On November 20, 2019, the South Carolina Supreme Court dismissed its own writ of certiorari in Morningstar Fellowship Church, LLC v. York County on grounds that the writ was “improvidently granted.” The Supreme Court’s ruling left undisturbed a 2016 decision of Circuit Judge Daniel D. Hall, which dismissed Morningstar’s breach of contact claim and foreclosed Morningstar’s attempt to recover $18 million in alleged damages from the County.
Morningstar first sued York County in 2013, asserting that the County had breached the parties’ 2008 Development Agreement for completion of the previously-abandoned, and incomplete, “Heritage Tower” structure in Fort Mill. In that suit, Morningstar claimed that the County’s alleged breach of the parties’ development agreement had cost the church more than $18 million in damages. Judge Hall dismissed those claims, finding Morningstar’s claimed damages were conjectural, speculative and “not based on reasonable certainty.” The South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Hall’s ruling in 2018. Earlier this year, the South Carolina Supreme Court granted Morningstar’s request to review that decision and issued a writ of certiorari. However, after hearing the parties’ arguments in October, the Supreme Court decided that its writ was “improvidently granted” and dismissed the writ. The Supreme Court’s November 20 order leaves Judge Hall’s 2016 order, as affirmed by the South Carolina Court of Appeals, undisturbed and effectively ends Morningstar’s efforts to recover monetary damages from the County.
“We are pleased with the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court, which removes millions of tax-payer dollars from potential risk of loss through litigation. We hope this decision goes a long way in moving the parties towards some form of resolution in the dispute surrounding Heritage Tower. In the meantime, York County will continue to defend itself and its citizens’ assets in the three lawsuits that Morningstar Fellowship Church has chosen to pursue,” said David Hudspeth, Interim County Manager.
Morningstar has filed two other lawsuits against York County – one in federal court and another in state court. In the federal court lawsuit, Morningstar accuses York County of religious discrimination. In state court, Morningstar has accused York County of violating the church’s rights under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act. Those lawsuits are ongoing.