Monday, March 30, 2009

Product Recall: York County Meat Processor, Vendor to SC/NC Retailers - Mislabled Meat Products

by Christian Stegmaier
cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com

From http://www.thestate.com/ (3/30/09):

Halal International Processing of York is recalling approximately 2,925 pounds of beef, chicken, goat and lamb products that were mislabeled, according to an announcement this morning from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

All frozen meat and poultry products produced from April 3, 2008, through March 7, 2009, bearing the establishment number "EST. 19825" inside the USDA mark of inspection, are subject to recall. There are no production or code dates to distinguish the products that were produced under inspection from those that were not produced under inspection. The frozen meat and poultry products were distributed to retail establishments in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

Click here for the full story: http://www.thestate.com/breaking/story/732150.html

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Explainer: Landowner Liability for Criminal Acts of Third Parties

by Christian Stegmaier
cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com

I read this morning (3/27/09) of a robbery at a quick service restaurant in the Upstate. Unfortunately, from time to time, patrons are injured by the tortious conduct of third persons. This conduct includes armed robberies or spontaneous fights that may break out. The following is a brief primer on the law in South Carolina regarding commerical landowner liability for the criminal acts of third parties.

Under South Carolina law, a merchant is not charged with the duty of protecting its customer against criminal acts of third parties when it did not know or have reason to know that such acts were occurring or about to occur. Callen v. Cale Yarborough Enterprises, 314 S.C. 204, 442 S.E.2d 216 (Ct. App. 1994) (declining to hold Hardee’s liable for the crimes of third persons despite knowledge that numerous other violent incidents had occurred in prior years; no incidents that evening put Hardee’s on notice of unrest or potential for violence, and Hardee’s is not the type of operation that attracted or provided a climate for crime); see also Munn v. Hardee’s Food Sys., Inc., 274 S.C. 529, 266 S.E.2d 414 (1980) (holding that despite an incident earlier that night involving a group of people making derogatory comments of a racial nature, there was no reason for Hardee’s to expect a violent fight would break out); Shipes v. Piggly Wiggly St. Andrews, Inc., 269 S.C. 479, 484, 238 S.E.2d 167, 169 (1977) (“There is no duty ... upon merchants and shopkeepers generally, whose mode of operation of their premises does not attract or provide a climate for crime, to guard against the criminal acts of a third party, unless they know or have reason to know that acts are occurring or about to occur on the premises that pose imminent probability of harm to an invitee....”) (quoting Cornpropst v. Sloan, 528 S.W.2d 188 (Tenn.1975)).

This material is intended to provide information on a noteworthy legal issue and is not a substitute for legal advice. For further assistance, contact competent legal counsel to discuss the same.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Explainer: Primer on Premises Liability in South Carolina

by Christian Stegmaier
cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com

Our firm represents many businesses throughout South Carolina in the retail and hospitality sectors. A frequent question posed to us by our clients is: “What is our duty to protect people who come onto our property from hazards on the premises?” I imagine you may have the same question. Accordingly, the following is a basic primer on the law of property owner liability in South Carolina.

The first component of the analysis involves a determination of what type of person is coming onto a property. South Carolina recognizes four general classifications of persons who enter a property, such as a convenience store, hotel, or restaurant. These classifications include:

· adult trespassers;
· invitees;
· licensees; and
· children.

Different standards of care apply depending on whether the visitor is considered an “invitee,” i.e., an invited business guest; a “licensee,” i.e., a person not invited, but whose presence is suffered; a “trespasser,” i.e., a person whose presence is neither invited nor suffered; or a child.

In premises liability cases, the invitee is offered the utmost duty of care by the business owner and a trespasser is generally offered the least.

An invitee is a person who enters onto the property of another at the express or implied invitation of the property owner. Invitees are limited to those persons who enter or remain on land upon an invitation. This invitation may be express or implied. This invitation carries with it an implied representation, assurance, or understanding that reasonable care has been used to prepare the premises, and make them safe for their reception.

The visitor is considered an invitee if: he or she enters by express or implied invitation; his or her entry is connected with the owner’s business or with an activity the owner conducts or permits to be conducted on his land; and there is a mutuality of benefit or a benefit to the owner.

