Wednesday, May 24, 2006

S.C. Court of Appeals issues opinion on fee shifting statute

In Douan v. County of Charleston, Douan challenged an ordinance imposing a sales tax. Proceedings were instituted in the circuit court and the Charleston County Election Commission. In the Commission action, the supreme court ultimately voided the referendum results. The previously filed civil action was called for trial in the Charleston County court of common pleas and Douan moved the circuit court for summary judgment on the issue of attorney's fees under section 15-7-300. The County moved to dismiss the civil action on the ground of mootness pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The circuit court denied Douan's motion, and granted the Council's motion to dismiss, holding that the supreme court opinion ended the case in Douan's favor, rendering the claim for attorney's fees under section 15-77-300 moot.

The supreme court reversed, holding that:

In our view, dismissal of Douan's claim for attorney's fees, based on the doctrine of mootness, was improper. The Council contended at oral argument that Douan's claim for attorney's fees is essentially premature since the underlying merits of the civil action have yet to be adjudicated, a view at odds with the doctrine of mootness. Indeed, Douan's request for attorney's fees may be addressed only after the underlying merits have been adjudicated

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