SC Agency Appeals are Different

The South Carolina Supreme Court reaffirmed this week that the Administrative Procedures Act (S.C. Code § 1-23-380) governs workers compensation appeals and not the general statute on appeals (S.C. Code § 14-3-330).

Workers Comp ImageThe fight in Price v. Peachtree Electrical Services, Inc., 405 S.C. 455, 748 S.E.2d 229 (2013), was whether Bob Wire Electric was responsible for the claimant’s workers comp injuries. The Commission’s appellate panel found that Bob Wire was responsible and remanded for the single commissioner to calculate benefits.

Bob Wire tried to immediately appeal the Commission’s decision but its appeal was untimely. On remand, the single commissioner ordered it to pay almost $160,000. Bob Wire then timely appealed to the appellate panel of the Workers Compensation Commission, to the circuit court, and to the Court of Appeals.

In the Court of Appeals, Peachtree argued that Bob Wire waived its arguments because it failed to timely appeal the initial order that it was responsible for the injuries. The “law of the case” doctrine, Peachtree argued, required the Court of Appeals to affirm.

The Court of Appeals disagreed. Applying § 14-3-330, the Court held that Bob Wire could have immediately appealed the remand order—if the order involved the merits of the case—but that it did not have to. The statute also allows an aggrieved party to wait and appeal from a final judgment. An appeal from a final judgment, the Court held, allows the court to review any intermediate order that necessarily affects the judgment. Price v. Peachtree Electrical Services, 396 S.C. 403, 721 SE.2d 461 (Ct.App. 2011).

The Supreme Court affirmed as modified. It relied on Bone v. U.S. Food Service, 404 S.C. 67, 744 S.E.2d 552 (2013), to hold that § 14-3-330 does not apply to appeals from the Workers Compensation Commission or other administrative agencies. Section 1–23-380 of the Administrative Procedures Act governs and forbids appeals of intermediate agency decisions unless review of a final agency decision would be inadequate.

Applying the corrected standard, the Supreme Court held that failing to immediately appeal the remand order did not render the order the law of the case because the order was not immediately appealable. Price v. Peachtree Electrical Services, Inc., 405 S.C. 455, 748 S.E.2d 229 (2013).

For further background, please see the earlier posts on the Bone and Price decisions.

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