Invitees include:

· patrons of stores or restaurants;
· persons visiting a filling station or convenience store to use the restroom or vending machine or to ask directions; and
· workers or tradesmen invited to work on the premises.

A property owner owes an invitee the duty of exercising reasonable or ordinary care for his safety and is liable for injuries resulting from the breach of such duty.

As a general rule, the property owner has a duty to warn an invitee only of latent or hidden dangers of which the property owner has knowledge or should have knowledge. The degree of care required is companion with the particular circumstances involved, including the age and capacity of the invitee.

This duty is an active or affirmative duty. It includes refraining from any act that may make the invitee’s use of the premises dangerous or result in injury to him.

The touchtone of negligence is forseeability. However, in premises hazard cases, it is not necessary that the precise manner in which the injuries were sustained be foreseeable. Rather, it is sufficient that there is a reasonable generalized gamut of greater than ordinary dangers of injury and that the sustaining of the injury was within this range.

Note: This primer is based upon Sims v. Giles, 343 S.C. 708, 541 S.E.2d 857 (Ct. App. 2001), a leading case on the law of landowner liability.

This material is intended to provide information on a noteworthy legal issue and is not a substitute for legal advice. For further assistance, contact competent legal counsel to discuss the same

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Explainer: Appealing a Case to the South Carolina Court of Appeals

by Christian Stegmaier
cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com

As a general rule, any final order or decision of the Court of Common Pleas (civil), Court of General Sessions (criminal), a Master-in-Equity, the Family Court, or a Special Referee can be appealed to a higher court. The appellate tribunal that will most likely hear the case initially is the Court of Appeals. It is only in special circumstances where the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over an appeal from the trial venue.

The modern-day South Carolina Court of Appeals was established in 1983. The Court is comprised of nine judges who sit on panels of three.

Once a party is in receipt of the trial court’s written decision, it is crucial for the party to immediately determine whether an appeal will be pursued. If an appeal is to be taken, then the party must be sure to serve and file its “Notice of Appeal” within the allotted time.

An appeal of a civil matter must be made within 30 days of the receipt of an order. The time to make an appeal from a criminal conviction is 10 days. Under no circumstances can these deadlines be extended. In other words, an untimely appeal means dismissal of the case – with prejudice.

The party appealing the trial court decision is the “Appellant.” The party “defending” in the appeal is the “Respondent.”

After the Appellant has served its Notice of Appeal on the opposing party and filed it with the Court, the Appellant must secure a transcript of the proceedings. Within 30 days after receiving the transcript, the party must serve one copy of its initial brief on all parties to the appeal and file with the Court. The Respondent will then have 30 days to prepare, file, and serve its initial brief. The Appellant then has the opportunity to file and serve an initial reply brief. This brief is optional; however, most Appellants elect to prepare such a brief. Once the initial reply brief is filed and served,

Companion with the briefs is oral argument. The Court uses oral argument to gain better understanding about the parties’ respective positions and the relief each seeks. As a rule, litigants are not entitled to oral argument as of right ― the Court designates which cases will be heard. Typically, oral argument is reserved for those disputes involving numerous issues and complicated in nature. Cases not set for oral argument by the Court can nevertheless be so designated upon motion by one or both of the parties.

Once oral argument has occurred, the case is deeded “submitted.” If there is to be no oral argument, the case is considered “submitted” with the filing of the final briefs.

A frequently asked question following submission of a case is “How long will it be until a decision is rendered?” The truth is, there is no rule or timetable is Court is required to follow with regard to issuing an opinion. It can be several days, several months, or maybe a year or more. The time it takes for an opinion to be rendered depends on several things, including: the authoring judge and his or her caseload; the complexity or novelty of the issues; and the size of the Record on Appeal.

A decision of the Court can be appealed to the Supreme Court. This appeal, however, is not automatic. For a case heard by the Supreme Court, a Writ of Certiorari must be granted. These writs are obtained via petition to the Supreme Court. A Petition for Writ of Certiorari can be made only after the party seeking such relief has filed a Petition for Rehearing with the Court of Appeals and received the Court’s decision. History shows that the Court of Appeals rarely, if ever, grants these petitions. Upon denial of its Petition for Rehearing, the appealing party has 30 days to file its Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court.

