Better check your spam folder…or you might miss your appeal!
The South Carolina Supreme Court recently held in Wells Fargo v. Fallon Properties that an email sent from “the court, an attorney of record, or a party triggers the time to serve a notice of appeal.” Wells Fargo, N.A. v. Fallon Properties South Carolina, LLC, 810 S.E.2d 856 (2018). In the case, the master-in-equity’s administrative assistant emailed a copy of a signed order to all parties and said a copy had also been placed in the mail. Fallon filed and served a notice of appeal 28 days after receiving the mailed copy, which was 31 days after the email was sent.
The appeal was dismissed, and Fallon appealed. The Court held that the SC Appellate Court Rules, not the SC Rules of Civil Procedure, control. Rule 203(b)(1) states that “[a] notice of appeal shall be served on all respondents within thirty (30) days after receipt of written notice of entry of the order or judgment.” (emphasis supplied by court). There is no requirement the notice be served on the parties. Receipt is all that is required.
Technology is not fool-proof, so what happens if your firm’s spam filter catches the administrative assistant’s email and you never actually “receive” it? How do you prove you didn’t receive it? These issues may be the subject of future cases, but for now, this opinion should be a wake-up call to anyone who is sloppy with their inbox management.
And if you are now feeling bad for Fallon, don’t worry. Given that the issue was a novel one in South Carolina, the opinion will be applied prospectively.