In 2005, South Carolina lawmakers signed what would become known throughout the state as the “Stand your Ground” law. The law was designed someone is allowed to use deadly force if threatened and doesn’t have to retreat if they believe that deadly force is required to prevent severe bodily harm or death to themselves, or to prevent someone from committing a felony. The law, in its entirety, can be found in the South Carolina Statutes in sections 776.012 and 776.013.
While the law seemed pretty straight forward as for as the judicial system was concerned, in 2014, it was questioned in South Carolina’s Civil Court.
In the beginning, the case started out as a criminal case of aggravated battery filed against Jose Alvarez who was charged with attacking and beating co-worker Derrick Roy Flemmings with a baseball bat while they were working for the South Carolina business, Professional Roofing and Sales. The judge who heard the case ultimately dismissed it after he examined the evidence and stated that Alvarez’s use of the baseball bat was justifiable based on South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground Law.
Before the judge made his ruling in criminal court, Flemmings had already filed a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. According to the paperwork, Flemmings not only felt that Alvarez should be held financially responsible for the matter, but also named his former employer as a defendant, stating that the man was negligent when he hired Alvarez and that the other employee should never have been retained.
Both defendants tried to get the civil case overturned after the case was dismissed in criminal court, but they were denied. The felt that the Stand Your Ground defense should hold true in both courts. They were wrong.
The defendants took the case to the Third District Court of Appeal were the judge made the rather surprising decision to reverse the trial judge’s dismissal.
The reason given for reversing the trial judge’s dismissal was that the Court of Appeals with a failure of “mutuality of parties” and the lack of a “critical element,” the Stand your Ground Law did not grant immunity in civil cases.
While this case marks one of the first times the Stand Your Ground law was truly contested in civil court, by no means will it be the last.
“The problem with the current Stand your Ground law is that there’s a lot grey area,” Joe and Martin South Carolina attorneys explained. “ Each case is so different, that each one needs to be considered on its own merit. Eventually, I think a time will come when state lawmakers realize they need to explore and amend the Stand Your Ground law in order to make the language clearer.”
In many countries it is necessary to change certain things in the law and fill certain “gaps” in the law. It is also necessary to examine the work of individual judges who often abuse their position.
The gray areas he spoke of make it impossible for the average citizen to know how their case will fair in civil court. Rather than potentially letting a much needed settlement pass you by, you need to contact a good personal injury attorney and ask their advice. They will carefully examine both your case and similar Stand Your Ground cases before advising you on the best way to proceed.