Most petitions for certiorari are denied rather than granted; nevertheless, where the party believes the Court of Appeals has misapplied or misapprehended the law in arriving at its decision, that party should seriously consider filing its petition.

This material is intended to provide information on a noteworthy legal issue and is not a substitute for legal advice. For further assistance, contact competent legal counsel to discuss the same
.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Supreme Court Affirms Punitive Damages Award, Reasserts Importance of De Novo Review, Gore Analysis

by Christian Stegmaier
cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com

In South Carolina, punitive (or exemplary) damages can be awarded by the fact finder (typically the jury) in a civil action where the alleged wrongdoing exceeds the bounds of simple negligence or constitutes a violation of statute or regulation.

In our state, the award of punitive damages is reviewable by the appellate courts. On appeal, the appellate court must conduct a review of the award de novo (or anew) pursuant to the "guideposts" enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559 (1996).

Those "guideposts" include the following considerations:

(1) Degree of Reprehensibility of Appellant's Misconduct;

(2) Disparity Between Actual and Punitive Damages Award; and

(3) Difference Between Civil Penalties and Punitive Damages Award.

Last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court again recognized the significance of both Gore and the necessity for de novo review by the appellate courts.

In RRR, Inc. v. Toggas, 2009 WL 580355 (2009), held the Court of Appeals - while appropriately considering the factors listed in Gamble v. Stevenson, 305 S.C. 104, 406 S.E.2d 350 (1991), erred by failing to take up a de novo review of the Gore "guideposts." The Supreme Court conducted such a review. Upon doing so, in concluded the punitive damages award was reasonable pursuant to Gore.
Though finding error in the Court of Appeals' holding, the Supreme Court upheld the grant of punitives in RRR.

Bottom line analysis for appellants of punitive damages awards: (1) You/your client is entitled to a de novo review of the award by the appellate court; and (2) while the Gamble factors are important, so are the Gore "guideposts."

Major South Carolina Supermarket Retailer Seeks Bankruptcy Protection to Restructure Debt

by Christian Stegmaier
cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com

Mauldin-based Bi-Lo, a fixture in South Carolina's supermaket retail sector, has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in an effort to reorganize its debt.

From today's (3/24/09) edition of The State:

The grocery chain said it filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code and intends to use the court-supervised process to address “an upcoming debt maturity.”

Bi-Lo said it expects to reach “mutually acceptable resolutions with all of its constituencies and to exit bankruptcy as expeditiously as possible.”

The company said its stores will remain open and operations will continue without interruption.


Bi-Lo operates in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee. It operates 215 supermarkets, including 130 in South Carolina. The company employs approximately 15,500 workers, including about 10,100 in South Carolina.

Click here for full story: http://www.thestate.com/746/story/725124.html

Columbia Convention Center Hotel Suit Update: Design Firm Gets Partial Summary Judgment, City Loses

by Christian Stegmaier
cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com

From today's (3/24/09) edition of The State:

A judge ruled Monday that Columbia taxpayers owe design firm Stevens &Wilkinson money for a publicly funded hotel the city never built.

The Columbia-based design firm says the city owes it $1.6 million for work it completed on a publicly funded convention center hotel project from December 2003 to April 2004.

Two weeks ago, city attorneys rejected a $1.6 million settlement offer from Stevens & Wilkinson, saying the two entities never had a contract.

Monday, Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning ruled the city did have a contract with Stevens & Wilkinson but did not rule if or how much money the city had to pay. That question will be settled later, in front of either a jury or a judge.

. . . .

In 2003, the city decided it would build and operate a hotel across from the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. City Council hired Stevens & Wilkinson, Turner Construction, Gary Realty and Garfield Traub Development to work on the project.

All the parties signed a memorandum of understanding.

However, in April 2004, after considerable public opposition to the project, City Council voted to give $4.5 million for a private developer — Bo Aughtry — to build the hotel, a Hilton, which opened in August 2007.

In 2005, the four companies that had worked on the public hotel project sued the city, saying the city’s memorandum of understanding was a contract, and by going with a privately developed hotel, the city broke that contract.

The companies are asking for the money the city would have paid them had the public hotel project gone forward.

