Stiles v. Onorato, No. 24243

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtWALLER; FINNEY, C.J., TOAL and MOORE, JJ., and A. LEE CHANDLER
Citation457 S.E.2d 601,318 S.C. 297
PartiesBeverly J. STILES, Plaintiff, v. Robert C. ONORATO, Appellant, v. John R.C. BOWEN, Respondent. . Heard
Decision Date22 March 1995
Docket NumberNo. 24243

Page 601

457 S.E.2d 601
Beverly J. STILES, Plaintiff,
v.
Robert C. ONORATO, Appellant,
v.
John R.C. BOWEN, Respondent.
No. 24243.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Heard March 22, 1995.
Decided May 1, 1995.

A. Camden Lewis and Thomas A. Pendarvis, Lewis, Babcock & Hawkins, Columbia, for appellant.

James W. Alford, R. Lewis Johnson, and Curtis W. Dowling, Barnes, Alford, Stork & Johnson, Columbia, for respondent.

WALLER, Justice:

Robert C. Onorato (Onorato) appeals an order dismissing his third party complaint against Respondent, John C. Bowen (Bowen) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, for failure to state a cause of action. We affirm.

FACTS

Beverly Stiles, represented by attorney John Bowen, instituted this defamation 1 action against Onorato. Onorato counterclaimed against Stiles and filed a third-party complaint against Bowen alleging civil conspiracy and initiation of a frivolous lawsuit. 2 The circuit court dismissed the third-party complaint finding that it failed to state a cause of action under Gaar v. North Myrtle

Page 602

Beach Realty Co., Inc., 287 S.C. 525, 339 S.E.2d 887 (Ct.App.1986).
ISSUE

Did circuit court err in dismissing Onorato's complaint for failure to state a cause of action?

DISCUSSION

In Gaar v. North Myrtle Beach Realty Co., Inc., 287 S.C. 525, 528-29, 339 S.E.2d 887, 889 (Ct.App.1986), the Court of Appeals held that "an attorney is immune from liability to third persons arising from the performance of his professional activities as an attorney on behalf of and with the knowledge of his client. Accordingly, an attorney who acts in good faith with the authority of his client is not liable to a third party in an action for malicious prosecution." (Emphasis supplied). The Gaar Court further noted,

"The attorney normally conducts the litigation solely in his professional capacity. He has no personal interest in the suit. In his professional capacity the attorney is not liable ... for injury allegedly arising out of the performance of his professional activities.... Even if the attorney who initiates civil proceedings for his client has no probable cause to do so, he is still not liable if he acts primarily for the purpose of aiding his client in obtaining a proper adjudication of the client's claim."

Id. (Emphasis supplied).

Onorato concedes that, under Gaar, he may not maintain an action against Bowen for actions taken in his professional capacity as Stiles' attorney. However, he claims that nothing in Gaar renders an attorney immune for acts taken outside the scope of the professional relationship. We agree.

A number of jurisdictions recognize that an attorney may be held liable where he acts in bad faith or for his own personal motivations. See generally Annotation 97 ALR 3rd 688 (attorney's liability for abuse of process); Annotation 46 ALR 4th 249...

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77 practice notes
  • Nelson v. QHG OF SOUTH CAROLINA INC., No. 3626.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 14, 2003
    ...upon the allegations made on the face of the complaint. Baird v. Charleston County, 333 S.C. 519, 511 S.E.2d 69 (1999); Stiles v. Onorato, 318 S.C. 297, 457 S.E.2d 601 (1995). If the facts and inferences drawn from the facts alleged on the complaint would entitle the plaintiff to relief on ......
  • Moore v. Weinberg, No. 4209.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 20, 2007
    ...his client, he breaches some independent duty to a third person. . . ." Id. at 564, 633 S.E.2d at 509-10 (quoting Stiles v. Onorato, 318 S.C. 297, 300, 457 S.E.2d 601, 602 Our review of the record in Cowburn revealed no evidence of an agreement between the defendants or any indication they ......
  • Kozel v. Kozel, Civil Action No.: 7:16–cv–01672–JMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • March 8, 2018
    ...Supreme Court's holding in Stiles v. Onorato states that Gaar does not provide an attorney immunity under any and all circumstances. 318 S.C. 297, 457 S.E.2d 601, 602 (1995) ("... an attorney may be held liable for conspiracy where, in addition to representing his client, he breaches some i......
  • Al-Shabazz v. State, No. 24995.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 23, 1999
    ...assume facts presented by an applicant are true and view those facts in the light most favorable to the applicant. Cf. Stiles v. Onorato, 318 S.C. 297, 457 S.E.2d 601 (1995) (ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, motion to dismiss must be based solely upon the allegations set forth on the face ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
77 cases
  • Nelson v. QHG OF SOUTH CAROLINA INC., No. 3626.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 14, 2003
    ...upon the allegations made on the face of the complaint. Baird v. Charleston County, 333 S.C. 519, 511 S.E.2d 69 (1999); Stiles v. Onorato, 318 S.C. 297, 457 S.E.2d 601 (1995). If the facts and inferences drawn from the facts alleged on the complaint would entitle the plaintiff to relief on ......
  • Moore v. Weinberg, No. 4209.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 20, 2007
    ...his client, he breaches some independent duty to a third person. . . ." Id. at 564, 633 S.E.2d at 509-10 (quoting Stiles v. Onorato, 318 S.C. 297, 300, 457 S.E.2d 601, 602 Our review of the record in Cowburn revealed no evidence of an agreement between the defendants or any indication they ......
  • Kozel v. Kozel, Civil Action No.: 7:16–cv–01672–JMC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • March 8, 2018
    ...Supreme Court's holding in Stiles v. Onorato states that Gaar does not provide an attorney immunity under any and all circumstances. 318 S.C. 297, 457 S.E.2d 601, 602 (1995) ("... an attorney may be held liable for conspiracy where, in addition to representing his client, he breaches some i......
  • Al-Shabazz v. State, No. 24995.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 23, 1999
    ...assume facts presented by an applicant are true and view those facts in the light most favorable to the applicant. Cf. Stiles v. Onorato, 318 S.C. 297, 457 S.E.2d 601 (1995) (ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6), SCRCP, motion to dismiss must be based solely upon the allegations set forth on the face ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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