Gaskins v. SOUTHERN FARM BUREAU CAS., No. 3271.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtCURETON.
Citation541 S.E.2d 269,343 S.C. 666
Docket NumberNo. 3271.
Decision Date18 December 2000
PartiesRandy GASKINS and Linda Gaskins, Appellants, v. SOUTHERN FARM BUREAU CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, and South Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance Company and Timothy Brant, Respondents.

343 S.C. 666
541 S.E.2d 269

Randy GASKINS and Linda Gaskins, Appellants,
v.
SOUTHERN FARM BUREAU CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, and South Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance Company and Timothy Brant, Respondents

No. 3271.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard November 6, 2000.

Decided December 18, 2000.

Rehearing Denied February 12, 2001.


343 S.C. 668
Constance A. Anastopoulo, Anastopoulo Law Firm, Charleston, for appellants

Robert J. Thomas, Rogers, Townsend & Thomas, Columbia, for respondent.

CURETON, Judge:

Randy and Linda Gaskins (the Gaskins) appeal the trial court's dismissal of their action against the Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company, the South Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance Company (collectively "Farm Bureau"), and Timothy Brant, a claims representative for Farm Bureau. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

While hunting, Eugene Gaskins accidently shot his son, Randy Gaskins, with a high-powered rifle. Randy was admitted to the hospital and treated for a gunshot wound to the right flank and severe internal injuries. His medical bills exceeded $36,000.00.

The Gaskins filed a claim against the homeowner's insurance carrier for Eugene Gaskins, Farm Bureau. The claim alleged that in addition to Randy's injuries and medical bills, Linda suffered extreme emotional distress, loss of consortium, and lost wages as a result of the shooting.

The Gaskins alleged that Timothy Brant fraudulently induced them to settle their claims with Farm Bureau by informing them that Eugene Gaskins's policy would pay a

343 S.C. 669
maximum of $9,000.00 to cover their claims. Based on this misinformation, the Gaskins accepted a $9,000.00 payment and signed a Final Release and Settlement of their claims. The Gaskins subsequently learned Eugene Gaskins's policy provided for $100,000.00 in personal liability protection

The Gaskins filed this action against Brant and Farm Bureau, alleging fraud, negligence, breach of the covenants of good faith and fair dealing, misrepresentation, unfair trade practices, wrongful adjustment under South Carolina Code Annotated Section 38-59-20, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. They further sought a declaratory judgment that the release was null and void.

Brant and Farm Bureau moved to dismiss the action under Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, for the Gaskins' failure to state facts sufficient to constitute any of their causes of action. After a hearing on the motion, the trial court summarily dismissed all causes of action pursuant to Hopkins v. Fidelity Ins. Co., 240 S.C. 230, 125 S.E.2d 468 (1962). The Gaskins appeal. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand.

LAW/ANALYSIS

Summary Dismissal Pursuant to Hopkins

The trial court issued a two-line ruling that apparently applies to all causes of action and the Gaskins' request for a declaratory judgment. The order stated: "[t]he court finds the case of Hopkins v. Fidelity Ins. Co., 240 S.C. 230, 125 S.E.2d 468 (1962) to be controlling. Therefore, it is ordered that this action is dismissed."

I.

The Gaskins argue the trial court erred in holding Hopkins barred all their actions against Brant and Farm Bureau. We agree as to the causes of action for fraud, negligence, misrepresentation, unfair trade practices, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In Hopkins, the mother of a two year old girl, fatally crushed under a farm vehicle, filed suit alleging fraud and deceit by Fidelity Insurance Company in its settlement of the wrongful death claim. The complaint alleged a Fidelity agent

343 S.C. 670
took advantage of the mother's state of shock and coerced her into signing a release of her claim in exchange for two thousand dollars

Our Supreme Court in Hopkins found the mother's action should have been dismissed. The court held the action vested in the child's personal representative rather than in the mother, and the claim failed as it was brought by the mother in her individual capacity.

In further remarks, the Court stated the complaint failed to allege the child's death resulted from negligent operation of the farm vehicle. The court reasoned the mere allegation that the child was fatally injured by the truck did not warrant an inference of negligence. The court next concluded that even if the complaint alleged the underlying negligence, the complaint failed because the mother alleged the release was fraudulently obtained. The court concluded the mother alleged no damages because a fraudulently obtained release would be void and would thus not bar the mother's cause of action.

