Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Sun News and Hotel-Online.com: Resident Has Hotel Plans for Socastee:

High-Rise Resort at the Beach Would Center on Families, Christian Themes

From today's Sun News and Hotel-Online.com:

Guests could stay in rooms themed after the biblical King Solomon's Temple or go to a juice bar named the Garden of Eden if a planned $30 million Christian-themed hotel about 20 stories high is built in Socastee, which is located in Horry County near Myrtle Beach. The building, to be located on the Intracoastal Waterway behind Socastee High School, would be the tallest in the area.

The hotel, to be called Big Top Resort, could also include a water park, a bowling alley, a restaurant and stores aimed at creating a family-friendly atmosphere, said JoAnn DeKind, who is trying to build the resort. It would also have a domed roof where people can walk around, she said.

The land is zoned resort commercial, which means there is no height limit. If DeKind meets the county's regular zoning requirements and can find a way to pay for the estimated $30 million project, the resort would not need a vote from any county boards. An informational meeting, though, will be held in January.

The resort would have about 480 rooms, and DeKind said she hopes to have it open sometime in 2010.

Click on story: http://www.hotel-online.com/News/2008_Dec_30/k.ROC.1230658034.html

The State: State Law Lets Consumers Freeze Credit

New State Statute Makes a Protection Against Identity Theft Free of Charge

From today's The State:

South Carolina consumers who think they are at risk of identity theft can now place a free security freeze on their credit report.

A new state law that goes into effect today requires all three major consumer reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to allow South Carolina residents free of charge to stop potential creditors from viewing their reports, according to AARP South Carolina. Consumers also can temporarily lift the freeze or remove it completely at no cost.
Retailers who either issue credit directly or partner with third parties to issue credit should be advised of this provision in the law.

Click here for full story: http://www.thestate.com/business/story/635789.html

Update: South Carolina Unemployment Fund Could Go Broke Without Deal By End of the Day (Dec. 31)

From today's The State:

The fund that pays out unemployment benefits to thousands of South Carolinians is set to run dry by the end of the day without federal assistance.

Gov. Mark Sanford and state officials have until the end of the day Wednesday to reach an agreement that would allow South Carolina to access a $146 million federal loan to pay benefits through March.

Click on link:

http://www.thestate.com/statewire/story/635225.html

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

WIS-TV: Sanford Seeks Accountability Before Pursuing Federal Loan to Cover Unemployment Benefits

Wants Details, Data, and Audits from Employment Security Commission; Stance Drawing National Attention as the "Anti-Bailout" Governor

From Wistv.com:

The standoff between South Carolina's governor and state officials continues, with only two days before the state must stop printing unemployment checks for 77,000 people.

In a WIS News 10 story that's drawn attention from all over the nation, including on the Drudge Report, Gov. Mark Sanford's office and the Employment Security Commission continued Tuesday to discuss ways to keep the fund that pays $14 million a week to unemployed South Carolinians from running dry.

Last month, South Carolina reported the nation's third-worst unemployment rate at 8.4 percent. Forecasters have said the jobless rate could reach an unprecedented 14 percent next year.

Sanford says he won't request a $146 million federal loan to pay unemployment benefits through March until the commission agrees to his demands that include an audit by the state's watchdog agency.

Sanford has some things he wants first before he signs the request, such as an independent, third-party audit to review operations and performance of the commission.

Among other things, Sanford wants to have unemployment insurance data collected, details like reasons for getting unemployment and dates of employment benefits, and quarterly employment numbers and wages.

Additionally the governor wants information about companies that close, like when they shut down and where they're located.



Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wall Street Journal: Retailers Want In on Stimulus Plan, Call for Tax Free Shopping


From the December 24th WSJ:

The country's largest retail trade association asked President-elect Barack Obama Tuesday to add a series of sales tax-exempt shopping days to a coming economic stimulus package in an effort to revive consumer confidence and spur spending.

The National Retail Federation called for three periods of sales tax-free shopping that would last 10 days each in March, July and October 2009. The trade group estimates that it would save consumers about $20 billion, or $175 per family.

The retailers' group wants a tax-free program to apply to all goods subject to state sales tax, including apparel, home furnishings, restaurant dining and automobiles.

