Longshore v. Saber Sec. Services, Inc., No. 4019.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtStilwell
Citation619 S.E.2d 5
PartiesChristopher LONGSHORE, Appellant/Respondent, v. SABER SECURITY SERVICES, INC., and Named Individual Marc A. Shafer, Defendants, Of Whom SABER SECURITY SERVICES, INC., is, Respondent/Appellant, Named Individual Marc A. Shafer is, Respondent.
Decision Date20 September 2005
Docket NumberNo. 4019.
619 S.E.2d 5
Christopher LONGSHORE, Appellant/Respondent,
v.
SABER SECURITY SERVICES, INC., and Named Individual Marc A. Shafer, Defendants,
Of Whom SABER SECURITY SERVICES, INC., is, Respondent/Appellant,
Named Individual Marc A. Shafer is, Respondent.
No. 4019.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard February 8, 2005.
Decided July 25, 2005.
Rehearing Denied September 20, 2005.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Karl Bryant Allen, of Greenville, and Max Thomas Hyde, Jr., of Spartanburg, for Appellant-Respondent.

R. Hawthorne Barrett, of Columbia, for Respondent-Appellant.

STILWELL, J.:


This case arises from a shooting incident at the Laurens National Guard Armory. While breaking up a fight, Marc A. Shafer, a security guard for Saber Security Services, Inc., shot Christopher Longshore causing serious injuries. Longshore brought actions for negligent use of deadly force, negligent hiring, training, and supervision, and assault and battery. The jury returned an inconsistent or incomplete verdict on the negligent use of deadly force claim, a verdict for Saber and Shafer on the assault and battery action, and a substantial verdict for both actual and punitive damages against Saber on the negligent hiring, training, and supervision cause of action. Saber and Longshore appeal. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

FACTS
The Incident

In December 1996, Longshore attended a party at the National Guard Armory in Laurens County. Saber provided two security guards for this event, one of whom was Shafer. As the party was winding down, Shafer and the other security guard were directing traffic when a fight broke out. A crowd gathered around the scene, and someone pulled out a pistol and fired three shots into the air. After briefly taking cover, the security guards began working their way through the crowd checking on the safety of those leaving the party. The security guards stopped two people and searched for weapons, but found none. They then observed a vehicle containing three or four individuals, two of whom were fighting. They saw an individual, later identified as Derrick Bluford, fire four shots into the crowd wounding two people.

Shafer testified he ran up to the car and ordered the shooter to drop his weapon and get on the ground. After initially balking, the shooter eventually complied. Shafer disarmed him and handed the weapon to the other security guard.

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At about that time, Longshore, who is Bluford's brother, stopped his car about 50 feet away and began walking toward Shafer and Bluford.1 Shafer testified he saw a passenger in Longshore's vehicle pointing a nickel-plated automatic weapon at him over the top of the car. Shafer advanced toward Longshore and ordered Longshore to put his hands in the air. Longshore and several eyewitnesses testified that Longshore put both hands in the air, but Shafer testified that Longshore kept one hand behind his back. Shafer further testified that Longshore kept advancing toward him after he told Longshore to stop or he would shoot. Shafer then shot Longshore in the stomach.

Later that evening, police officers found a chrome-plated automatic weapon in Longshore's car. Another witness, Clifford Cook, testified the weapon was registered to him and that he had put the gun in the glove compartment of Longshore's car.

Shafer's Hiring and Training

Saber hired Shafer approximately two weeks before the shooting incident occurred. Shafer applied, was recommended by another employee, and was hired the following day. Saber did not check Shafer's employment references, age, or high school diploma, as required by company policy.

Because Shafer was already licensed through the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) as an armed security guard, Saber did not train Shafer for the position. Saber took Shafer's fingerprints and discussed the company's weapons policy with him. Shafer, however, failed to complete the weapons policy form in violation of company policy.

Shafer was also required to have SLED transfer his license from his former employer to Saber. It is undisputed that Shafer had not yet received his transferred license on the date the shooting occurred. Pursuant to state law at that time, security guards could work but could not carry a weapon until receipt of a license.

The Verdicts

The first cause of action, negligence, was submitted to the jury on the direct negligence of Shafer and vicarious negligence of Saber, on the theory that Shafer was Saber's agent. The jury found both defendants negligent and that their negligence proximately caused Longshore's injuries. The jury additionally found, however, that Longshore was also negligent and that his negligence proximately caused his injuries. Fault was allocated 50% to the defendants and 50% to Longshore. The jury then awarded zero damages.

In the second cause of action, negligent hiring, training, and supervision, the caption of both the complaint and the verdict form referred only to Saber, omitting any reference to Shafer. However, the allegations of the complaint realleged and incorporated all of the preceding allegations relating to negligence on the part of both Shafer and Saber. Also, the first question on the verdict form required the jury to find if "the defendants were negligent and [whether] such negligence proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries." That question was answered in the affirmative, but the jury found no comparative negligence on the part of Longshore as to this cause of action. The jury awarded Longshore $800,000 in actual damages and $200,000 in punitive damages on this cause of action.

