When someone is a victim of medical malpractice, he or she may incur substantial medical expenses because of his or her injuries. When the injured person is a minor child, it is usually the parent who bears the financial responsibility for those expenses. The state’s highest court entertained a South Carolina medical malpractice case earlier this month in which the issue was whether a minor had the right to sue for his or her medical expenses or whether only a parent had that right.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case under consideration by the South Carolina Supreme Court, the plaintiff was the mother of a minor child who allegedly suffered an injury during her birth in 2007. The mother, acting as the child’s next friend, brought two separate medical malpractice actions in York County, one in 2009 against the doctor and medical group and one in 2012 against the medical center.  The lawsuits were consolidated.

A difference of just 2% might not sound like much, but it can make a huge difference in deciding how much an injured worker will receive under South Carolina’s scheduled-member workers’ compensation statute.

This is because a worker who has suffered 50% of more loss of use of his or her back due to an on-the-job injury is presumed to be totally disabled, while a worker with only 48% loss of use of his or her back is presumed to be only partially disabled.

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Product liability claims can involve multiple theories of liability by the plaintiff – and also a variety of possible defenses by the manufacturer, wholesaler, or seller against which the plaintiff’s claims are made.

Recently, the state’s highest court was asked by a federal district court to answer certain certified questions of state law in a product liability lawsuit filed by a victim of a fiery crash in Greenville County, South Carolina, that occurred in November 2012.

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Suppose that three people are involved in an automobile accident, and the parties agree that one of the three was completely faultless with regard to the cause of the crash.

How should the issue of fault be resolved between the remaining two drivers? What if the innocent party settles his negligence claim with one of the drivers but not the other?

The state’s highest court was recently called upon to rule in a case involving such a situation.

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When members of the general public think about lawsuits in which a person has been injured or killed due to another party’s negligence (such as a South Carolina premises liability case), they may envision the case going to trial and a jury deciding whether the defendant was negligent and, if so, the amount of compensation to which the plaintiff is entitled.

However, not every plaintiff gets to have a jury decide his or her case. Often, the defendant in a personal injury or wrongful death case will file what’s known as a “motion for summary judgment.” In reviewing such a motion, the trial court judge is called upon to decide whether, in viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, there are genuine issues of material fact. Only if the answer is “yes” does the case proceed to a jury trial.

Facts of the Case

When an employee is hurt at work, he or she is usually limited to benefits available under the workers’ compensation laws. Such benefits typically include past and future medical care, temporary disability, or permanent disability payments. Under the “exclusive remedy doctrine,” the employee cannot file a traditional negligence lawsuit against his or her employer.

However, when a worker is hurt due to a third party’s negligent conduct, he or she has the option of proceeding in tort against the responsible party. (The employee may be required to repay amounts received from workers’ compensation if the third-party claim is successful.)  Such cases can be complex, especially if the employer also contributed to the cause of the accident. A recent case is illustrative.

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Many issues can arise in a typical workers’ compensation case – disputes concerning the nature and extent of the employee’s injuries, whether the employee is able to return to work following an injury, and the amount of compensation to which the employee is entitled if he or she suffers from a permanent partial disability are all commonplace.

In a recent case that already reached the state supreme court once before (in 2015), the issue was the amount of weekly benefits to which the employee was entitled, based on her income at the time of her injury. Continue reading

The fact is that most civil lawsuits are settled outside court. Of those that are tried, only a small percentage are appealed. Fewer still are appealed past the intermediate court of appeals and on to the state’s highest court. Still, there are a few cases that make it all the way to the South Carolina Supreme Court, only to be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

When this happens, there are several rules that come into play regarding the effect that the court’s previous resolution of certain issues will have on the next round of litigation.

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When an employee is hurt on the job, and a permanent injury results, he or she is usually assigned an “impairment rating” under the American Medical Association’s Guides to Permanent Physical Impairment.

The workers’ compensation commission – and the court, if the matter proceeds further through an appeal – uses the rating and other factors in determining the amount of permanent partial disability benefits to which an employee is entitled.

The Guides can also be used to establish an employee’s permanent total disability for the purposes of workers’ compensation law.

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It seems that everywhere one turns these days, there’s someone asking for a signature on a waiver, a release document, or a contract agreeing – in advance – to arbitration of a dispute that has not yet occurred.

The goal, of course, is to usurp the signer’s right to a trial by jury, thereby limiting or even eliminating liability for personal injuries or wrongful death caused by the negligence of the entity asking for the document.

Fortunately, not every such agreement is upheld by the courts. It all depends upon the particular situation and the language of a given document.

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