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Civil Practice – Defamation – Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – Rule 60(b), SCRCP Motion

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//November 13, 2023//

Civil Practice – Defamation – Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – Rule 60(b), SCRCP Motion

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//November 13, 2023//

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Circuit court properly dismissed appellant’s claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

We affirm.

Appellant James Earl Tegeler claimed Northgate Baptist Church improperly terminated his employment as music director due to the allegedly defamatory reports of respondents Hannah Collier (Daughter), Charlotte Collier (Mother), and Linda Smith (Grandmother). He contended the circuit court erred in dismissing his claims and/or granting judgment to respondents; denying him the opportunity to amend his complaint; and denying his Rule 60(b), SCRCP motion.

Judgment on the pleadings was appropriate because Tegeler’s detailed complaint did not raise an issue of fact that could possibly entitle him to relief. In his own complaint, Tegeler claimed he was Daughter’s mentor and she was a vulnerable young woman from “a broken home.” He admitted to giving her financial gifts and inviting her on trips with his family. He also acknowledged discussing highly personal matters with Daughter, though he insisted these discussions took place in the context of his “mentoring.”

As to Tegeler’s defamation action, Tegeler admitted that Daughter and Mother told the Church’s senior pastor, Dr. Jimmerson, that the relationship was not romantic or sexual and that Dr. Jimmerson told him he did not believe the relationship was romantic or sexual. This admission warrants judgment on the pleadings as to Mother and Daughter.

Further, Tegeler’s complaint wholly failed to state a proper claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Mother and Daughter’s reporting of the inappropriate relationship to their pastor and Tegeler’s supervisor, Dr. Jimmerson, was not “so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible bounds of decency” that it “must be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” The circuit court properly dismissed this claim against Grandmother and the Church as well.

We also disagree with Tegeler’s argument that the circuit court erred in failing to set aside its judgment under Rule 60(b) because Mother’s counsel called him a “predator” at the circuit court hearing. Even if a Rule 60(b) motion were procedurally appropriate, Tegeler’s argument that the judgment should be set aside due to misconduct lacks merit because the transcript establishes that Mother’s counsel did not call Tegeler “a predator.” She did reference the “predatory behavior” suggested by the contents of several of Tegeler’s text messages with Daughter, but this description was neither actionable nor in any way inappropriate in the context of the matters argued at the hearing. It certainly did not constitute misconduct or fraud, nor was it a misrepresentation.


Tegeler v. Collier (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-044-23, 12 pp.) (Per Curiam) Appealed from Greenville County (Alex Kinlaw, Jr., J.) Deborah Dickson Davis, of Dickson Davis Law Firm, LLC, of Greenville, for appellant; Daniel Roper Hughes, of Duggan & Hughes, LLC, of Greer, for respondents Hannah Elizabeth Collier and Linda Smith; Jeanmarie Tankersley, of Clawson & Staubes, LLC, of Greenville, for eespondent Charlotte Collier; Steven Michael Nail, of Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, PC, and Charles Edgar McDonald, III, both of Greenville, for respondent Northgate Baptist Church. South Carolina Court of Appeals

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