Bayle v. South Carolina Dept. of Transp., No. 3284.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtANDERSON.
Citation542 S.E.2d 736,344 S.C. 115
PartiesJoel P. BAYLE, as Personal Representative for Patricia F. Bayle, Deceased, Appellant, v. SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Blythe Construction, Inc., Defendants, Of whom South Carolina Department of Transportation is Respondent.
Decision Date08 January 2001
Docket NumberNo. 3284.

344 S.C. 115
542 S.E.2d 736

Joel P. BAYLE, as Personal Representative for Patricia F. Bayle, Deceased, Appellant,
v.
SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Blythe Construction, Inc., Defendants, Of whom South Carolina Department of Transportation is Respondent

No. 3284.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard December 13, 2000.

Decided January 8, 2001.

Rehearing Denied March 12, 2001.


344 S.C. 118
Dana C. Mitchell, III, and Laura W.H. Teer, both of Mitchell, Bouton, Yokel & Childs, of Greenville, for Appellant

James W. Logan, Jr., of Logan, Jolly & Smith, of Anderson, for Respondent.

ANDERSON, Judge:

Joel Bayle, as Personal Representative for Patricia Bayle, initiated these actions for survival and wrongful death. Bayle appeals the grant of summary judgment to the South Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT). The court ruled

344 S.C. 119
Bayle's actions were barred by the statute of limitations. We affirm

FACTS/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Patricia Bayle was killed on October 12, 1994, when she lost control of her vehicle as she drove into a large amount of standing water in the northbound lane of 1-85. Bayle's car crossed the median and struck an oncoming tractor-trailer in the southbound lane of 1-85. Bayle died at the scene.

More than two years after Patricia Bayle's death, an attorney for Paul Wilson contacted Bayle's husband, Joel. As a result, Joel learned that ten days prior to his wife's accident, Paul Wilson was involved in a collision with Robert Latham, who lost control of his vehicle after driving into standing water in the northbound lane of 1-85. After finding out about the Wilson wreck and other similar accidents on 1-85 from Wilson's counsel, Joel Bayle filed these actions for wrongful death and survival against DOT on September 19, 1997.

The actions allege DOT negligently constructed, maintained, and/or repaired the roadway, failed to warn drivers of a water hazard, and/or failed to construct barricades or guardrails to protect persons using the roadway.

DOT answered asserting the actions were barred by the South Carolina Tort Claims Act's two-year statute of limitations. The Circuit Court agreed and granted summary judgment to DOT.

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. Young v. South Carolina Dep't of Corrections, 333 S.C. 714, 511 S.E.2d 413 (Ct.App.1999); Rule 56(c), SCRCP. See also Bruce v. Durney, 341 S.C. 563, 534 S.E.2d 720 (Ct.App.2000)(motion for summary judgment shall be granted if pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and moving party is entitled to judgment as matter of law). In determining whether any triable issues of fact exist, as will

344 S.C. 120
preclude summary judgment, the evidence and all inferences which can be reasonably drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Vermeer Carolina's, Inc. v. Wood/Chuck Chipper Corp., 336 S.C. 53, 518 S.E.2d 301 (Ct.App.1999). If triable issues exist, those issues must be submitted to the jury. Young, supra.

Summary judgment is not appropriate where further inquiry into the facts of the case is desirable to clarify the application of the law. Brockbank v. Best Capital Corp., 341 S.C. 372, 534 S.E.2d 688 (2000). All ambiguities, conclusions, and inferences arising from the evidence must be construed most strongly against the movant. Vermeer, supra. Even when there is no dispute as to evidentiary facts, but only as to the conclusions or inferences to be drawn from them, summary judgment should be denied. Moriarty v. Garden Sanctuary Church of God, 341 S.C. 320, 534 S.E.2d 672 (2000). However, when plain, palpable, and indisputable facts exist on which reasonable minds cannot differ, summary judgment should be granted. Pye v. Aycock, 325 S.C. 426, 480 S.E.2d 455 (Ct.App.1997).

