Civil Court

S.C. Code Ann. §§ 22-3-10, and 22-3-20. Section 22-3-10, as limited by § 22-3-20, sets out magisterial jurisdiction over twelve areas of civil subject matter as follows:

1. Actions on contracts for the recovery of money, where the claim does not exceed $7,500.00;

2. Actions for damages for injury to rights pertaining to the person, or personal or real property, where the damages do not exceed $7,500.00;

3. Actions for a penalty, fine or forfeiture, not to exceed $7,500.00;

4. Actions commenced by attachment of property, as provided by statute, where debt or damages do not exceed $7,500.00;

5. Actions upon a bond conditioned for the payment of money, not exceeding $7,500.00, whether the money is due in sum total or in installments;

6. Actions upon a surety bond taken by the magistrate, when penalty or amount claimed does not exceed $7,500.00;

7. Actions upon a judgment rendered in magistrate's court when it is not prohibited by the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure;

8. Taking and entering judgment on the confession of a defendant in the manner prescribed by law when the amount confessed does not exceed $7,500.00.

9. Actions for damages or for fraud in the sale, purchase, or exchange of personal property, not to exceed $7,500.00;

10. All landlord and tenant matters, as well as those included in Chapter 33 through 41 of Title 27, encompassing matters of leasehold estates, rent, ejectment of tenants and undertenants of life tenants;

11. Actions to recover the possession of personal property, whose stated value does not exceed $7,500.00;

12. In all actions provided for in this section when a filed counterclaim involves a sum not exceeding $7,500.00.

13. In interpleader actions arising from real estate contracts for the recovery of earnest money, only if the sum claimed does not exceed $7,500.00.

14. In actions for damages arising from a person’s failure to return leased or rented personal property within 72 hours after the expiration of the lease or rental agreement, such damages to be based on the loss of revenue or replacement value of the property, whichever is less, if the damages claimed do not exceed $7,500.00; however, the lease or rental agreement must set forth the manner in which the amount of the loss of revenue or replacement value of the item leased or rented is calculated.

It should additionally be noted that magistrates have limited jurisdiction over mechanics' liens (§ 29-5-130), agricultural liens (§§ 29-13-80 and 29-13-90), repair or storage liens (§ 29-15-10), and animal owner's liens (§ 29-15-50).

In most of the above matters, for the magistrate to have jurisdiction over the amount of the contract, bond or judgment, the extent of damages, or the value of the property or dispute must not exceed the $7,500.00 limitation imposed by § 22-3-10. In cases involving liens, the magistrate's jurisdictional dollar amount may be further restricted by the lien statute itself. Section 22-3-20 further limits a magistrate's jurisdiction by prohibiting his hearing civil cases in which the State is a party, except actions for penalties not exceeding $100, and for disputes as to title in real property matters except as provided in §§ 22-3-1110 - 22-3-1180. Jurisdiction may not be waived or conferred upon the magistrate by consent of the parties or by order of a higher court.

As a rule, magistrates need not make a determination themselves of the amount in controversy for the purpose of determining their jurisdiction, since jurisdiction is determined by the amount claimed by the plaintiff and not the amount actually due. It should also be understood that if a defendant makes a counterclaim against the plaintiff in an amount in excess of $7,500.00, then the initial claim and counterclaim must be transferred to the Court of Common Pleas for that judicial circuit as required by § 22-3-30.