Charleston Electrical Services, Inc., and Selective Insurance Company of South Carolina, as Subrogee of Charleston Electrical Services, Inc., Appellants,
Wanda G. Rahall, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-001842
December 5, 2018
From Charleston County Mikell R. Scarborough,
F. Lindemann, of Lindemann, Davis & Hughes, PA, of
Columbia, for Appellants.
K. Pritchard, III, and Elizabeth Fraysure Fulton, both of
Pritchard Law Group LLC, of Charleston, for Respondent.
action for contribution, Charleston Electrical Services, Inc.
(CES) and its insurance carrier, Selective Insurance Company
of South Carolina (Selective), appeal the
master-in-equity's order granting judgment in favor of
Wanda Rahall. We affirm.
August 20, 2010, Elsie Rabon and her daughter, Wanda Rahall,
visited Rahall's fiancé, George Kornahrens, at 60
Romney Street (the Property) in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Property was owned by Kornahrens and leased to CES.
During her visit, Rabon went into the yard looking for
Kornahrens and was knocked to the ground by CES's
"overly friendly" German shepherd guard dog,
Gunner. Rabon was transported to the hospital and diagnosed
with a broken hip.
was CES's business manager. Although Kornahrens owned the
Property, he had no ownership interest in CES. The Property,
which is fenced in its entirety, consists of two buildings
and a large yard used for storing CES's trucks and
equipment. Kornahrens lived in an apartment (the Apartment)
in one of the buildings on the Property. Gunner was owned by
CES and kept in the yard. Rahall and Kornahrens were both
aware that Gunner had previously jumped on visitors.
time of Rabon's injury, Rahall and Kornahrens had been
involved in a romantic relationship for five years and had
been engaged for four years. Rahall owned a home in Myrtle
Beach and Rabon lived in a senior living apartment complex in
Myrtle Beach. Rahall stayed in the Apartment when she was in
Charleston, and Kornahrens stayed at Rahall's home when
he was in Myrtle Beach. According to Rahall, she lived with
Kornahrens "all the time" during 2010 and "70
percent of the time since 2008." Rahall had a key to the
Apartment and kept personal items in the Apartment, but she
did not pay rent or utilities. Rahall was not an agent or
employee of CES and never had any ownership interest in CES
or the Property. Kornahrens periodically invited Rabon to
stay at the Apartment.
December 31, 2010, Rabon filed suit against CES alleging
negligence and strict liability. In turn, CES filed a
third-party indemnification action against Rahall and
Kornahrens. Rabon and CES settled the underlying action for
$200, 000 in exchange for which Rabon released CES, Rahall,
and Kornahrens from liability. Thereafter, the action was
dismissed with prejudice as to Rabon's claim and without
prejudice as to CES's claims against Rahall and
3, 2013, CES and its insurance carrier, Selective, filed suit
against Rahall seeking to recover half of the settlement
proceeds paid to Rabon. The suit was referred to the
master-in-equity for trial. On August 2, 2016, the master
ruled Rahall did not owe a duty of care to Rabon; thus,
Rahall was not liable under either a premises liability
theory or the special relationship exception. CES and
Selective (collectively, Appellants) appeal.
action for contribution lies in equity. RIM Assocs. v.
Blackwell, 359 S.C. 170, 178-79 n. 3, 597 S.E.2d 152,
157 n. 3 (Ct. App. 2004). In an action in equity, tried by a
master without a jury, an appellate court may view the
evidence to determine facts in accordance with its own view
of the preponderance of the evidence. Tiger, Inc. v.
Fisher Agro, Inc., 301 S.C. 229, 237, 391 S.E.2d 538,
543 (1989). This broad scope of review does not require the
appellate court to ...