Appealable Orders – Special Statutes

The last two posts covered S.C. Code Ann § 14-3-330, the general statute governing which orders may be appealed. More specialized statutes exist, however. This post discusses the statutes governing appeals from arbitration orders and from administrative orders.

Appeals of Arbitration Orders

Section 15-48-200(a), S.C. Code Ann., governs appeals from arbitration orders. It generally allows immediate appeals from orders denying or staying arbitration but does not provide for an immediate appeal from an order compelling arbitration. Initial attempts to apply S.C. Code Ann § 14-3-330 to fill in this gap were unsuccessful.

The Supreme Court held that § 14-3-330 did not apply to orders related to arbitration and that such orders are not immediately appealable unless S.C. Code Ann. § 15-48-200(a) provides for an appeal. Heffner v. Destiny, Inc., 321 S.C. 536, 471 S.E.2d 135 (1995). The Court later held this is true even though the United States Supreme Court construed the Federal Arbitration Act somewhat differently. Toler’s Cover Homeowners Ass’n, Inc. v. Trident Constr. Co., Inc., 355 S.C. 605, 610 n. 3, 586 S.E.2d 581, 584 n. 3 (2003).

But the Court of Appeals held more recently that an order granting arbitration is immediately appealable if the trial court also dismisses the underlying lawsuit. It distinguished the earlier decisions because they involved orders staying the action rather than dismissing it, and reasoned that the dismissal made the order immediately appealable under § 14-3-330. Widener v. Fort Mill Ford, 381 S.C. 522, 674 S.E.2d 172 (Ct.App. 2009). In reaching this decision, the Court did not reconcile its holding with the Heffner decision that § 14-3-330 does not apply to orders related to arbitration.

Three rules sum up these decisions: (1) orders denying arbitration are immediately appealable; (2) orders compelling arbitration and staying the underlying action are not immediately appealable; and (3) orders compelling arbitration and dismissing the underlying lawsuit are currently appealable immediately but may ultimately be dismissed if the Supreme Court applies the Heffner decision.

Appeals for Administrative Orders

Most recently, the Supreme Court applied the Heffner rule in an appeal from an Administrative Law Court. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hosp. Auth. v. South Carolina Dept. of Health and Env’t Control, 387 S.C. 265, 692 S.E.2d 894 (2010). In that case, the Court reaffirmed that § 14-3-330 does not apply if a more specific statute exists. It held from there that the APA only allows appeals from a final decision, and that finality was thus required even if § 14-3-330 would allow the appeal.

The Court of Appeals likewise applied this finality requirement to workers compensation appeals because the specific statute governing such appeals also requires finality. Long v. Sealed Air Corp., 391 S.C. 483, 706 S.E.2d 34 (Ct.App. 2011).

Has anyone else tried to use the general appeals statute when a more specific statute applied? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or reach me at www.attorneyroberthill.com.

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