McCall by Andrews v. Batson

Decision Date16 October 1984
Docket NumberNo. 22290,22290
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
Parties, 25 Ed. Law Rep. 656 Jamie McCALL, by his Guardian ad Litem, Joan ANDREWS, Respondent, v. Frankie BATSON and The School District of Greenville County, Appellants. . Heard

William M. Grant, Jr., and F. Matlock Elliott, both of Haynsworth, Perry, Bryant, Marion & Johnstone, of Greenville, for appellants.

Edward W. Miller of Miller & Paschal of Greenville, for the respondent.

NESS, Justice:

Appellants Batson and the School District of Greenville demurred to the causes of action for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress asserting that the tort actions were barred by sovereign immunity. The trial court overruled the demurrers and we affirm. We hereby abolish the doctrine of sovereign immunity as set forth below.

Issues of novel impression ordinarily should not be resolved on demurrer. Hanselmann v. McCardle, 270 S.C. 367, 242 S.E.2d 421 (1978). The issue of sovereign immunity, however, has been fully developed by the parties and extensively addressed in prior decisions of this Court. Therefore, the reasoning of Hanselmann, supra, is inapplicable.

South Carolina formerly afforded immunity to both governmental and charitable entities. We eliminated the State's immunity from suit based upon its contractual obligations in Kinsey Construction Company Inc. v. S.C. Department of Mental Health. 272 S.C. 168, 249 S.E.2d 900 (1978). Thereafter, we abolished charitable immunity in Fitzer v. Greater Greenville South Carolina Young Men's Christian Association, 277 S.C. 1, 282 S.E.2d 230 (1981). This Court's view of the antiquated doctrine of sovereign immunity was foreshadowed in the dissents in Boyce v. Lancaster County Natural Gas Authority, 266 S.C. 398 at 403, 223 S.E.2d 769 at 771 (1976) and Belue v. The City of Spartanburg, 276 S.C. 381 at 384, 280 S.E.2d 49 at 50 (1981).

The trend towards abolition of sovereign immunity in other jurisdictions was recognized by the South Carolina Court of Appeals in Shea v. State Department of Mental Retardation, 279 S.C. 604, 310 S.E.2d 819 (App.Ct.1983). As noted in Shea, thirty-six other jurisdictions have abolished sovereign immunity in whole or in part--some judicially, some legislatively.

More than twenty years ago this Court noted that the doctrine had come under fire as being "archaic and outmoded." McKenzie v. City of Florence, 234 S.C. 428, 435, 108 S.E.2d 825, 828 (1959). The Court suggested that any change of the doctrine should come from the legislature. Id. The Court has expressly urged the legislature to address the rule. Copeland v. Housing Authority of Spartanburg, 282 S.C. 8, 316 S.E.2d 408 (1984); Belton v. Richland Memorial Hospital, 263 S.C. 446, 211 S.E.2d 241 (1975). The exceptions that have been carved out by the legislature reflect a scattered patchwork of sovereign liability that lacks continuity, logic or fairness. 1

Even in affirming the continued validity of the rule, the Court has heretofore expressed "serious reservations about the soundness and fairness of the doctrine." Belton v. Richland Memorial Hospital, 263 S.C. at 451, 211 S.E.2d 241.

It is not necessary to laboriously analyze the doctrine and its inequities. Few principles of modern law have been so uniformly criticized. See, Holytz v. Milwaukee, 17 Wis.2d 26, 115 N.W.2d 618 (Wis.1962). Sovereign immunity can no longer be tolerated in this State.

We next consider how we can fairly and efficiently accomplish the abolition of sovereign immunity.

We hold that the abrogation of the rule will not extend to legislative, judicial and executive acts by individuals acting in their official capacity. These discretionary activities cannot be controlled by threat of tort liability by members of the public who take issue with the decisions made by public officials. We expressly decline to allow tort liability for these discretionary acts. The exercise of discretion includes the right to be wrong.