In 2003, the city decided it would build and operate a hotel across from the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. City Council hired Stevens & Wilkinson, Turner Construction, Gary Realty and Garfield Traub Development to work on the project.

All the parties signed a memorandum of understanding.

However, in April 2004, after considerable public opposition to the project, City Council voted to give $4.5 million for a private developer — Bo Aughtry — to build the hotel, a Hilton, which opened in August 2007.

In 2005, the four companies that had worked on the public hotel project sued the city, saying the city’s memorandum of understanding was a contract, and by going with a privately developed hotel, the city broke that contract.

The companies are asking for the money the city would have paid them had the public hotel project gone forward.

Monday’s ruling does not affect the status of the other companies; their portion of the lawsuit is still pending.

Click here for the full story: http://www.thestate.com/breaking/story/725103.html

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What We Can All Learn From Five Guys Burgers & Fries

by Christian Stegmaier
cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com

As a lawyer practicing in the retail and hospitality sectors, I keep a watchful eye on things when I’m in hotels, restaurants, and stores. I observe features like cleanliness and organization. I keep a watch on how associates interact and treat patrons. And I’m always mindful about the product. How a retail or hospitality entity presents itself and treats customers is what dictates its brand. These days, building and protecting the brand is everything. All things flow from the brand. And for me, it has been my experience that the way a company does business is directly related to how easy it will be to defend in liability actions.

As well, I’m always on the hunt as well for ideas to make my practice that much better. While the practice of law is a profession, it is nevertheless – in its very essence – a service industry. We are selling our time and ability to our clients – our customers. And there is a lot of competition. So we have to get it right. The better the job I do, the happier our firm’s clients will be. The name of the game is to deliver on our clients’ expectations.

Within the last several years, a quick service restaurant concept named Five Guys Burgers & Fries (http://www.fiveguys.com/) has moved into the Columbia market. Undoubtedly, many reading this article have either eaten at a Five Guys or at least heard of the chain. Originating from the Washington, DC area, Five Guys is known for its gargantuan burgers and copious amounts of french fries. Since coming to the Capital City, Five Guys has become a phenomenon. I have been to several of their locations here in town on numerous occasions and have never had a less than a great experience. As well, I’ve never talked with anybody who wasn’t more than satisfied with the Five Guys product. To that end, I have thought a lot about the secret to Five Guys’ success in Columbia, as well as how its guiding principles can be applied by other businesses – including law practices:

Five Guys Delivers a Quality Product: Five Guys delivers a wonderful product. The food is great - - - many claim it to be the best hamburger in Columbia. I concur. If you want people coming back from more, you better give them an excellent product, whether its legal services, tires, or anything else.

Five Guys Keeps It Simple: If you want fried chicken or pasta, look elsewhere. Five Guys is in the business of serving up hamburgers. By keeping their menu focused and simple, they’re incredibly good at what they do. Other businesses can do the same. No one can be all things to all people. Spreading yourself too thin only leads to a watered-down product and customer experience. You have to carve out a niche, stick with it, and become the best in your marketplace.

Five Guys Gives Patrons Choice: While the menu is limited, the variations on the theme are endless. When you order your burger, you are given at least 10 choices in the way of garnishes, toppings, condiments, etc. You literally can have your burger anyway you want it and completely tailor your eating experience. Customers of any business crave having the ability to tailor their experiences. Giving them that choice separates you from the pack and engenders brand loyalty.

Five Guys Delivers Value: Anyone who has been to Five Guys knows about the restaurant’s trademark: huge portions and great quality. Folks love it and remember Five Guys for it. Five Guys’ customers perceive they are receiving value for their purchase. The important takeaway for me is that the per customer ticket is probably 50-60% higher than Five Guys’ competitors, which means price point is not necessarily the driving factor when people want a great product and experience. In many, if not most cases, people will gladly pay extra is they believe they are obtaining quality for their purchase.

Five Guys’ People are Terrific: A wise lady I once knew who had family in the restaurant business once told me this: “The secret to success is selling wonderful food at a fair price and served by great people.” Her words are very much true. At Five Guys, the staff always seems to be energetic and dedicated to the mission of timely delivering a superior product to their patrons. They keep the restaurant clean and are genuinely interested in ensuring their patrons’ experience is more than satisfactory. All businesses can take a page from this playbook: Your people make the difference when it comes to customer experience. The more focused they are in making sure the customers’ needs are met, the happier, more satisfied those customers will be.

