Williams v. Smalls, No. 4755.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtTHOMAS
Citation390 S.C. 375,701 S.E.2d 772
PartiesPearl C. WILLIAMS, Appellant, v. Dean SMALLS, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 4755.
Decision Date30 November 2010
701 S.E.2d 772
390 S.C. 375


Pearl C. WILLIAMS, Appellant,
v.
Dean SMALLS, Respondent.


No. 4755.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Submitted May 3, 2010.
Decided Oct. 20, 2010.
Rehearing Denied Nov. 30, 2010.

701 S.E.2d 773

Michael T. Miller, of Florence, for Appellant.

R. Hawthorne Barrett, of Columbia, and R. Heath Atkinson, of Florence, for Respondent.

THOMAS, J.

390 S.C. 376

Pearl C. Williams appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment which held section 47-7-130 of the South Carolina Code (1987) did not impose strict liability on the owner of livestock for personal injuries suffered when Williams's automobile collided with escaped cows. We affirm as modified.

FACTS

In January 2006, Pearl Williams was traveling along U.S. Highway 76 in Marion County, when her automobile collided with cows owned by Dean Smalls, causing Williams personal injury.

Williams sued Smalls alleging both negligence and, pursuant to section 47-7-130, strict liability. Smalls moved for summary judgment, and Williams conceded summary judgment on the negligence claim. The trial court subsequently heard the motion on the strict liability claim and granted summary judgment, finding section 47-7-130 extended only to real

390 S.C. 377
property damage and not personal injury. This appeal follows.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A trial court may grant a motion for summary judgment when no genuine issue of material fact exists, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(c), SCRCP. However, "[d]etermining the proper interpretation of a statute is a question of law, and this [c]ourt reviews questions of law de novo." Town of Summerville v. City of N. Charleston, 378 S.C. 107, 110, 662 S.E.2d 40, 41 (2008); see also Catawba Indian Tribe of S.C. v. State, 372 S.C. 519, 524, 642 S.E.2d 751, 753 (2007).

LAW/ANALYSIS

The trial court held there was no support for the position that the damages recoverable under section 47-7-130 extended to personal injury. Accordingly, the trial court held that recovery for personal injury resulting under these facts required a showing of negligence and therefore granted summary judgment. We agree, in part.

This case involves two novel questions of law: first, whether section 47-7-130 imposes a strict liability standard on the owners of livestock for personal injury, and second, if such a standard is imposed, whether it extends to personal injury occasioned when livestock is found at large upon a public roadway.

Section 47-7-130 of the South Carolina Code provides:

Whenever any domestic animals shall be found upon the lands of any other person than the owner or manager of such animals, the owner of such trespassing stock shall be liable for all damages sustained and for the expenses of seizure and maintenance. Such damages and expenses shall be recovered, when necessary, by action in any court of competent jurisdiction. And the trespassing stock shall be held liable for such damages and expenses, in preference to all other liens, claims or encumbrances upon it.

When this court is confronted with construing a statute:

390 S.C. 378
[If] the statute's language is plain and unambiguous, and conveys a definite meaning, the rules of statutory construction are not needed and the court has no right to impose another meaning. What a legislature says in the text of a statute is considered the best evidence of legislative intent or will. Therefore, the courts are bound to give effect to the expressed intent of the legislature.
701 S.E.2d 774
Hardee v. McDowell, 381 S.C. 445, 453, 673 S.E.2d 813, 817 (2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Initially, the plain language of section 47-7-130 imposes strict liability for " all damages." S.C.Code Ann. § 47-7-130 (emphasis added). We find the plain meaning of the language "all damages" contemplates not only injury to real property, but also personal property. See Kirby v. Mathis, 89 S.C. 252, 71 S.E. 862 (1911) (imposing strict liability on the owner of trespassing stock for damage done to plaintiff's wheat crop); Restatement (Third) Torts: Liab. Physical Harm § 21 (2005) (recognizing the tendency of wandering animals to not only injure real property, but also to damage structures and other personal property unaffixed to the land, such as: harvested crops, livestock, and feed supplies); Vangilder v. Faulk, 244 Ark. 688, 426 S.W.2d 821 (1968) (recognizing the owner of a trespassing bull to be liable for damage caused when the bull attacked the plaintiff's livestock); Hart v. Meredith, 196 Ill.App.3d 367, 143 Ill.Dec. 75, 553 N.E.2d 782 (1990) (recognizing liability on the owner of a trespassing bull for...

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1 practice notes
  • State v. Murray, No. 5150.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 26 Junio 2013
    ...manslaughter because defendant admitted intentionally shooting the gun recklessly in self-defense); Gibson, 390 S.C. at 358, 701 S.E.2d at 772 (holding trial court properly refused to charge on involuntary manslaughter because defendant admitted he intentionally fired his weapon); State v. ......
1 cases
  • State v. Murray, No. 5150.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 26 Junio 2013
    ...manslaughter because defendant admitted intentionally shooting the gun recklessly in self-defense); Gibson, 390 S.C. at 358, 701 S.E.2d at 772 (holding trial court properly refused to charge on involuntary manslaughter because defendant admitted he intentionally fired his weapon); State v. ......

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