Orangeburg, S.C. (August 28, 2019) – In a follow up to the July 23 hearing on the Motion to Dismiss filed by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) regarding the Betterments Statute claim filed by the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese), Judge Edgar W. Dickson ruled late yesterday that he is denying TEC and TECSC’s motion. Counsel for the Diocese has been asked to submit a proposed order reflecting that decision by September 6th.
The Betterments Statute provides that a party who makes good faith improvements to property they believe they own, may be compensated for the value of those improvements, if a court makes a final determination that another party is the true owner. Many of the parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina can trace their unbroken history back to the colonial era of the state. During that entire time, there has never been any question of their unencumbered title to property or legal identity. All have proceeded throughout their history with the maintaining and improving of their properties in the good faith belief of their ownership of them.
The Betterments claim was filed in late 2017 because of the timing requirements for filing such an action. The complaint asks that the court stay any proceedings on the merits of that claim until the issue of property ownership is finally decided. The issue of property ownership is before Judge Dickson on motions filed by both sides after the case was remitted back to the Circuit Court from the Supreme Court. These are still under consideration by the Circuit Court. Yesterday’s ruling means that if Judge Dickson rules TEC/TECSC does have a trust interest in any parish property, then those parishes have claims against TEC/TECSC for the value of the improvements made in good faith to those properties since they were created.