393 S.E.2d 176 (S.C. 1990), 23211, Link v. School Dist. of Pickens County

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtFINNEY, Justice:
Citation302 S.C. 1,393 S.E.2d 176
Docket Number23211.
Date07 May 1990
PartiesJames B. LINK, Appellant, v. SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PICKENS COUNTY, Respondent.

Page 176

393 S.E.2d 176 (S.C. 1990)

302 S.C. 1

James B. LINK, Appellant,

v.

SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PICKENS COUNTY, Respondent.

No. 23211.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

May 7, 1990

Heard Feb. 7, 1990.

[302 S.C. 2] O.G. Calhoun, of Haynsworth, Marion, McKay & Guerard, Greenville, for appellant.

Theron Cochran, of Love, Thornton, Arnold & Thomas, Greenville, for respondent.

FINNEY, Justice:

This appeal involves three issues: (1) the effect of Rule 54(b), SCRCP, on appeals in multiple cause of action cases; (2) whether one may appeal an intermediate judgment disposing of one cause of action after entry of final judgment in a case without also appealing the final judgment itself; and (3)

Page 177

whether a jury verdict against a plaintiff on a promissory estoppel claim collaterally estops the plaintiff's Small v. Springs Industries, Inc., 1 breach of contract claim, or operates as res judicata to bar it.

[302 S.C. 3] FACTS

James Link brought this action against the School District of Pickens County (School District) arising out of his discharge from employment on September 10, 1985. Link initially brought causes of action for (1) breach of contract, (2) promissory estoppel, (3) outrage, and (4) invasion of privacy. In connection with his breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims, Link alleged, inter alia, that the employee handbook given him by the School District provided for a four-step procedure preceding termination, and that the School District failed to follow this procedure. The School District moved for summary judgment as to all of Link's causes of action. Link abandoned his invasion of privacy claim. Summary judgment was granted against Link on his breach of contract claim, and he did not immediately appeal this ruling. The case proceeded, and a directed verdict was granted against Link on his outrage claim. Finally, the jury returned a verdict against Link on his remaining claim of promissory estoppel.

Having now lost all of his causes of action, Link seeks to appeal from the intermediate summary judgment order which struck his breach of contract claim. The School District concedes that it was error for the trial court to rule against Link on this claim in light of Small v. Springs Industries, Inc., 292 S.C. 481, 357 S.E.2d 452 (1987), and Toth v. Square D Co., 298 S.C. 6, 377 S.E.2d 584 (1989). However, the School District contends that Link may not now appeal the summary judgment ruling, and that Link's breach of contract claim is barred by either res judicata or collateral estoppel.

LAW/ANALYSIS

  1. Effect of Failing to Immediately Appeal Order Granting

    Summary Judgment

    Link contends that, since the trial judge failed to certify the summary judgment ruling as final under Rule 54(b), SCRCP, he need not have immediately appealed the ruling. The School District argues that the summary judgment order is controlled by S.C.Code Ann. § 14-3-330(2) (1976), and must be immediately appealed. We hold that neither party is correct, and that Link's appeal is instead governed by S.C.Code Ann. § 14-3-330(1) (1976).

    [302 S.C. 4] Rule 54(b), SCRCP, reads:

    When more than one claim for relief is presented in an action, whether as a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct the entry of final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties only upon an express determination that there is no just reason for delay and upon an express direction for the entry of judgment. In the absence of such determination and direction, any order or other form of decision, however, designated, which adjudicates fewer than all of the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties shall not terminate the action as to any of the claims or parties, and the order or other form of decision is subject to revision at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties.

    The process of directing entry of judgment on one or more but less than all claims under Rule 54(b) will be referred to as certification.

    In Lebovitz v. Mudd, 289 S.C. 476, 347 S.E.2d 94 (1986), this Court held that an order which is immediately appealable by statute is not rendered unappealable because it has not been certified under Rule 54(b). In Lebovitz, the appellants wished to immediately appeal the granting of a

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    12(b)(6), SCRCP, motion to dismiss, which struck one of their causes of action. The respondents in Lebovitz countered that, since there had been no certification of the 12(b)(6) ruling as "final" by the trial judge, Rule 54(b) barred an immediate appeal. We held that such was not the case, since the appellants had a statutory right to immediately appeal. 2 This is the same conclusion reached by the federal courts under their Rule 54(b). 10 Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure, Civil 2d, § 2658 at pp. 71-72 (1983) (Rule 54(b) should not be construed to alter federal appellate jurisdiction or supersede [302 S.C. 5] or modify the other means by which a party can secure a review of a trial court determination).

    Accordingly, Link's argument that lack of certification prevented the grant of summary judgment from being immediately appealable is without merit. 3 Whether the grant of summary judgment was immediately...

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1 practice notes
  • SC Lawyer, September 2008, #1. Arbitration: Alive and Delivering Results in South Carolina.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Bar Journal Nbr. 2008, January 2008
    • January 1, 2008
    ...Housing Corp. v. Federal Ins. Co., 269 S.C. 631, 239 S.E.2d 647 (1977)), overruled on other grounds by Link v. School Dist., 302 S.C. 1, 393 S.E.2d 176 South Carolina took its lead from the U.S. Congress, which adopted the FAA in 1924. In doing so, Congress explained that "[t]he desire to a......
1 books & journal articles
  • SC Lawyer, September 2008, #1. Arbitration: Alive and Delivering Results in South Carolina.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Bar Journal Nbr. 2008, January 2008
    • January 1, 2008
    ...Housing Corp. v. Federal Ins. Co., 269 S.C. 631, 239 S.E.2d 647 (1977)), overruled on other grounds by Link v. School Dist., 302 S.C. 1, 393 S.E.2d 176 South Carolina took its lead from the U.S. Congress, which adopted the FAA in 1924. In doing so, Congress explained that "[t]he desire to a......

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