Click here for the full story:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123007573825931553.html

Also, click here for National Retail Federation's press release regarding the request: http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=625

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the Rise: South Carolina Population Grows by Almost 12% Since 2000

South Carolina is on the move. Total net in-migration tops almost 500,000 since the beginning of the decade. The Census Bureau estimates South Carolina's 2008 population to be almost 4.5 million people. The Palmetto State is no longer backroads and pastures. The marketplace for retailers, restaurants, hotels, and others continues to grow.

Grocery Costs Rise

From today's The State:

Even in a recession, you have to eat. But with food prices up 7 percent this year and projected to go up at least another 3.5 percent next year, it’s not easy to fill the grocery cart.

See the full article at: http://www.thestate.com/local/story/629719.html

Monday, December 22, 2008

Small South Carolina Retailers Reeling

The difficult economic conditions are making it tough on retailers, including small retailers:

From Sunday's The State:

Customers aren’t showing up at Mayo’s Suit City on Two Notch Road this holiday season, even on Saturdays, typically the hottest day of the week for retailers.

“The first words out of people’s mouths when they walk through the door is, ‘What’s on sale?’” said Jerry Emanuel, who took over the discount suit store his father bought in 1975. “It’s beyond challenging.”
Mayo and many other locally owned retailers are slashing prices and relying on customer loyalty to make it through a shaky economy this holiday season.

Many say sales are down only slightly or within certain segments of their business. Others, like Emanuel, are scrambling to find customers.

Memo to Clients: Effectively Dealing with Claims During Periods of Economic Down Turns

By Christian Stegmaier


We know our country is in an economic slowdown. We also know personal injury lawsuits are
recession-proof gold mines for plaintiffs’ attorneys. Studies regarding the uptick in litigation during economic downturns show that when times are bad, individuals look around for economic life rafts. The promise of riches by way of a settlement or judgment from a big corporation or insurer is too alluring for many who are facing dire economic straits.

When faced with a claim in these times, it’s important to immediately work to separate the wheat from the chaff. The key for corporate risk managers, insurers, or third party administrators therefore is to make a rapid response. To ignore a claimant or fail to timely investigate the claim may likely result in your company receiving service of process in short order. Accordingly, upon notice of loss, contact the location. Is there video footage or other important claim-related materials, like an incident report? Secure it. Are there witnesses? Locate them and learn their side of the story. Is the claimant willing to talk with you? Get him or her on the phone and learn more about the claim. The more you learn in the days following a report of loss, the better you will be to respond to an eventual demand from the claimant. Knowledge is power. If the claim is junk, it will be easier to establish that fact when memories are fresh and evidence can be collected.

Additionally, talking with the claimant as soon as possible will put you in a good position to gauge his or her reasonableness early on. If the claimant in a small or modest claim starts talking about “pain and suffering,” talking with a lawyer, or refuses to send you documentation regarding medical bills, etc, you can likely see where the case is headed and set your reserves accordingly. On the other hand, if the claimant is responsive and cooperative to your requests for information, you are likely standing in a good position to resolve the matter without it having go into litigation.

In attempting to evaluate the claim, be smart about it. Don’t just pay a claim just to get it closed. You may just be giving money away, which in turn cuts into the bottom line. Carefully analyze the facts of the case, the applicable law, the venue, the level of damages, the type of claimant you are dealing with, and the potential defense costs. If it’s a good claim from the claimant’s perspective and he or she is reasonable, then look to get it done. However, if it is not a good claim and/or the claimant is unreasonable as it relates to his or her settlement expectations, don’t be so quick to throw money at it. Word does get around on the Plaintiff’s Bar’s Listserve about who are the “easy marks” as it relates to personal injury claims. Don’t be that guy. Defend the cases that need defending.

A word about your local counsel: You have relationships with counsel in all the different places where you operate. Take advantage of that relationship. If you have questions about the law in the jurisdiction where the matter is pending; the venue’s characteristics; the likelihood of an adverse outcome; or any other matter pertaining to the claim you are investigating, call your lawyer. He or she values your relationship and wants to help you, even if that doesn’t mean opening up a file. If you don’t have that type of relationship with your lawyer, maybe it’s time to find new counsel. The considerate lawyer that cares about you and the ongoing relationship his or her firm has with your company will be glad to respond to your questions and provide you with the information you are seeking.

Bottom Line Observations:

·Be responsive to claims;
·Defend the claims that need defending (dubious liability; unrealistic settlement expectations);
·Settle the claims that can be settled where liability appears certain and the settlement expectations are reasonable; and
·When in doubt, call your local counsel to confer about any questions you may have about your evaluation of your claim.

