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Williams v. Riley

Filed: March 16, 1982.

GARY LEE WILLIAMS
v.
JAMES L. RILEY, SR., AND WIFE, ETHA ELLEN RILEY



Appeal by plaintiff from DeRamus, Judge. Order entered 31 March 1981 in Superior Court, Moore County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 11 February 1982.

Wells, Judge. Judges Martin (Robert M.) and Webb concur.

Wells

The ultimate question on this appeal is whether summary judgment for defendant was properly granted.

In his verified complaint, plaintiff first alleged that defendants were negligent in failing to inspect, repair and maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition; that defendants knew or should have known of the dangerous railing, and that defendants should have warned plaintiff of it. This aspect of plaintiff's cause of action is clearly founded in tort. Both North Carolina and South Carolina follow the traditional rule of lex loci delicti, "[t]he law of the state in which the tort occurs governs the case." Matthews,

Cremins, McLean, Inc. v. Nichter, 42 N.C. App. 184, 256 S.E.2d 261 (1979), disc. rev. denied, 298 N.C. 569, 261 S.E.2d 123 (1979); Oshiek v. Oshiek, 244 S.C. 249, 136 S.E.2d 303 (1964); see Annot., 29 A.L.R. 3d 603; Annot., 77 A.L.R. 2d 1266. The place of the tort is in the state where the last event invoking tort liability occurred. Restatement 2d, Conflict of Laws, § 377. Since plaintiff's injury occurred in South Carolina, the law of that state controls the substantive legal aspects of this case. North Carolina being the forum state, North Carolina law controls the procedural aspects of the case, and is dispositive on whether an issue is substantive or procedural. Annot., 29 A.L.R. 3d 603, § 1(a), n.1.

Plaintiff's complaint also alleges, in the alternative, that "[d]efendants breached an implied warranty of fitness by providing to the plaintiff use of a cottage unfit for its normal intended use." Again, South Carolina law controls, as the lease was entered into and performed in that state. See 16 Am. Jur. 2d, Conflict of Laws, § 80.

The next issue to be addressed concerns the relationship between the parties. Plaintiff argues that this was not a landlord-tenant relationship, but one of an innkeeper-guest. Plaintiff bases his argument on rental agent Thomas' admission that he had access to the cottage at all times, although when occupants were there, Thomas apparently only entered to make a repair at a renter's request, to deliver a message, or to investigate complaints. Thomas never entered the cottage during plaintiff's stay there. The written rental agreement, if any, negotiated by Thomas and Turner is not part of the record.

Under South Carolina's statutory definitions of "hotel" and "innkeeper," however, plaintiff's argument must fail. The following pertinent sections of S.C. Code, Title 45: Hotels, Motels, Restaurants and Boardinghouses, provides:

§ 45-a1-40. Innkeeper's liability for loss of baggage, money, jewels, and other personal property. "Innkeeper" as used in this section shall mean the proprietor of any hotel, inn, boardinghouse, motor court, or motel where beds or lodging are for hire.

§ 45-5-10. Definitions.

A "hotel" as used in this chapter [Safety Regulations] is an inn or public lodginghouse ...


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