Admittedly, this is a glowing review of the Five Guys business model. And no, we don’t represent them. Nevertheless, I admire great customer service and want to promote and emulate it where I can. In our current economic climate where extra dollars are scarce and competition in the service sector is high, we can all learn from folks like Five Guys who are serving their customers the right way.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Op Ed Piece in Washington Post from Bill Marriott re: Importance of Business Travel/Meetings

by Christian Stegmaier
cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com

Great op-ed piece from Bill Marriott, CEO of Marriott International, regarding the need for business travel and corporate meetings.  Folks don't appreciate how many people are employed by hoteliers and other hospitality-related entities who depend on corporations spending travel dollars for their living. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water re: climbing on the band wagon of those criticizing corporate travel and meetings/conventions. Without such travel, an enormous portion of our economy would be destroyed.

Click here for the full column by Mr. Marriott: 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Columbia Convention Center Hotel Suit Inches Towards Resolution - One Way or the Other

by Christian Stegmaier
cstegmaier@collinsandlacy.com

A long running dispute between the City of Columbia and a firm retained to design what was to be a publicly-funded hotel adjacent to the city's new convention center is edging towards resolution one way or the other: trial or settlement.

The suit arose after the city decided against building the hotel itself; instead, a private developer ultimately constructed a full service hotel near the convention center. The design firm seeks damages for what it avers were services rendered to the project.

Within recent days, lawyers for the design firm have filed an Offer of Judgment in the amount of nearly $1.6 million. The city must now weigh settlement for that amount or taking its chances at trial. If the plaintiff firm prevails at trial in a judgment exceeding $1.6 million, the city would be subject to paying an additional 8% in interest pursuant to the court rules governing offers of judgment.

More to following regarding the outcome of this dispute. As well, we'll be doing another "Explainer" regarding Offers of Judgment in South Carolina.

From today's (March 3) The State: http://www.thestate.com/local/story/701862.html

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Explainer: Basic Primer on South Carolina Workers Compensation - Rock Bottom Essentials

By Christian Stegmaier

We spend a lot of time on this blog discussing issues pertaining to claims brought by customers/patrons of retailers and hospitality-related entities. But what about injured employees? In South Carolina - like most other jurisdictions - injuries to employees are handled via statutorily-based Workers' Compensation system rather than through the traditional court system. The following is a brief overview of the Workers' Compensation system here in South Carolina:

From South Carolina Workers' Compensation Law Annotated 2008, pp. v-vi.

· Workers’ compensation laws are designed to provide a satisfactory means of handling occupational disabilities. A 20th century development in North America, the laws have evolved as the economy became more industrial and less agricultural.

· Before these laws were enacted, a well-established common-law principle held that a master or employer was responsible for the injury or death of employees resulting from a negligent act by the master or employer. Thus, disabled workers who sued employers for damages had to prove their injuries were due to employer negligence. This was often a very slow, costly, and uncertain legal process. As business enterprise and machine production expanded, the number if industrial accidents and personal injury suits increased. By the close of the 19th century, it became apparent that a new system – one that was legally-based, economically-sound, and socially-acceptable – had to be developed.

· In 1911, the first workers’ compensation laws were enacted in the United States on an enduring basis. Workers’ compensation laws held that employers should assume the costs of occupational disabilities without regard to any fault involved. Resulting economic losses are considered costs of production, chargeable, to the extent possible, as a price factor. The laws serve to relieve employers of liability from common-law suits involving negligence in exchange for becoming responsible for medical costs and lost wages of on-the-job injuries regardless of fault.
Historically, six basic objectives underlie the workers’ compensation laws:

1. Provide sure, prompt, and reasonable income and medical benefits to work-related accident victims, or income benefits to their dependents, regardless of fault;
2. Provide a single remedy and reduce court delays, costs, and judicial workloads arising out of personal injury litigation;
3. Relieve public and private charities of financial demands incident to uncompensated occupational accidents;
4. Minimize payment of fees to lawyers and witnesses as well as time-consuming trials and court appeals;
5. Encourage maximum employer interest in safety and rehabilitation through an appropriate experience-rating mechanism; and
6. Promote frank study of the causes of accidents (rather than concealment of fault) in an effort to reduce preventable accidents and human suffering.