South Carolina Court of Appeals Upholds Grant of Directed Verdict in Dram Shop Case

Court Reiterates Standard for Recovery: No Evidence of Sale or Intoxic

By Christian Stegmaier

In a December 17th opinion, the South Carolina Court of Appeals upheld the grant of directed verdict in a Greenwood County Dram Shop action, holding the plaintiff failed to meet the requisite standard for recovery. This opinion is instructive for our state’s hospitality entities, which serve alcohol, the insurers that write their risk, and the counsel that represent them.


In Hartfield v. McDonald, after an evening out at several drinking establishments, Hoyt Helton crossed the centerline of a highway in a car he was driving. Helton’s vehicle struck a car in which Jon Hartfield was a passenger. Helton died at the scene. Testing conducted after the accident revealed Helton’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was .212. Hartfield was seriously injured. As a result of his injuries, Hartfield requires assisted living arrangements for the remainder of his life.


Robert Cockrell, one of two owners and managers of the Pub, was tending bar at the Pub on that particular day and testified Helton arrived between 4 and 4:15 p.m. Helton exited the Pub at approximately 5:30 p.m. Cockrell did not see Helton again until he was closing for the night at 7 p.m., when he saw Helton sitting on a bench in front of the Pub. In addition, Cockrell testified he neither served Helton a beer, nor saw him drinking while he was inside the establishment, and testified Helton was not in possession of a beer on the bench when Cockrell left.


Helton later visited two other establishments, The Getaway Lounge & Grill and The Carolina Lounge. Evidence existed, which supported an argument Helton was served alcohol at both of these locations.

Hartfield filed suit against Cockrell, individually, and the Pub; The Getaway Lounge & Grill and The Carolina Lounge. Hartfield contended each of the defendants was negligent, grossly negligent, careless, reckless, willful and wanton, under a rubric of dram shop liability, and that the defendants’ actions were the direct and proximate cause of the injuries and damages he received.


Section 61-4-580 of the South Carolina Code prohibits the sale of beer or wine to an intoxicated person. That section specifically provides:


Prohibited acts.
No holder of a permit authorizing the sale of beer or wine or a servant, agent, or employee of the permittee may knowingly commit any of the following acts upon the licensed premises covered by the holder’s permit:

(2) sell beer or wine to an intoxicated person[.]

At the close of the plaintiff’s case, Cockrell and The Pub moved for directed verdict, asserting there was no evidence Helton had been sold any alcohol while at The Pub. The plaintiff - apparently knowing the lack of evidence concerning a sale was problematic - sought to cure the situation by attempting to introduce expert testimony pertaining to retrograde extrapolation analysis. In other words, the plaintiff – using Helton’s BAC level at the time of testing, attempted to demonstrate Helton was in fact intoxicated at The Pub using mathematical analysis. The circuit judge prevented this testimony from being presented to the jury and granted Cockrell and The Pub’s motion. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

Section 61-4-580(2) clearly states that an actual sale of alcohol to an intoxicated person is prohibited. (emphasis added). Even taking the evidence at trial in the light most favorable to Hartfield, as we are required to do on review of a motion for a directed verdict, the record is simply devoid of any evidence that the Pub actually sold Helton alcohol while he was there, or that Helton was drinking while present. As a result, we need not decide whether retrograde analysis would be admissible in a proper case because, in the absence of evidence of a sale, the directed verdict was properly granted.

Bottom Line Analysis: In South Carolina, where there is a lack of evidence of a sale of alcohol to a patron ultimately blamed for injury due to intoxication, there will be no liability to the alcohol permit holder for such injuries via a Dram Shop cause of action, as permitted under § 61-4-580. No expert testimony employing mathematical analysis will cure the inability of a plaintiff to present evidence of a sale.

Link to case: http://www.sccourts.org/opinions/displayOpinion.cfm?caseNo=4469

Welcome!

Welcome! At Collins & Lacy, we pride ourselves on being "Attorneys Who Know." To that end, we've created this blog to keep retailers and hospitality-related entities doing business in South Carolina up-to-date about the latest developments in the case law, statutes, and court rules, which will affect them. Check back often for new posts. Also, feel free to contact me at cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com or (803) 256-2660 will any questions, etc.