Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals in this medical malpractice suit remanding the case for a new trial on the issue of damages, holding that the trial court did not err in setting aside the jury’s verdict on the ground that the jury awarded insufficient damages to Plaintiff. In the complaint Plaintiff alleged that Defendant-doctor performed unnecessary surgeries on his now-deceased wife. The jury found Defendant liable for negligence and that Plaintiff’s wife had suffered damages in the amount of $512,162 but that her damages should be reduced by $152,161 because of her unreasonable failure to minimize her damages. The trial court entered judgment in the amount of $1. The trial court subsequently granted Plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend the judgment and entered an amended judgment awarding damages in the amount of $512,162. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision to set aside the jury verdict but concluded that the trial court erred by entering an amended judgment rather than ordering a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court’s decision to set aside the jury’s verdict was not an abuse of discretion; and (2) the Court of Appeals did not err in affirming the trial court’s assessment of $175,547 in costs against Defendants. View "Justus v. Rosner" on Justia Law

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In this contract interpretation case, the Supreme Court reversed the portion of the court of appeals decision ruling that a critical paragraph in a commercial real estate lease was ambiguous and that, as a result, interpretation of the contract was a matter for a jury to resolve, holding that the pertinent provisions of the lease served as a complete bar to Plaintiff lessees’ negligence-based claims against Defendants, one of which was the lessor. At issue was the operation of the lease provisions regarding insurance and liability when the lessees sought damages allegedly caused by the lessor’s negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that the pertinent lease provision was not ambiguous and was a complete defense to the claims raised in the complaint. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the provision was ambiguous in that it did not clearly reflect the intent of the parties to bar negligence claims against each other. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the language of the lease arrangements reflected the clear intent of the parties to discharge each other from all claims and liabilities for damages resulting from hazards covered by insurance; and (2) the damages claims by the lessees resulted from a hazard that was subject to their insurance coverage. View "Morrell v. Hardin Creek, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this case for further proceedings, holding that the trial court erred by crediting the amount of a payment made to Plaintiff under his own underinsured motorist coverage against the amount of the judgment that Plaintiff obtained against Defendant arising from a motor vehicle collision. Plaintiff filed a negligence complaint against Defendant. The jury returned a verdict finding Defendant to be negligence and awarding Plaintiff $263,000 in compensation for his personal injuries. Thereafter, Plaintiff’s insurer issued a check to Plaintiff in the amount of $145,000, representing the amount of underinsured motorist coverage to which Plaintiff was entitled. The trial court subsequently concluded as a matter of law that Defendant was entitled to credit for the $145,000 payment. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that payments received as the result of the purchase of underinsured motorist coverage should not be credited against the amount of the judgment entered against Defendant in this case. View "Hairston v. Harward" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the decision of the North Carolina Industrial Commission awarding Plaintiff ongoing disability compensation and medical compensation for her medical conditions and remanded this case for further proceedings before the Commission, holding that it could not be determined from the record if the Commission, as the Court of Appeals concluded, made findings of causation independent of the application of any presumption. In affirming the Commission’s award of benefits, the Court of Appeals concluded that the Commission made adequate findings that Plaintiff met her burden of proving causation with a presumption of causation and therefore had an alternative factual basis for its award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Court of Appeals erred by failing to remand this case to the Commission for additional findings and conclusions because the Court could not determine from the record the extent to which the Commission relied on a presumption of causation or whether it had an independent, alternate basis for its determination of causation. View "Pine v. Wal-Mart Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this personal injury case involving a building that a city owned but leased to a nonprofit arts group, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant, the City of Gastonia, based upon the doctrine of governmental immunity, holding that Defendant was entitled to governmental immunity under the circumstances of this case. Plaintiff filed this complaint alleging that Defendant was negligent in failing to maintain its building’s exit in a reasonably safe condition and failing to warn of the dangerous and hazardous condition of the exit. The trial court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff, concluding that Defendant was entitled to governmental immunity. