South Carolina Court Appeals Court Dismisses Negligence/Outrage Claim Against Military College by Alleged Victim of Sexual Abuse

young man

In a South Carolina personal injury case, the plaintiff must be able to prove negligence in order to recover damages. This requires proof of four distinct elements:  duty of care, breach of duty, actual/proximate causation, and damages.

In negligence cases, the jury typically resolves factual issues, but the trial court judge has the task of resolving questions of law. Whether or not a defendant owed a duty of care in a particular situation is usually a legal question for the court to resolve. If the court finds that there was a duty of care owed to the defendant by the plaintiff, the issue of whether that duty was, in fact, breached falls to the jury in most cases.

Facts of the Case

In a Charleston County case recently under consideration by the State of South Carolina Court of Appeals, the plaintiff was a young man who alleged that he had been a victim of sexual abuse when he was a minor. According to the plaintiff, the abuse had been perpetrated by a man who had been implicated in a “child sexual abuse scandal involving a summer camp” at the defendant military college. The plaintiff’s lawsuit against the defendant included claims for negligence, gross negligence, and outrage. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant, holding that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care to prevent him from being sexually abused. The trial court also dismissed the plaintiff’s outrage claim, holding that it was barred by the South Carolina Tort Claims Act.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

Although characterizing the defendant’s failure to notify law enforcement of the alleged perpetrator’s actions when they were reported to it back in 2007 as “highly lamentable,” the appellate court affirmed the lower tribunal’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case. With regard to the plaintiff’s negligence and gross negligence claims, the court noted that South Carolina does not recognize a general duty to warn a third party or potential victim about the possibility of harm; this duty exists only when there is a special relationship between the parties. The plaintiff, who never attended any educational programs or summer camps at the defendant’s college, did not argue that he qualified for a special relationship exception. (The alleged abuse occurred when the perpetrator worked for a different employer.)

The court also found that the plaintiff’s outrage claim failed because such claims are limited to egregious conduct toward a particular person. There was no evidence that the defendant directed any tortious conduct specifically toward the plaintiff or even knew of his existence prior to the filing of his lawsuit.

Get Advice About a South Carolina Injury Case

There are many ways in which an individual, business, or governmental entity’s negligence can result in injuries or death to an innocent person. If you or someone you love has been a victim of a personal injury, call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices today to set up an appointment to learn more about holding the responsible party liable for money damages. Our telephone number is 864-582-5118, and we have offices in both Spartanburg and Greenville.

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