Strickland v. Temple, 2021-UP-311

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
PartiesCharles E. Strickland, III, Latisha D. Strickland and Justin R. Dillon, Appellants, v. Marjorie E. Temple, Respondent.
Decision Date01 September 2021
Docket Number2021-UP-311,Appellate Case 2015-002048

Charles E. Strickland, III, Latisha D. Strickland and Justin R. Dillon, Appellants,
v.

Marjorie E. Temple, Respondent.

No. 2021-UP-311

Appellate Case No. 2015-002048

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

September 1, 2021


THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE. IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

Submitted September 12, 2019

Appeal From Lexington County James O. Spence, Master-in-Equity

Frederick Ivey Hall, III, of The Rick Hall Law Firm, LLC, of Lexington, for Appellants.

Rolland E. Greenburg, III, of Rolland E. Greenburg, III, PA., and Spencer Andrew Syrett, both of Columbia, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM.

Charles E. Strickland, Latisha D. Strickland and Justin R. Dillon (collectively, Appellants) appeal the master-in-equity's denial of their requests for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure (SCRCP) and attorney's fees as provided for in an installment land contract (the Contract) with Marjorie Temple. We reverse and remand.

1. Temple argues Appellants' Rule 11 motion was not timely. We disagree. See Pee Dee Health Care, P.A. v. Est. of Thompson, 424 S.C. 520, 531-33, 818 S.E.2d 758, 764-65 (2018) (declining to impose a specific time limit and directing lower courts to consider whether they have jurisdiction and to analyze the timing of the motion in light of the multiple purposes of Rule 11, which include deterring future litigation abuse, "compensating the victims of the Rule 11 violation, . . . punishing present litigation abuse, streamlining court dockets and facilitating court management" (omission by court) (quoting In re Kunstler, 914 F.2d 505, 522 (4th Cir. 1990))). Here, after the circuit court granted summary judgment on the counterclaims, the case was referred to the master, who then had jurisdiction over remaining matters, which included the Rule 11 motion. Although Appellants waited almost a year after the circuit court ruled on their motion for summary judgment to file the Rule 11 motion, the action was still being decided on the merits. Accordingly, we hold the master correctly ruled that Appellants' motion was timely.

2. Appellants argue the master erred in denying their motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11. We agree. "Under Rule 11(a), SCRCP, a party and/or the party's attorney may be sanctioned for filing a frivolous pleading, motion, or other paper, or for making frivolous arguments." Ex parte Gregory, 378 S.C. at 437, 663 S.E.2d at 50; see Rule 11(a), SCRCP (stating "[e]very pleading, motion or other paper of a party represented by an attorney shall be signed in his individual name by at least one attorney of record," and the signature "constitutes a certificate by [the attorney] that he has read the pleading, motion or other paper; that to the best of his knowledge, information and belief there is good ground to support it; and that it is not interposed for delay"). "A trial court may impose sanctions . . . for filing a pleading, motion, or other paper to cause delay or when no good grounds exist to support the filing." Ex parte Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier Hosp., Inc., 393 S.C. 590, 597, 713 S.E.2d 624, 627-28 (2011) (emphasis added). "While Rule 11 is evaluated by a subjective standard, the rule still may be violated with a filing that is so patently without merit that no reasonable attorney could have a good faith belief in its propriety." Id. at 598, 713 S.E.2d at 628 (footnote omitted).

We find the master erred in focusing on whether there were any unreasonable delays in the case rather than whether sufficient grounds existed to support Temple's filing. We hold Temple's assertion of defenses and counterclaims for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act[1] (SCUTPA) were frivolous.[2] The elements of fraud are as follows:

(1) a representation; (2) its falsity; (3) its materiality (4) either knowledge of its falsity or a reckless disregard of its truth or falsity; (5) intent that the representation be acted upon; (6) the hearer's ignorance of its falsity (7) the hearer's reliance on its truth; (8) the hearer's right to rely thereon; and (9) the hearer's consequent and proximate injury

Ardis v. Cox, 314 S.C. 512, 515, 431 S.E.2d 267, 269 (Ct. App. 1993).

The elements of negligent misrepresentation are as follows:

(1) the defendant made a false representation to the plaintiff; (2) the defendant had a pecuniary interest in making the statement; (3) the defendant owed a duty of care to see that he communicated truthful information to the plaintiff; (4) the defendant breached that duty by failing to exercise due care; (5) the plaintiff justifiably relied on the representation; and (6) the plaintiff suffered a pecuniary loss as the proximate result of his reliance on the representation.

Quail Hill, LLC v. County of Richland, 387 S.C. 223, 240, 692 S.E.2d 499, 508 (2010) (quoting West v. Gladney, 341 S.C. 127, 134, 533 S.E.2d 334, 337 (Ct. App. 2000)).

Finally, the elements for an action for violation of the SCUTPA are as follows: "(1) the defendant engaged in an unfair or deceptive act in the conduct of trade or commerce; (2) the unfair or deceptive act affected public interest; and (3) the plaintiff suffered monetary or property loss as a result of the defendant's unfair or deceptive act(s)." Turner v. Kellett, 426 S.C. 42, 48, 824 S.E.2d 466, 469 (Ct. App. 2019) (quoting Wright v. Craft,...

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