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Carolina Convenience Stores, Inc. v. City of Spartanburg

Supreme Court of South Carolina

August 31, 2016

Carolina Convenience Stores, Inc., Harry Lancaster, Jr.asPower of Attorney for Harry Lancaster, Sr. and WillardOil Company, Inc., Petitioners,
v.
City of Spartanburg, Respondent. Appellate No. 2012-212473

          Heard June 25, 2014

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

         Appeal from Spartanburg County E. C. Burnett, III, Special Circuit Court Judge, Roger L. Couch, Circuit Court Judge

          Charles J. Hodge and Timothy Ryan Langley, both of Hodge & Langley Law Firm, P.C., of Spartanburg, for Petitioners.

          David Leon Morrison, of Morrison Law Firm, L.L.C., of Columbia, for Respondent.

          PLEICONES CHIEF JUSTICE

         Carolina Convenience Stores, Inc., Harry Lancaster, Jr., and Willard Oil Company, Inc., (collectively, Petitioners) brought claims for inverse condemnation and negligence against the City of Spartanburg (the City) for damages to Petitioners' convenience store caused by the City's police department during its handling of a hostage situation. The circuit court granted the City's summary judgment motion as to the inverse condemnation claim, but denied it as to the negligence claim. The jury returned a verdict in the City's favor as to Petitioners' negligence claim. Petitioners appealed only the inverse condemnation ruling. The court of appeals affirmed, finding the circuit court properly granted summary judgment as to the inverse condemnation claim. Carolina Convenience Stores, Inc. v. City of Spartanburg, 398 S.C. 27, 727 S.E.2d 28 (Ct. App. 2012). We granted Petitioners' request for a writ of certiorari and now affirm the court of appeals' decision as modified.

         FACTS

         Jimmy Johnson fled from police after being stopped for having an expired vehicle license. Johnson, who was armed, entered Carolina Convenience Store in Spartanburg, where he took Saroj Patel hostage. The City's police department negotiated with Johnson in an effort to encourage Johnson to surrender. After the negotiations were unsuccessful, the police department cut off the power to the convenience store and introduced tear gas and pepper spray into the building's ventilation system in another vain attempt to induce surrender.

         During these attempts to secure Johnson's surrender, the City's police department was unable to determine, visually or otherwise, Patel and Johnson's location within the convenience store. After a twelve hour standoff, the police decided to breach the building with a bulldozer, which resulted in severe physical damage to the property. Given the substantial damage to the store, Petitioners were later asked by the City to tear it down as it did not comply with ordinances regarding vacant commercial buildings in its damaged state. After Petitioners refused, the City demolished the building.

         Petitioners' inverse condemnation action was based on the police department's actions during the hostage situation, not the City's later decision to demolish the building.

          STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[1] Lanham v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of S.C., Inc., 349 S.C. 356, 361, 563 S.E.2d 331, 333 (2002).

         DISCUSSION

         The South Carolina Constitution provides that, "private property shall not be taken . . . for public use without just compensation being first made for the property." Art. I, § 13(A). Inverse condemnation occurs when a government agency takes private property without formally exercising its power of eminent domain. Carolina Chloride, Inc. v. S.C Dep't. of Transp.,391 S.C. 429, 706 S.E.2d 501 (2011). Inverse condemnation may result either from the government's physical appropriation of private property or from ...


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