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Roddey v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.

Supreme Court of South Carolina

March 14, 2018

Travis A. Roddey, Individually and as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Alice Monique Beckham Hancock, deceased, Appellant,
v.
Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., U.S. Security Associates, Inc., and Derrick L. Jones, Respondents. Appellate Case No. 2016-002248

          Heard February 14, 2018

         Appeal From Lancaster County G. Thomas Cooper, Jr., Circuit Court Judge

          Whitney B. Harrison and Shawn Deery, both of Columbia, and S. Randall Hood, of Rock Hill, all of McGowan Hood & Felder, LLC, for Appellant.

          Stephanie G. Flynn, of Smith Moore Leatherwood, LLP, and W. Howard Boyd, Jr., of Gallivan, White & Boyd, PA, both of Greenville, for Respondents.

          BEATTY CHIEF JUSTICE:

         This appeal presents us with the opportunity to revisit our decision in Roddey v. Wal-Mart Stores E., LP, 415 S.C. 580, 784 S.E.2d 670 (2016), wherein we reversed and remanded for a new trial after determining the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the circuit court's decision granting Wal-Mart's motion for a directed verdict on the appellant's negligence action. On remand, the circuit court, believing the new trial to be limited to the negligence action, issued an order striking the negligent hiring, training, supervision, and entrustment action and barring any evidence in support of the action on the basis of res judicata. Travis Roddey, individually and as the personal representative of Alice Hancock's estate, ("Appellant") appealed the order and we certified the appeal pursuant to Rule 204(b), SCACR. We affirm.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         Wal-Mart suspected Alice Hancock's sister, Donna Beckham, of shoplifting. As Beckham was exiting the store and heading for Hancock's car, Wal-Mart's employees told Derrick Jones, an on-duty Wal-Mart security guard employed with U.S. Security Associates, Inc. ("USSA"), to delay Beckham from leaving its premises. Beckham, however, got into Hancock's car and Hancock exited the parking lot and entered the highway. Jones pursued Hancock onto the highway in contravention of Wal-Mart's policies after Wal-Mart's employees repeatedly asked him to obtain Hancock's license tag. Hancock died in a single-car accident shortly thereafter.

         Appellant filed suit against Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, USSA, and Jones (collectively "Respondents"), alleging negligence and negligent hiring, training, supervision, and entrustment. At the conclusion of Appellant's case, Wal-Mart moved for a directed verdict on both causes of action, submitting: (1) Appellant failed to present evidence showing Wal-Mart breached its duty of care; (2) Appellant failed to present evidence showing Wal-Mart's actions were the proximate cause of Appellant's injuries; and (3) Hancock was more than 50% negligent for the injuries in this case. The circuit court granted Wal-Mart's motion and dismissed it from the case, concluding "there is insufficient evidence that Wal-Mart was negligent, or even if they were there is [a] lack of proximate cause that the events were not foreseeable."

         USSA subsequently moved for a directed verdict on the negligent hiring cause of action. USSA argued the fact that Jones had a suspended driver's license and a criminal record did not make it foreseeable that "Jones would engage in a high speed pursuit down the highway off [Wal-Mart's] premises." The court denied the motion and both the negligence action and the negligent hiring action were sent to the jury.

         On Appellant's negligence action, the jury found Jones and USSA 35% negligent and Hancock 65% negligent. On Appellant's negligent hiring action, the jury found USSA was negligent for hiring Jones, but determined its negligence did not proximately cause Appellant's injuries. Appellant filed a Rule 59, SCRCP motion seeking a new trial based, in part, on the circuit court's decision to direct a verdict in favor of Wal-Mart on the negligence cause of action, arguing he presented enough evidence from which a jury could find Wal-Mart breached its duty and that its breach proximately caused the injuries in this case. The circuit court denied the motion and Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeals.

         In a split decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's ruling granting Wal-Mart's motion for a directed verdict on the negligence action. Roddey v. Wal-Mart Stores E., LP, 400 S.C. 59, 732 S.E.2d 635 (Ct. App. 2012). We granted certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' decision and reversed in a 3-2 decision. Roddey v. Wal-Mart Stores E., LP, 415 S.C. 580, 784 S.E.2d 670 (2016). We found "there is evidence from which a jury could determine that Wal-Mart was negligent, and that its negligence proximately caused the injuries in this case." Id. at 589, 784 S.E.2d at 675. Accordingly, we remanded "for a new trial as to all of the [Respondents]." Id.

         On remand, prior to the new trial, Respondents filed a motion to exclude the negligent hiring action from retrial on the basis of res judicata. Respondents submitted: (1) Appellant could not pursue the action against USSA and Jones because it was tried and decided by a jury during the first trial and Appellant did not appeal the verdict; and (2) Appellant could not pursue the action against Wal-Mart because USSA hired Jones and because Appellant only appealed the circuit court's grant of Wal-Mart's motion for a directed verdict on the cause of action for negligence and not negligent hiring.

         The circuit court agreed with Respondents and issued an order striking the negligent hiring cause of action and barring any evidence concerning that action from retrial. Appellant appealed the circuit court's ruling to the Court of ...


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