An appellate court reviews the granting of summary judgment under the same standard applied by the trial court pursuant to Rule 56, SCRCP. Brockbank, supra; Wells v. City of Lynchburg, 331 S.C. 296, 501 S.E.2d 746 (Ct.App.1998).

ISSUES

I. Did the Circuit Court err in granting summary judgment to DOT based on the statute of limitations?
II. Did the Circuit Court err in quashing discovery?

LAW/ANALYSIS

I. Summary Judgment

Bayle contends the Circuit Court erred in granting summary judgment to DOT because (1) the court incorrectly defined the term "loss"; (2) the discovery rule tolled the statute of limitations; (3) he was reasonably diligent in filing suit; and (4) he presented evidence of latent defects in the roadway.

344 S.C. 121
Bayle brought this action against DOT, a governmental entity. Thus, the South Carolina Tort Claims Act delineates the parameters within which Bayle may pursue his claims. DOT is a governmental entity as defined by the Act. See S.C.Code Ann. § 15-78-30(d), (e) & (h) (Supp.1999)

The Tort Claims Act waives sovereign immunity for torts committed by the State, its political subdivisions, and governmental employees acting within the scope of their official duties. See Pike v. South Carolina Dep't of Transp., 343 S.C. 224, 540 S.E.2d 87 (2000); S.C.Code Ann. § 15-78-40 (Supp.1999). The Act does not create a cause of action. See Summers v. Harrison Constr., 298 S.C. 451, 381 S.E.2d 493 (Ct.App.1989); see also Moore v. Florence Sch. Dist. No. 1, 314 S.C. 335, 444 S.E.2d 498 (1994)(Tort Claims Act does not create new substantive cause of action against government entity). Rather, it removes the common law bar of sovereign immunity in certain circumstances, but only to the extent mandated by the Act. Summers, supra.

The Tort Claims Act "is the exclusive and sole remedy for any tort committed by an employee of a governmental entity while acting within the scope of the employee's official duty." S.C.Code Ann. § 15-78-200 (Supp.1999) (emphasis added). The Act contains a two-year statute of limitations. Section 15-78-110 declares:

Except as provided for in Section 15-3-40, any action brought pursuant to this chapter is forever barred unless an action is commenced within two years after the date the loss was or should have been discovered; provided, that if the claimant first filed a claim pursuant to this chapter then the action for damages based upon the same occurrence is forever barred unless the action is commenced within three years of the date the loss was or should have been discovered.

S.C.Code Ann. § 15-78-110 (Supp.1999)(emphasis added).

Bayle asserts the Circuit Court erred in defining "loss" as the date of his wife's death rather than the date he learned of a possible latent defect in the road surface. We disagree.

The Tort Claims Act specifically defines loss:

344 S.C. 122
"Loss" means bodily injury, disease, death, or damage to tangible property, including lost wages and economic loss to the person who suffered the injury, disease, or death, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and any other element of actual damages recoverable in actions for negligence, but does not include the intentional infliction of emotional harm.

S.C.Code Ann. § 15-78-30(f) (Supp.1999) (emphasis added). The Tort Claims Act contains a definition of loss that differs from that of other statutes. Therefore, Bayle's reliance on medical or legal malpractice cases not governed by the Act is misplaced.

In his brief, Bayle cited Johnston v. Bowen, 313 S.C. 61, 437 S.E.2d 45 (1993), for the proposition that whether a claimant knew or should have known a cause of action existed is a jury question. First, Johnston construes a different statute of limitations, S.C.Code Ann. § 15-3-545 (Supp.1999). Additionally, Johnston reaches the same result as the court in the instant case. The Johnston Court held the statute of limitations begins to run when a person of common knowledge and experience would be on notice a claim might exist, not when the plaintiff discovers a witness to support or prove the case.

Bayle's "loss," according to the clear provisions of the statute, was the death of his wife, rather than the date he learned of a possible latent defect in the road surface. When statutory language is unambiguous, this Court may not impose a contrary meaning. In re Vincent J., 333 S.C. 233, 509 S.E.2d 261 (1998).

