Trial Court Should Have Reviewed Documents Related to Settling Defendant’s Agreement in Order to Determine Set Off, According to South Carolina Court of Appeals

In a South Carolina personal injury lawsuit, it is not unusual for several individuals, businesses, or governmental entities to be named as defendants. By the time the trial rolls around, however, there may be significantly fewer defendants – perhaps, only one.

The reasons for this are numerous. Some defendants may have been dismissed from the lawsuit by the trial court on a motion for summary judgment. Others may have been voluntarily dismissed from the case by the plaintiff(s) for strategic reasons. A settlement may have occurred that dismissed some defendants from the lawsuit while retaining others.

If the reason for the dwindling number of defendants is a settlement, a question sometimes arises as to the nature and extent of the information about that settlement to which the remaining defendants are entitled.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiffs were a man who had slipped and fallen while walking into a cafe in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and his wife, who joined in his premises liability lawsuit to assert a claim for loss of consortium. Although the plaintiffs originally sued several entities, there was only one remaining defendant (a commercial property owner) at trial. The case was tried to a jury in the Charleston County Circuit Court. The jury returned a verdict for $97,640 but found the male plaintiff to be 50% at fault. The trial court therefore entered judgment for the plaintiffs for $48,820.

The defendant filed motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, for disclosure of settlement and set off, and to determine if the settlement was made in good faith. The defendant’s motions were denied by the trial court, and it appealed.

Opinion of the Court

The South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. The court found that it was an error for the trial court to deny the defendant’s motion to disclose the settlement that the plaintiff made previously with other defendants who had initially been named in the lawsuit. In so holding, the court noted that there was a distinction between documents prepared for use by the mediator and the parties during the mediation (which were confidential) and the documents prepared in conjunction with a settlement (which were not necessarily confidential unless they contained provisions to that effect).

The court also found that the trial court should have reviewed the settlement documents to determine the amount and terms of the settlement, whether the settlement was made in good faith, and the amount of set off to which the remaining defendant was entitled.

To Schedule a Free Consultation with a South Carolina Slip and Fall Lawyer

The first step in pursuing fair compensation for injuries suffered due to another party’s negligence is a consultation with an attorney who can review your case and get the appropriate paperwork filed in the court system. At the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices, we can assist those who wish to pursue a South Carolina personal injury lawsuit against an individual, business, or governmental entity whose conduct led to serious physical injuries. For a free consultation, call us at 864-582-5118. We have offices in both Greenville and Spartanburg.

Related Blog Posts:

Jury Verdict in Favor of Man Who Tripped in Parking Lot Set Aside by South Carolina Court of Appeals, Case Remanded for New Trial

Federal District Court in South Carolina Grants Summary Judgment in Favor of Store After Customer’s Slip and Fall

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