South Carolina Court of Appeals Dismisses Negligence Case Against Sheriff’s Office

When one person sues another individual (or business, governmental entity, etc.) for an act of negligence, the burden of proof is on the party seeking legal redress for the other’s wrongful conduct. It is important for the plaintiff in such a case to be represented by an experienced, thorough, and assertive personal injury attorney so that the case may be properly investigated and prepared for trial. If successful on the merits, the plaintiff in such an action may recover compensation for lost wages, medical costs, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by the defendant’s conduct. If you are suffering due to someone else’s conduct, it is important to speak with a South Carolina injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) case, the plaintiff was a woman who sought monetary compensation for injuries she allegedly suffered during an incident with a law enforcement officer. She filed suit against the defendants, a sheriff and the county sheriff’s office, in the Richland County Circuit Court, asserting claims for negligent hiring, retention, and training of the officer (who was apparently terminated prior to the suit) and for assault and battery. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and the plaintiff appealed.

Decision of the Court

The South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision. The plaintiff argued on appeal that summary judgment was improper because there was evidence in the record that supported her claim for negligent retention. In addition, she argued the defendants were liable for the torts committed by the former employee insomuch as he was acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time in question, and because his actions were consistent within the culture of the sheriff’s office at that time.

In addressing the plaintiff’s arguments, however, the court of appeals disagreed with the plaintiff’s reasoning. With regard to the negligent retention claim, the appellate court found that summary judgment was appropriate because no reasonable finder-of-fact could find that there was a foreseeable risk that the officer would commit an act of sexual misconduct. Because the officer’s actions were not foreseeable, the plaintiff’s negligent retention claim failed. (In order to prove negligence, a plaintiff must show that a defendant has breached a duty of care and that this breach was the proximate cause of harm to the plaintiff; if the act in question was not foreseeable, the proximate cause element fails.)

As to the defendant’s claims for general negligence and for assault and battery, the court of appeals agreed that the sheriff was entitled to immunity under South Carolina Code ยง 15-78-60(17). In so holding, the court of appeals noted that the officer had not been acting within the scope of his employment when he sexually harassed the plaintiff; the officer had acted with actual malice and intent to harm the plaintiff, which was clearly not within the scope of his official duties.

Hire a Helpful South Carolina Injury Lawyer

If you are hurting because of someone else’s negligent, careless, or wrongful conduct, you may be able to recover financial compensation. However, you have only a limited amount of time to take legal action. Claims filed outside the statute of limitations are very rarely successful, so it is important to speak to counsel if you think you may have a case. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced South Carolina injury attorney, contact the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices in Spartanburg and Greenville by calling 864-582-5118 today.

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