The cardinal rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and effectuate the intent of the legislature. Joiner v. Rivas, 342 S.C. 102, 536 S.E.2d 372 (2000). Under the plain meaning rule, it is not the court's place to change the meaning of a clear and unambiguous statute. Hodges v. Rainey, 341 S.C. 79, 533 S.E.2d 578 (2000). Where the statute's language is plain and unambiguous, and conveys a clear and definite meaning, the rules of statutory interpretation are not needed and the court has no right to impose another meaning. Id. What a legislature says in the text of a statute is considered the best evidence of the legislative intent or will. Id. Therefore, the courts are bound to give effect to the expressed intent of the legislature. Id.

344 S.C. 123
Provisions of the Tort Claims Act...

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111 practice notes
  • Thompson ex rel. Harvey v. Cisson Const., No. 4339.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 1, 2008
    ...says in the text of a statute is considered the best evidence of the legislative intent or will. Bayle v. S.C. Dep't of Transp., 344 S.C. 115, 122, 542 S.E.2d 736, 740 (Ct.App.2001). The words of a statute must be given their plain and ordinary meaning without resorting to subtle or forced ......
  • Proctor v. Dept. of Health, No. 4098.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 20, 2006
    ...its political subdivisions, and governmental employees acting within the scope of their official duties." Bayle v. S.C. Dep't of Transp., 344 S.C. 115, 121, 542 S.E.2d 736, 739 However, the Act's waiver of governmental immunity is limited. Hawkins, 358 S.C. at 293, 594 S.E.2d at 564. Sectio......
  • Coastal Conservation v. Dept. of Health, No. 4450.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 23, 2008
    ...will. Peake, 375 S.C. at 598, 654 S.E.2d at 289 (citing Jones, 364 S.C. at 231, 612 S.E.2d at 724 (citing Bayle v. S.C. Dep't of Transp., 344 S.C. 115, 122, 542 S.E.2d 736, 740 (Ct. Clear and unambiguous statutes require no statutory construction and should be applied by the court according......
  • Bass v. Isochem, No. 3996.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 6, 2005
    ...says in the text of a statute is considered the best evidence of the legislative intent or will. Bayle v. South Carolina Dep't of Transp., 344 S.C. 115, 542 S.E.2d 736 (Ct.App.2001). The words of a statute must be given their plain and ordinary meaning without resorting to subtle or forced ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
113 cases
  • Thompson ex rel. Harvey v. Cisson Const., No. 4339.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 1, 2008
    ...says in the text of a statute is considered the best evidence of the legislative intent or will. Bayle v. S.C. Dep't of Transp., 344 S.C. 115, 122, 542 S.E.2d 736, 740 (Ct.App.2001). The words of a statute must be given their plain and ordinary meaning without resorting to subtle or forced ......
  • Proctor v. Dept. of Health, No. 4098.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 20, 2006
    ...its political subdivisions, and governmental employees acting within the scope of their official duties." Bayle v. S.C. Dep't of Transp., 344 S.C. 115, 121, 542 S.E.2d 736, 739 However, the Act's waiver of governmental immunity is limited. Hawkins, 358 S.C. at 293, 594 S.E.2d at 564. Sectio......
  • Coastal Conservation v. Dept. of Health, No. 4450.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 23, 2008
    ...will. Peake, 375 S.C. at 598, 654 S.E.2d at 289 (citing Jones, 364 S.C. at 231, 612 S.E.2d at 724 (citing Bayle v. S.C. Dep't of Transp., 344 S.C. 115, 122, 542 S.E.2d 736, 740 (Ct. Clear and unambiguous statutes require no statutory construction and should be applied by the court according......
  • Bass v. Isochem, No. 3996.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 6, 2005
    ...says in the text of a statute is considered the best evidence of the legislative intent or will. Bayle v. South Carolina Dep't of Transp., 344 S.C. 115, 542 S.E.2d 736 (Ct.App.2001). The words of a statute must be given their plain and ordinary meaning without resorting to subtle or forced ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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