· The South Carolina Industrial Commission was created on September 1, 1935, to administer and enforce South Carolina’s first workers’ compensation law. During the past fifty years, the law has been amended by statute, defined by case law, and altered through administrative policies and procedures; however, the basic premise and purpose of the law has remained unaltered. In May, 1986, the name of the Industrial Commission was changed to the more descriptive South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.

· Every South Carolina employer and employee, with certain notable exceptions, is presumed to be covered by the state’s workers’ compensation act. Exceptions to this provision include railroad and railway express companies and employees, certain casual employees, Federal employees in South Carolina, businesses with fewer than four employees, and agricultural employees.

· Employers who accept the provisions of the act are required to maintain insurance sufficient for the payment of compensation, or they shall furnish the Commission satisfactory proof of their ability to pay the compensation in the amount and manner due an injured employee. The Chief Insurance Commissioner of South Carolina is responsible for approving the rate and classification for all workers’ compensation insurers.

· An employee may expect compensation for personal injury or death by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment. Workers’ compensation pays for necessary medical treatment, loss of wages during a period of disability, and compensation for personal disability or disfigurement. If an employee is injured an unable to work for more than seven days, he is eligible to be compensated at a rate of 66 2/3% of his average weekly wage, limited to 100% of the state’s average weekly wage as established each year by the South Carolina Employment Security Commission. If the period of total disability exceeds fourteen days, the employee is eligible for compensation beginning with the date of the accident.

· The maximum award for total disability or death is limited by law to five hundred weeks of compensation. The rate of compensation is determined by the injured employee’s average weekly wage and cannot exceed 100% of the state’s average wage. The loss of both hands, arms, feet, legs or vision in both eyes, or a combination of two such losses, shall constitute total and permanent disability. In addition, a commissioner can make other disability determinations based on the particular loss or impairment to the whole person.

· Amounts of compensation for partial disability or disfigurement are generally established and limited by statute or Commission rule. Awards are usually made in terms of the number of weeks of compensation to which the employee is entitled based on the extent of the disabling group.

· In South Carolina, the disability or death of an employee resulting from an occupational disease is treated as an injury by accident, and the employee, or in the case of death his dependents, may be entitled to compensation. A disease may be recognized as an occupational disease only if it is caused by a hazard recognized as peculiar as peculiar to a particular trade, process, occupation, or employment as a direct result of continuous exposure to normal working conditions. In addition to occupational diseases, injury from harmful exposures to ionizing radiation is also defined for particular attention under the workers’ compensation act.

· When an employee is injured on the job, he should immediately report the accident to his employer, or he may jeopardize the payment of medical fees and other compensation which he may be entitled to under the act. In no event should the employee wait more than ninety days from the date of the accident to report it to his employer. Claims to compensation must be made within two years after the accident or the date of death. Failure to comply with the timeliness statutes could negate any possible award or other compensation.

· Once an employer receives notice of an accident or has knowledge about an accident, he, or his representative, have ten days in which to report the accident to the Commission. The Commission monitors the payment of medical treatment and any compensation agreements entered into between the injured employee and the employer or his insurance carrier.

· An employee may file an application for a hearing before a commissioner in the employer does not report the accident, if the employer denies the injury occurred by an on-the-job accident, or if the employee believes that he did not receive all of his benefits. An employer may also file for a hearing if the employer and the injured employee fail to reach an agreement with regard to compensation within fourteen days after the employer had knowledge or notice of the accident, or in the event an agreement had been reached, if there is a subsequent disagreement over the continuance of any weekly payment. The hearing will usually take place in the county in which the injury occurred.

· The decision of the hearing commissioner may be appealed to a panel of three commissioners, and the decision of the appellate panel may be appealed to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.

· The Workers’ Compensation Commission is responsible for administering the Workers’ Compensation Law of South Carolina. The Commission works closely with the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Commission’s many constituents to insure that the workers’ compensation system is fair, equitable, and responsive to the needs of the citizens of South Carolina.