O'LAUGHLIN v. Windham, No. 2809.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtHOWARD.
Citation330 S.C. 379,498 S.E.2d 689
PartiesSabina O'LAUGHLIN, Appellant, v. Kathy WINDHAM, d/b/a, Accents on Hair, Agnes Csikos and Susan Cure, Defendants, Of Whom, Susan Cure is, Respondent.
Decision Date16 March 1998
Docket NumberNo. 2809.

330 S.C. 379
498 S.E.2d 689

Sabina O'LAUGHLIN, Appellant,
v.
Kathy WINDHAM, d/b/a, Accents on Hair, Agnes Csikos and Susan Cure, Defendants, Of Whom, Susan Cure is, Respondent

No. 2809.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Submitted January 6, 1998.

Decided March 16, 1998.

Rehearing Denied April 23, 1998.


330 S.C. 381
Jack D. Simrill, Hilton Head Island, for appellant

Curtis Lee Coltrane, Hilton Head Island; and Marvin C. Jones, of Bogoslow & Jones, Walterboro, for respondents.

HOWARD, Judge:

Sabina O'Laughlin (O'Laughlin) brought this action against Susan Cure (Cure), a Hilton Head ministerial recorder. O'Laughlin alleged damages under several legal theories arising out of her arrest on a warrant issued by Cure. Cure moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, on the grounds of judicial immunity. The trial court granted Cure's motion, concluding common law judicial immunity survives the adoption of the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (the Tort Claims Act). O'Laughlin appeals. We affirm.1

FACTS

O'Laughlin is a Jacksonville, Florida pathologist who visited Hilton Head Island on vacation. The facts alleged in the complaint are as follows. O'Laughlin and a friend patronized a local beauty salon, where O'Laughlin treated her friend to a manicure while she had her hair cut and colored. When presented with the bill, O'Laughlin paid with her credit card. Unfortunately, the bill did not include the cost of the manicure. When the manicurist realized the mistake, she called O'Laughlin and demanded that she immediately return and pay the remaining bill. Not satisfied with O'Laughlin's proposal to return at a more leisurely pace or send payment by mail, the manicurist sought help from Cure. Cure telephoned O'Laughlin and threatened to issue a warrant for her arrest if

330 S.C. 382
she did not immediately pay the bill. Undaunted by this threat, O'Laughlin hung up. Cure then issued an arrest warrant for a violation of S.C.Code Ann. § 45-1-50 (1987), charging her with defrauding an innkeeper. O'Laughlin was subsequently arrested under the authority of the arrest warrant. O'Laughlin then paid the remaining bill, whereupon Cure dismissed the warrant and O'Laughlin was released. This action followed

ISSUES

1) Did the trial court err in finding that the Tort Claims Act does not supplant common law judicial immunity?
2) Did the trial court err in granting the motion to dismiss?

STANDARD OF REVIEW

We first note O'Laughlin mistakenly characterizes the trial court's Order of Dismissal as a grant of summary judgment. O'Laughlin addresses issues on appeal beyond the scope of the pleadings. We find no evidence that Judge Dennis considered matters beyond the pleadings in holding that Cure was entitled to judicial immunity and in granting the motion to dismiss. State Bd. of Medical Examiners v. Fenwick Hall, 300 S.C. 274, 276, 387 S.E.2d 458, 459 (1990) ("A ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss must be based solely upon allegations set forth on the face of a complaint."). Therefore, we limit our review to those portions of O'Laughlin's argument pertinent to issues raised by Judge Dennis's dismissal. Brown v. Leverette, 291 S.C. 364, 353 S.E.2d 697 (1987).

O'Laughlin also argues Respondent is "guilty" of actual malice, and harbored an intent to harm. This issue is pertinent to liability under the Tort Claims Act. Because we find that common law judicial immunity survives the Tort Claims Act as a complete defense, we need not address this issue.

The grant of a motion to dismiss will be sustained only if the facts alleged in the complaint do not support relief under any theory of law. Stiles v. Onorato, 318 S.C. 297, 457 S.E.2d 601 (1995). Judicial immunity affords absolute immunity from suit. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978). In other words, judicial immunity,

330 S.C. 383
if applicable, acts as a bar to suit, not just as an ultimate bar to relief. Therefore, a finding of judicial immunity renders a complaint alleging judicial misconduct meritless

LAW/ANALYSIS

I.

O'Laughlin first argues the limited immunity from suit provided under the Tort Claims Act supplants common law judicial immunity. The Tort Claims Act "grant[s] the State, its political subdivisions, and employees, while acting within the scope of official duty, immunity from liability and suit for any tort except as waived by this chapter." S.C.Code Ann. § 15-78-20(b) (Supp.1997). Section 15-78-70(b) of the Tort Claims Act provides:

Nothing in this chapter may be construed to give an employee of a governmental entity immunity from suit and liability if it is proved that the employee's conduct was not within the scope of his official duties or that it constituted actual fraud, actual malice, intent to harm, or a crime involving moral turpitude.

