Kirkland v. Allcraft Steel Co., Inc.

Decision Date20 February 1997
Docket NumberNo. 24758,SELF-INSURANCE,24758
Citation496 S.E.2d 624,329 S.C. 389
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesIn re Joseph KIRKLAND, Employee, v. ALLCRAFT STEEL CO., INC., Employer. CAROLINA ASSOCIATED OF GENERAL CONTRACTORSTRUST FUND OF SOUTH CAROLINA, Respondent, v. SOUTH CAROLINA ELECTRIC AND GAS COMPANY, INC., Appellant. . Heard

Kay G. Crowe, of Barnes, Alford, Stork & Johnson, Columbia, for Appellant.

Hal Hanlin, of Callison, Tighe, Robinson & Hawkins, Columbia, for Respondent.

TOAL, Justice:

In this workers' compensation matter, South Carolina Electric and Gas Company appeals the circuit court's decision requiring it to fully satisfy the carrier's lien. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to the Workers' Compensation Commission.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

While making repairs on the premises of his employer Allcraft Steel Company, Joseph Kirkland ("Claimant") suffered serious permanent injuries when he was electrocuted as he came in contact with an electric wire maintained by appellant South Carolina Electric and Gas Company ("Third Party"). Claimant's claim was accepted by his employer and its insurance carrier respondent Carolina Associated ("Carrier"). Carrier paid Claimant compensation and medical benefits in the amount of $27,837. Moreover, it informed Third Party of its reservation of rights for subrogation of these claims.

Claimant also presented a claim against Third Party. Negotiations were begun, and Third Party agreed to directly pay Claimant lump sums and annuities valued at approximately $55,000 for a full release of the tort claim. The settlement agreement acknowledged Carrier's lien on the settlement proceeds. Third party agreed to be responsible for any carrier's lien due; however, the settlement was reached without the knowledge or consent of Carrier.

Carrier filed a petition with the Workers' Compensation Commission seeking enforcement of its lien. Third Party agreed to stipulate that it was responsible for satisfying Carrier's lien. After a hearing, the single commissioner issued an order holding that Carrier was entitled to the amount of its $27,837 lien. The full commission affirmed the order, and the circuit court affirmed the decision of the commission. Third Party has appealed to this Court, arguing the circuit court erred in: (1) finding that Third Party is required to reimburse Carrier for the full amount of its lien; and (2) failing to order an equitable reduction of Carrier's lien.

LAW/ANALYSIS
A. REIMBURSEMENT FOR LIEN

Third Party argues the circuit court erred in concluding that Third Party is required to reimburse Carrier for its lien. We disagree.

Third Party contends it is not required to reimburse Carrier for the full amount of its lien because the lien created under S.C.Code Ann. § 42-1-560(b) (1985) 1 attaches to the proceeds paid and is not enforceable against Third Party in a direct action. We find it unnecessary to interpret section 42-1-560(b) because Third Party has stipulated it is responsible for Carrier's lien.

As part of its settlement agreement, Third Party agreed to be subject to Carrier's lien. It characterized the agreement in this way: "[W]e have agreed to stipulate that [Third Party] is responsible for satisfying [Carrier's lien] as set out in [Third Party's] Agreement with [Claimant]." At the hearing before the single commissioner, it was affirmed again, without objection, that Third Party had stipulated it was responsible for satisfaction of the lien under its settlement agreement with Claimant.

A stipulation is an agreement, admission or concession made in judicial proceedings by the parties thereto or their attorneys. See State v. Anderson, 318 S.C. 395, 458 S.E.2d 56 (Ct.App.1995). Stipulations, of course, are binding upon those who make them. 73 Am.Jur.2d Stipulations § 8, [329 S.C. 393] at 543 (1974). Here, Third Party made a concession that it was responsible for satisfaction of Carrier's lien. This stipulation is therefore binding upon it, and it cannot now assert that it is not responsible for the lien. We affirm the circuit court on this issue.

B. EQUITABLE REDUCTION

Third Party next argues that the circuit court erred in failing to order an equitable reduction of Carrier's lien under S.C.Code Ann. § 42-1-560(f) (1985).

Section 42-1-560(f) states, in part:

Notwithstanding other provisions of this item, where an employee or his representative enters into a settlement with or obtains a judgment upon trial from a third party in an amount less than the amount of the employee's estimated total damages, the commission may reduce the amount of the carrier's lien on the proceeds of such settlement in the proportion that such settlement or judgment bears to the commission's evaluation of the employee's total cognizable damages at law. Any such reduction shall be based on a determination by the commission that such reduction would be equitable to all parties concerned and serve the interests of justice.

Third Party's expert witness testified that the amount of Claimant's total damages was $388,717, and that if he were advising a client, he would probably recommend that a client seriously consider settling for $200,000. Third Party settled the case with Claimant for approximately $55,000. Obviously, Claimant has entered into a settlement with a third party in an amount less than the amount of Claimant's estimated total damages. The statute explicitly declares that "where an employee ... enters into a settlement with ... a third party in an amount less than the amount of the employee's estimated total damages, the commission may reduce the amount of the carrier's lien on the proceeds of such settlement...." Thus, we are bound by the...

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20 cases
  • Griffith v. Griffith
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • October 12, 1998
    ...by the parties thereto or their attorneys. Stipulations ... are binding upon those who make them." Kirkland v. Allcraft Steel Co., Inc., 329 S.C. 389, 392, 496 S.E.2d 624, 626 (1998) (citation omitted); see also Corley v. Rowe, 280 S.C. 338, 312 S.E.2d 720 "When counsel enter into an agreed......
  • State v. Pichardo
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • October 31, 2005
    ...thereto or their attorneys. Porter v. South Carolina Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 333 S.C. 12, 507 S.E.2d 328 (1998); Kirkland v. Allcraft Steel Co., 329 S.C. 389, 496 S.E.2d 624 (1998); South Carolina Dep't of Transp. v. Richardson, 335 S.C. 278, 516 S.E.2d 3 (Ct.App.1999). Stipulations are binding ......
  • Porter v. SC PUBLIC SERVICE COM'N, 24847.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • October 26, 1998
    ...the parties thereto or their attorneys. Stipulations, of course, are binding upon those who make them." Kirkland v. Allcraft Steel Co., 329 S.C. 389, 392, 496 S.E.2d 624, 626 (1998) (citations omitted). A stipulation is an agreement, an understanding. The court must construe it like a contr......
  • Connelly v. Main St. Am. Grp.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • August 12, 2020
    ...motor vehicle). Pursuant to the stipulations, Insurers denied coverage rather than liability. See Kirkland v. Allcraft Steel Co. , 329 S.C. 389, 392, 496 S.E.2d 624, 626 (1998) ("A stipulation is an agreement, admission or concession made in judicial proceedings by the parties thereto or th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Judicial Apportionment of Personal Injury Claims
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 29-5, May 2000
    • Invalid date
    ...704 So.2d 857 (La.App. 1997). 61. Fowler v. Boise Cascade Corp., 948 F.2d 49 (1st Cir. 1991). 62. Kirkland v. Allcraft Steel Co., 496 S.E.2d 624 (S.C. 1998). 63. Zoss, supra, note 33 at 262-63. 64. United States Fire Ins. v. Hernandez, 918 S.W.2d 576 (Tex.App. 1996). 65. Id. at 578-80. 66. ......

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