallwood, Individually and as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of James S. Buchanan, Respondents,
v.
The South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2015-000246

          Heard May 4, 2016

         Appeal From Bamberg County Doyet A. Early, III, Circuit Court Judge

          Howard A. Van Dine, III, Allen Mattison Bogan, Erik Tison Norton, and Tara C. Sullivan, all of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP, of Columbia, for Appellant.

          John S. Nichols, of Bluestein Nichols Thompson & Delgado, LLC, of Columbia; and Daniel W. Luginbill, of Wilson & Luginbill, LLC, of Bamberg, for Respondents.

          LOCKEMY, C.J.

         In this declaratory judgment action, the South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association (the Association) appeals the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Janette Buchanan and Shana Smallwood, individually and as co-personal representatives of the estate of James Buchanan (Respondents). On appeal, the Association argues the trial court erred in finding the Association's statutory offset of $376, 622 should be deducted from the claimant's total amount of stipulated damages of $800, 000 rather than the Association's mandatory statutory claim limit of $300, 000. We affirm.

         FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On January 7, 2008, James Buchanan was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Bamberg, South Carolina, caused by a vehicle driven by Eddie Best and owned by Travis Scott. Scott's vehicle was insured for one million dollars by AequiCap Insurance Company (AequiCap). Mr. Buchanan died at the scene of the accident.

         Mrs. Buchanan, individually and as the personal representative of Mr. Buchanan's estate, initiated a wrongful death lawsuit in Bamberg County against Best and Scott, both of whom were South Carolina residents. During the pendency of the wrongful death action, a Florida court declared AequiCap insolvent. As a result of AequiCap's insolvency, the Association assumed management of the claims against AequiCap's South Carolina insureds pursuant to the South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association Act (the Act).[1]

         Mrs. Buchanan, Scott, and Best reached a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit, and the trial court approved the settlement on February 24, 2014. As part of the settlement agreement, the parties stipulated that Mrs. Buchanan sustained $800, 000 in damages. Respondents recovered a total of $376, 622 from workers' compensation benefits and the codefendants' insurance.

         On April 11, 2013, Respondents filed an action against the Association for a declaration that the Association must pay $300, 000, the limit of its exposure under S.C. Code Ann. § 38-31-60 (2015). Respondents asserted the balance due to them after offsetting their $376, 622 recovery was $423, 378, which exceeded the statutory limit. The Association answered, claiming the credit for the $376, 622 already received should be applied to its $300, 000 statutory cap, which would reduce its obligation to zero. The Association and Respondents filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

         On May 28, 2014, the trial court held a hearing on the cross-motions. On September 9, 2014, the trial court granted Respondents' summary judgment motion and denied the Association's motion. In its order, the trial court found the plain language of the Act mandated that the Association pay Respondents $300, 000. The trial court found Respondents' "covered claim" under the AequiCap policy was $800, 000, to which an offset of $376, 622 would be applied under section 38-31-100(1) of the South Carolina Code (2015), leaving a balance of $423, 378 on the covered claim. The trial court held the Association's obligation to pay the balance due on the claim was then limited by the $300, 000 cap set forth in section 38-31-60. The Association filed a motion for reconsideration, which the trial court denied. This appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "Where cross motions for summary judgment are filed, the parties concede the issue before us should be decided as a matter of law." Wiegand v. U.S. Auto. Ass'n, 391 S.C. 159, 163, 705 S.E.2d 432, 434 (2011). "Determining the proper interpretation of a statute is a question of law, and this Court reviews questions of law de novo." Lambries v. Saluda Cty. Council, 409 S.C. 1, 7, 760 S.E.2d 785, 788 (2014) (quoting Town of Summerville v. City of N. Charleston, 378 S.C. 107, 110, 662 S.E.2d 40, 41 (2008)). "In a case raising a novel issue of law regarding the interpretation of a statute, the appellate court is free to decide the question with no particular deference to the lower court." Id. at 7-8, 760 S.E.2d at 788 (quoting Sloan v. S.C. Bd. of Physical Therapy Exam'rs, 370 S.C. 452, 466, 636 S.E.2d 598, 605 (2006)). "The appellate court is free to decide the question based on its assessment of which interpretation and reasoning would best comport with the law and public policies of this state and the Court's sense of law, justice, and right." Id. at 8, 760 S.E.2d at 788 (quoting Sloan, 380 S.C. at 467, 636 S.E.2d at 605-06)).

         LA ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.