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that governmental immunity did not apply. The Supreme court reversed, holding that the trial court correctly determined that Defendant’s activity in leasing the property to the arts group was a governmental function, and therefore, Defendant was entitled to governmental immunity. The court remanded this case to address the issue of whether Defendant waived governmental immunity by purchasing liability insurance. View "Meinck v. City of Gastonia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs failed to state claims for tortious interference with contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair and deceptive practices, civil conspiracy, and unjust enrichment sufficient to survive Defendants’ motion to dismiss pursuant to N.C. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). After Plaintiffs asserted various causes of action against Defendants, including the "Metropolitan defendants" and "dancer defendants," the Metropolitan defendants and dancer defendants filed motions to dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The business court granted the motion to dismiss as to all of Plaintiffs’ claims except for the claims for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and punitive damages against the dancer defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) Plaintiffs failed to state valid claims for forties interference with contract, unfair and deceptive practices, and unjust enrichment against the Metropolitan defendants; (2) Plaintiffs failed to state valid claims for misappropriation of trade secrets and civil conspiracy against all defendants. View "Krawiec v. Manly" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court did not need to decide whether North Carolina recognizes Plaintiff’s first-party claim for dram shop liability because Plaintiff could not recover due to the decedent’s contributory negligence. Plaintiff’s wife died from acute alcohol poisoning after consuming at least ten alcoholic beverages at a hotel owned and operated by Defendants. Plaintiff filed a complaint for wrongful death, alleging common law dram shop liability; negligent aid, rescue, or assistance; and punitive damages. The trial court dismissed the dram shop claim for failure to state a claim and related punitive damages claims. After a jury trial on the remaining claims, the trial court dismissed the action, finding that the decedent’s death was not proximately caused by Defendants’ negligence. Plaintiff appealed, contesting the dismissal of his common law dram shop claim. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court allowed review to address Defendants’ issue as to whether North Carolina recognizes a first-party cause of action for dram shop liability. The Supreme Court reversed without reaching the issue, holding that the factual allegations of Plaintiff’s complaint established the decedent’s contributory negligence. View "Davis v. Hulsing Enterprises, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s decision to award Plaintiff benefits arising out of a 2009 automobile accident. The court of appeals concluded that Plaintiff was barred from pursuing compensation for his personal injury claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act because he had elected to settle his claim against the third-party tortfeasor without the consent of Defendant, the City of Charlotte, and had received disbursement of the settlement proceedings. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the Act protects both the employer’s lien against third-party proceeds and the employee’s right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits under these circumstances; and (2) therefore, the Commission correctly concluded that Plaintiff had not waived his right to compensation under the Act. View "Easter-Rozzelle v. City of Charlotte" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the determination of the Industrial Commission that Plaintiff was not entitled to any compensation for permanent partial disability under N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-31. Plaintiff suffered a compensable accident and sustained injuries while he was walking at his job site. During the years after his work-related accident, Plaintiff continued to have neck pain. Plaintiff later sought permanent partial disability benefits. After a remand from the Supreme Court, the Commission entered an amended opinion and award denying benefits. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the Commission did not err in concluding that Plaintiff was not entitled to any compensation for permanent partial disability. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the Commission failed to carry out the court of appeals’ mandate that it make additional findings of fact and conclusions of law on the issue of Plaintiff’s entitlement to benefits under section 97-31. View "Harrison v. Gemma Power Systems, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured while working for Defendant. The North Carolina Industrial Commission accepted Plaintiff’s claim as compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act, and Defendant began paying Plaintiff compensation for temporary total disability. Plaintiff later filed a Form 33 requesting a medical motion hearing regarding his symptoms. The Commission concluded that Plaintiff failed to meet his burden of establishing that his anxiety and depression were a result of his work-related accident and that Plaintiff was not entitled to disability payments made after January 2011. The court of appeals (1) vacated and remanded in part, ruling that, on remand, the Commission should give Plaintiff the benefit of a presumption that his anxiety and depression were related to his injuries; and (2) reversed in part, ruling that Plaintiff had met his burden of establishing disability. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) Plaintiff was entitled a presumption of compensability in regard to his continued medical treatment; and (2) the Commission failed to address the effects of Plaintiff’s tinnitus in determining whether Plaintiff lost wage-earning capacity. View "Wilkes v. City of Greenville" on Justia Law