S.C.Code Ann. § 15-78-70(b) (Supp.1997) (emphasis added).

O'Laughlin alleges that Cure's actions were taken outside of the scope of her official duties and were motivated by malice. If the restriction on immunity found in section 15-78-70(b) supplants common law immunity, which is absolute, then O'Laughlin has stated a cause of action. However, after careful consideration, we conclude the trial court was correct in holding that common law judicial immunity survives the adoption of the Tort Claims Act.

The Tort Claims Act expressly preserves all existing common law immunities. The Act was adopted to ensure "that the State, and its political subdivisions are only liable for torts within the limitations of this chapter and in accordance with the principles established herein." S.C.Code Ann. § 15-78-20(a) (Supp.1997). It states:

The General Assembly additionally intends to provide for liability on the part of the State, its political subdivisions, and employees, while acting within the scope of official duty, only to the extent provided herein. All other immunities
330 S.C. 384
applicable to a governmental entity, its employees, and agents are expressly preserved.

S.C.Code Ann. § 15-78-20(b) (Supp.1997) (emphasis added). Therefore, the Act itself expressly preserves common law judicial immunity.

A strong presumption also exists that the General Assembly does not intend to supplant common law principles when enacting legislation. Hoogenboom v. City of Beaufort, 315 S.C. 306, 433 S.E.2d 875 (Ct.App.1992). See also Frost v. Geernaert, 200 Cal.App.3d 1104, 246 Cal.Rptr. 440, 442 (1988) (holding that common law judicial immunity survived the adoption of the California Tort Claims Act, stating, "statutes should not be interpreted to alter the common law unless it is expressly provided they should do so; there is a presumption that a statute, does not, by implication, repeal the common law.").

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16 practice notes
  • Proctor v. Dept. of Health, No. 4098.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 20, 2006
    ...553 S.E.2d 496, 507 (Ct. App.2001) ("The Tort Claims Act expressly preserves all existing common law immunities."); O'Laughlin v. Windham, 330 S.C. 379, 498 S.E.2d 689 (Ct.App.1998). "The Act does not create a cause of action." Bayle, 344 S.C. at 121, 542 S.E.2d at 739. "The Act does not cr......
  • Williams v. Condon, No. 3392.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 1, 2001
    ...review, the appellate tribunal applies the same standard of review that was implemented by the trial court. See O'Laughlin v. Windham, 330 S.C. 379, 382, 498 S.E.2d 689, 691 (Ct.App.1998) ("The grant of a motion to dismiss will be sustained only if the facts alleged in the complaint do not ......
  • Faile v. SC Dept. of Juvenile Justice, No. 25434.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 1, 2002
    ...Tort Claims Act, common law judicial immunity was expressly preserved in South Carolina under the Tort Claims Act. O'Laughlin v. Windham, 330 S.C. 379, 498 S.E.2d 689 (Ct. App.1998), cert. denied 1999 Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 10 at p. South Carolina recognizes three exceptions to judicial or ......
  • Faile v. Sc Dep't of Juvenile Justice, 25434
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 1, 2002
    ...Tort Claims Act, common law judicial immunity was expressly preserved in South Carolina under the Tort Claims Act. O'Laughlin v. Windham, 330 S.C. 379, 498 S.E.2d 689 (Ct. App. 1998), cert. denied 1999 Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 10 at p. South Carolina recognizes three exceptions to judicial or......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • Proctor v. Dept. of Health, No. 4098.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 20, 2006
    ...553 S.E.2d 496, 507 (Ct. App.2001) ("The Tort Claims Act expressly preserves all existing common law immunities."); O'Laughlin v. Windham, 330 S.C. 379, 498 S.E.2d 689 (Ct.App.1998). "The Act does not create a cause of action." Bayle, 344 S.C. at 121, 542 S.E.2d at 739. "The Act does not cr......
  • Williams v. Condon, No. 3392.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 1, 2001
    ...review, the appellate tribunal applies the same standard of review that was implemented by the trial court. See O'Laughlin v. Windham, 330 S.C. 379, 382, 498 S.E.2d 689, 691 (Ct.App.1998) ("The grant of a motion to dismiss will be sustained only if the facts alleged in the complaint do not ......
  • Faile v. SC Dept. of Juvenile Justice, No. 25434.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 1, 2002
    ...Tort Claims Act, common law judicial immunity was expressly preserved in South Carolina under the Tort Claims Act. O'Laughlin v. Windham, 330 S.C. 379, 498 S.E.2d 689 (Ct. App.1998), cert. denied 1999 Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 10 at p. South Carolina recognizes three exceptions to judicial or ......
  • Faile v. Sc Dep't of Juvenile Justice, 25434
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 1, 2002
    ...Tort Claims Act, common law judicial immunity was expressly preserved in South Carolina under the Tort Claims Act. O'Laughlin v. Windham, 330 S.C. 379, 498 S.E.2d 689 (Ct. App. 1998), cert. denied 1999 Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 10 at p. South Carolina recognizes three exceptions to judicial or......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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