The third cause of action, assault and battery, was submitted to the jury against both Saber and Shafer, and resulted in a defense verdict.

Post Verdict Events

Saber moved for JNOV on the second cause of action, negligent hiring, training, and supervision, based on lack of proximate cause. In the alternative, Saber argued the verdict in the negligent hiring, training, and supervision action should be reduced because the jury concluded Longshore was 50% negligent in the negligence cause of action. Saber further moved for a new trial absolute or for a new trial nisi remittitur. Finally, Saber

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requested that the court dismiss the punitive damages award, or, in the alternative, review the punitive damages for excessiveness under Gamble v. Stevenson, 305 S.C. 104, 406 S.E.2d 350 (1991). Longshore moved for JNOV and for a new trial absolute and/or additur as to the negligence cause of action.

After a hearing, the trial court denied all motions except Saber's motion to amend the judgment. Finding that Longshore's 50% negligence applied to all negligence causes of action, the trial court reduced the actual damages to $400,000.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

An action in tort for damages is an action at law. Culler v. Blue Ridge Elec. Coop., Inc., 309 S.C. 243, 246, 422 S.E.2d 91, 93 (1992). In an action at law, on appeal of a case tried by a jury, the jurisdiction of this court extends merely to the correction of errors of law, and a factual finding of the jury will not be disturbed unless a review of the record discloses that there is no evidence which reasonably supports the jurys findings. Townes Assocs., Ltd. v. City of Greenville, 266 S.C. 81, 85, 221 S.E.2d 773, 775 (1976). However, appellate courts are free to decide novel questions of law with no particular deference to the trial court. See S.C. Const. art. V, § 5; S.C.Code Ann. § 14-3-320, 14-3-330, & 14-8-200 (1976 & Supp.2004); see also IOn, L.L.C. v. Town of Mt. Pleasant, 338 S.C. 406, 411, 526 S.E.2d 716,...

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19 practice notes
  • Garrison v. Target Corp., Appellate Case No. 2017-000267
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 15, 2020
    ...by stating that clear and convincing evidence supported the award); Longshore v. Saber Sec. Servs., Inc. , 365 S.C. 554, 564, 619 S.E.2d 5, 11 (Ct. App. 2005) (responding to the defendant's argument that the jury's punitive damages award should be "reversed" by stating, "Alth......
  • Mellen v. Lane, No. 4354.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 11, 2008
    ...773, 775 (1976). "An action in tort for damages is an action at law." Longshore v. Saber Sec. Servs., Inc., 365 S.C. 554, 560, 619 S.E.2d 5, 9 (Ct.App.2005) (citing Culler v. Blue Ridge Elec. Coop. Inc., 309 S.C. 243, 246, 422 S.E.2d 91, 93 (1992)). In an action at law decided by ......
  • Solley v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, Inc., No. 4937.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 1, 2012
    ...appealed.STANDARD OF REVIEW “An action in tort for damages is an action at law.” Longshore v. Saber Sec. Servs., Inc., 365 S.C. 554, 560, 619 S.E.2d 5, 9 (Ct.App.2005). In an action at law, the appellate court corrects errors of law, but affirms the special referee's factual findings unless......
  • Berberich v. Jack, No. 26955.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 4, 2011
    ...as well as any other conduct intended to cause injury or damage. See, e.g., Longshore v. Saber Sec. Servs., Inc., 365 S.C. 554, 561, 619 S.E.2d 5 (Ct.App.2005) (“Assault and battery is generally classified as an intentional tort, as contrasted with a tort based in negligence.”). 4. Assumpti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • Garrison v. Target Corp., Appellate Case No. 2017-000267
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 15, 2020
    ...by stating that clear and convincing evidence supported the award); Longshore v. Saber Sec. Servs., Inc. , 365 S.C. 554, 564, 619 S.E.2d 5, 11 (Ct. App. 2005) (responding to the defendant's argument that the jury's punitive damages award should be "reversed" by stating, "Alth......
  • Mellen v. Lane, No. 4354.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 11, 2008
    ...773, 775 (1976). "An action in tort for damages is an action at law." Longshore v. Saber Sec. Servs., Inc., 365 S.C. 554, 560, 619 S.E.2d 5, 9 (Ct.App.2005) (citing Culler v. Blue Ridge Elec. Coop. Inc., 309 S.C. 243, 246, 422 S.E.2d 91, 93 (1992)). In an action at law decided by ......
  • Solley v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, Inc., No. 4937.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 1, 2012
    ...appealed.STANDARD OF REVIEW “An action in tort for damages is an action at law.” Longshore v. Saber Sec. Servs., Inc., 365 S.C. 554, 560, 619 S.E.2d 5, 9 (Ct.App.2005). In an action at law, the appellate court corrects errors of law, but affirms the special referee's factual findings unless......
  • Berberich v. Jack, No. 26955.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 4, 2011
    ...as well as any other conduct intended to cause injury or damage. See, e.g., Longshore v. Saber Sec. Servs., Inc., 365 S.C. 554, 561, 619 S.E.2d 5 (Ct.App.2005) (“Assault and battery is generally classified as an intentional tort, as contrasted with a tort based in negligence.”). 4. Assumpti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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