The legislature may find it necessary to take some action to prepare the state and local subdivisions of government for their new tort liability. For that reason we delay the implementation of this decision to allow the legislature to address any problems or hardships created by the abrogation of sovereign immunity. Other states have recognized the potential problems and have abolished sovereign immunity prospectively.

We hereby abolish the doctrine of sovereign immunity as it applies to the state and (1) Sovereign immunity will not bar recovery in this case;

all local subdivisions of government, subject to the following limitations:

(2) Sovereign immunity will not bar recovery in any case currently pending or in those filed on or before July 1, 1986, provided the defendant has liability insurance coverage. Recovery shall not exceed the limits of the liability insurance coverage.

(3) Sovereign immunity shall not apply to any case filed after July 1, 1986.

(4) This opinion does not abolish the immunity which applies to all legislative, judicial and executive bodies and to public officials who are vested with discretionary authority, for action taken in their official capacities.

By this opinion, we expressly overrule all previous decisions of this Court which uphold sovereign immunity. See Appendix A.

Batson's remaining exception is without merit, and is affirmed pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 23.

We affirm and remand for trial in accordance with this opinion.

AFFIRMED and REMANDED.

HARWELL, J., concurs.

CHANDLER, J., concurs in separate opinion.

LITTLEJOHN, C.J., and GREGORY, J., dissenting.

APPENDIX A

While perhaps not a complete listing of all the cases affected by this decision, the following cases are overruled to the extent that they hold that an action may not be maintained against the State without its consent:

1. Copeland v. Housing Authority of Spartanburg, S.C., 282 S.C. 8, 316 S.E.2d 408 (1984).

2. Hanna v. McCain, 277 S.C. 419, 288 S.E.2d 810 (1982).

3. Reed v. Medlin, 276 S.C. 604, 281 S.E.2d 125 (1981).

4. McKenzie v. McKenzie, 276 S.C. 461, 279 S.E.2d 609 (1981).

5. Little v. City of Myrtle Beach, 276 S.C. 417, 279 S.E.2d 131 (1981).

6. Tucker v. Kershaw Cty. Sch. Dist., Etc., 276 S.C. 401, 279 S.E.2d 378 (1981).

7. Belue v. City of Spartanburg, 276 S.C. 381, 280 S.E.2d 49 (1981).

8. Watford v. S.C. Highway Dep't, 273 S.C. 463, 257 S.E.2d 229 (1979).

9. Teague v. Cherokee Cty. Memorial Hospital, 272 S.C. 403, 252 S.E.2d 296 (1979).

10. Lyon v. City of Sumter, 272 S.C. 359, 252 S.E.2d 118 (1979).

11. Kinsey Constr. Co., Inc. v. S.C. Dep't of Mental Health, 272 S.C. 168, 249 S.E.2d 900 (1978).

12. Wright v. City of Charleston, 271 S.C. 515, 248 S.E.2d 480 (1978).

13. Roddey v. Lyle, 268 S.C. 424, 234 S.E.2d 236 (1977).

14. Boyce v. Lancaster County National Gas Authority, 266 S.C. 398, 223 S.E.2d 769 (1976).

15. Hazard v. S.C. State Highway Dep't, 264 S.C. 386, 215 S.E.2d 438 (1975).

16. Morris v. S.C. State Highway Dep't, 264 S.C. 369, 215 S.E.2d 430 (1975).

17. Truesdale v. S.C. Highway Dep't, 264 S.C. 221, 213 S.E.2d 740 (1975).

18. Belton v. Richland Memorial Hospital, 263 S.C. 446, 211 S.E.2d 241 (1975).

19. Graham v. Charleston County School Bd., 262 S.C. 314, 204 S.E.2d 384 (1974).

20. Harrison v. S.C. Tax Comm'n., 261 S.C. 302, 199 S.E.2d 763 (1973).

21. Division of General Services v. Ulmer, 256 S.C. 523, 183 S.E.2d 315 (1971).

22. Elmwood Cemetery Ass'n v. Wasson, 253 S.C. 76, 169 S.E.2d 148 (1969).

23. Vance v. S.C. Tax Comm'n, 249 S.C. 214, 153 S.E.2d 841 (1967).

24. Stanley v. S.C. State Highway Dep't, 249 S.C. 230, 153 S.E.2d 687 (1967).

25. Chilton v. City of Columbia, 247 S.C. 407, 147 S.E.2d 642 (1966).

26. Campbell v. S.C. State Highway Dep't, 244 S.C. 186, 135 S.E.2d 838 (1964).

27. Jones v. Jones, 243 S.C. 600, 135 S.E.2d 233 (1964).

28. Cochran v. City of Sumter, 242 S.C. 382, 131 S.E.2d 153 (1963).

29. Brazell v. City of Camden, 238 S.C. 580, 121 S.E.2d 221 (1961).

30. Hollifield v. Keller, 238 S.C. 584, 121 S.E.2d 213 (1961).

31. Pinkston v. Morrall, 236 S.C. 601, 115 S.E.2d 286 (1960).

32. Moseley v. S.C. Highway Dep't, 236 S.C. 499, 115 S.E.2d 172 (1960).

33. Hinson v. A.T. Sistare Construction Co., 236 S.C. 125, 113 S.E.2d 341 (1960).

34. Furr v. City of Rock Hill, 235 S.C. 44, 109 S.E.2d 697 (1959).

35. McKenzie v. City of Florence, 234 S.C. 428, 108 S.E.2d 825 (1959).

36. Mullins Hospital v. Squires, 233 S.C. 186, 104 S.E.2d 161 (1958).

37. Clarke v. City of Greer, 231 S.C. 327, 98 S.E.2d 751 (1957).

38. Fairey v. City of Orangeburg, 227 S.C. 458, 88 S.E.2d 617 (1955).

39. Bell v. City of Anderson, 226 S.C. 145, 84 S.E.2d 343 (1954).

40. Hicks v. City of Columbia, 225 S.C. 553, 83 S.E.2d 199 (1954).

41. Hill v. City of Greenville, 223 S.C. 392, 76 S.E.2d 294 (1953).

42. Jeff Hunt Mach. Co. v. State Highway Dep't, 217 S.C. 423, 60 S.E.2d 859 (1950).

43. Rice Hope Plantation v. S.C. Pub. Ser. Auth., 216 S.C. 500, 59 S.E.2d 132 (1950).

44. Abernathy v. City of Columbia, 213 S.C. 68, 48 S.E.2d 585 (1948).

45. Sanders v. State Highway Dep't, 212 S.C. 224, 47 S.E.2d 306 (1948).

46. Prudential Ins. Co. v. Murphy, 207 S.C. 324, 35 S.E.2d 586 (1945).

47. Rushton v. S.C. State Highway Dep't, 207 S.C. 112, 34 S.E.2d 484 (1945).

48. Bell v. S.C. State Highway Dep't, 204 S.C. 462, 30 S.E.2d 65 (1944).

49. Athanas v. City of Spartanburg, 196 S.C. 19, 12 S.E.2d 39 (1941).

50. Gasque v. Town of Conway, 194 S.C. 15, 8 S.E.2d 871 (1940).

51. Brooks v. One Motor Bus, Etc., 190 S.C. 379, 3 S.E.2d 42 (1939).

52. Home Building & Loan Ass'n v. City of Spartanburg, 185 S.C. 353, 194 S.E. 143 (1937).

53. Cooper v. S.C. Highway Dep't, 183 S.C. 155, 190 S.E. 499 (1937).

54. Jennings v. Sawyer, 182 S.C. 427, 189 S.E. 746 (1937).

55. Singleton v. City of Sumter, 180 S.C. 536, 186 S.E. 535 (1936).

56. Bomar v. City of Spartanburg, 181 S.C. 453, 187 S.E. 921 (1936).

57. Sheriff v. City of Easley, 178 S.C. 504, 183 S.E. 311 (1936).

58...

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