Although Hopkins has been interpreted as standing for the proposition that South Carolina does not allow tort actions against insurers for acts of their adjusters in fraudulently procuring releases, our Supreme Court has not recognized this view and has applied Hopkins as a rule of pleading. Compare Gary D. Spivey, Annotation, Insurer's Tort Liability for Acts of Adjuster Seeking to Obtain Settlement or Release, 39 A.L.R.3d 739, 754 n. 4 (1971) ("The present availability of the action for fraud and deceit [in South Carolina] is in doubt in view of the decision in Hopkins....") with Pilkington v. McBain, 274 S.C. 312, 314-15, 262 S.E.2d 916, 917-18 (1980) (The Court concluded that "strict reliance on Hopkins" was misplaced. Utilizing the rule that pleadings are to liberally construed, the Court found the plaintiff in Pilkington alleged damages, unlike in Hopkins in which the Court held the plaintiff failed to allege damages). See also Mutual Sav. and Loan Ass'n v. McKenzie, 274 S.C. 630, 266 S.E.2d 423 (1980) (citing Hopkins in concluding plaintiff failed to plead damages). Accordingly, we review the law interpreting the sufficiency of...

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14 practice notes
  • Solley v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, Inc., No. 4937.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 1 Febrero 2012
    ...or outmoded requirements of Code Pleading are not necessarily required [under the SCRCP].” Gaskins v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 343 S.C. 666, 671, 541 S.E.2d 269, 271 (Ct.App.2000) (quoting Harry M. Lightsey, Jr. & James F. Flanagan, South Carolina Civil Procedure 93–94 (2nd ed. 1996)).......
  • Parrish v. Allison, No. 4322.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 19 Diciembre 2007
    ...2006). "To ensure substantial justice to the parties, the pleadings must be liberally construed." Gaskins v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 343 S.C. 666, 671, 541 S.E.2d 269, 271 (Ct.App.2000), aff'd as modified on other grounds, 354 S.C. 416, 581 S.E.2d 169 (2003); see Rule 8(f), SCRCP (pro......
  • Pitts v. JACKSON NAT. LIFE INS. CO., No. 3571.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 25 Noviembre 2002
    ...House, Inc. v. Generali Ins. Co., 321 S.C. 1, 6, 466 S.E.2d 727, 730 (1996) (emphasis added); Gaskins v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 343 S.C. 666, 672, 541 S.E.2d 269, 272 (Ct.App.2000), cert. granted (June 13, 2002); see Nichols v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 279 S.C. 336, 306 S.E.2d......
  • Funderburk v. Funderburk, 2018-001173
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 8 Diciembre 2021
    ...ensure substantial justice to the parties, the pleadings must be liberally construed." (quoting Gaskins v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 343 S.C. 666, 671, 541 S.E.2d 269, 271 (Ct. App. 2000), aff'd as modified on other grounds, 354 S.C. 416, 581 S.E.2d 169 (2003))). Additionally, the famil......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Solley v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, Inc., No. 4937.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 1 Febrero 2012
    ...or outmoded requirements of Code Pleading are not necessarily required [under the SCRCP].” Gaskins v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 343 S.C. 666, 671, 541 S.E.2d 269, 271 (Ct.App.2000) (quoting Harry M. Lightsey, Jr. & James F. Flanagan, South Carolina Civil Procedure 93–94 (2nd ed. 1996)).......
  • Parrish v. Allison, No. 4322.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 19 Diciembre 2007
    ...2006). "To ensure substantial justice to the parties, the pleadings must be liberally construed." Gaskins v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 343 S.C. 666, 671, 541 S.E.2d 269, 271 (Ct.App.2000), aff'd as modified on other grounds, 354 S.C. 416, 581 S.E.2d 169 (2003); see Rule 8(f), SCRCP (pro......
  • Pitts v. JACKSON NAT. LIFE INS. CO., No. 3571.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 25 Noviembre 2002
    ...House, Inc. v. Generali Ins. Co., 321 S.C. 1, 6, 466 S.E.2d 727, 730 (1996) (emphasis added); Gaskins v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 343 S.C. 666, 672, 541 S.E.2d 269, 272 (Ct.App.2000), cert. granted (June 13, 2002); see Nichols v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 279 S.C. 336, 306 S.E.2d......
  • Funderburk v. Funderburk, 2018-001173
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 8 Diciembre 2021
    ...ensure substantial justice to the parties, the pleadings must be liberally construed." (quoting Gaskins v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 343 S.C. 666, 671, 541 S.E.2d 269, 271 (Ct. App. 2000), aff'd as modified on other grounds, 354 S.C. 416, 581 S.E.2d 169 (2003))). Additionally, the famil......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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