Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court

by
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

by
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

by
CommScope Credit Union (Plaintiff), a state-chartered credit union, hired Butler & Burke, LLP (Defendant), a certified public accounting firm, to conduct annual independent audits of its financial statements. Plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging breach of contract, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and professional malpractice. Defendant pleaded seven affirmative defenses, including contributory negligence and in pari delicto. The trial court subsequently granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) the specific allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint were sufficient to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, and (2) Defendant’s affirmative defenses would not entitle Defendant to dismissal at this stage. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) Plaintiff’s allegations did not establish that Defendant owed it a fiduciary duty in fact, and therefore, the trial court correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim; and (2) the members of the Court are equally divided on whether the facts alleged in the complaint established the defenses of contributory negligence and in pari delicto, and therefore, the court of appeals’ decision on this issue is left undisturbed. View "CommScope Credit Union v. Butler & Burke, LLP" on Justia Law

by
Beverage Systems of the Carolinas, LLC (Plaintiff) entered into an asset purchase agreement with Loudine Dotoli and two companies to purchase the assets, customer lists, and inventory of the companies. The parties executed a non-competition agreement (Agreement) that contained a provision permitting the trial court to revise its temporal and geographic limits that would otherwise render the Agreement unenforceable. Loudine’s wife, Cheryl, who was not a party to the Agreement, later formed Associated Beverage Repair, LLC. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Loudine, Cheryl, and Associated Beverage, alleging against Loudine breach of the agreement not to compete and against all Defendants tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, and unfair and deceptive practices. Defendants answered that the Agreement was unenforceable by being overly broad in geographic scope. The trial court entered summary judgment for Defendants. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred in refusing to amend the Agreement and in granting summary judgment on Plaintiff’s remaining claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Agreement is unenforceable at law and cannot be saved, as parties cannot contract to give a court power that it does not have; and (2) the trial court properly entered summary judgment in Defendants’ favor on Plaintiffs’ remaining claims. View "Beverage Sys. of the Carolinas, LLC v. Associated Beverage Repair, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff’s car was struck by a school activity bus transporting students and school staff to an extracurricular event. Plaintiff brought this action before the North Carolina Industrial Commission pursuant to the Tort Claims Act to recover for alleged negligence by Randall Long, the bus driver and an employee of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. The Commission granted the Board’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claim because the claim did not fall within the parameters of N.C. Gen. Stat. 143-300.1, which confers jurisdiction upon the Commission to hear claims for the negligent operation of “school buses” and “school transportation service vehicles” when certain criteria are met. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that school activity buses are plainly excluded from section 143-300.1, and therefore, the Commission did not have jurisdiction in this case. View "Irving v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs were individual investors in undeveloped real estate that purchased real property shortly before the collapse of the real estate market. In 2010, Plaintiffs commenced this action seeking to recover against a bank and its appraisers for their alleged participation in a scheme to defraud investors by artificially inflating property values. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that they would not have purchased the real property but for faulty appraisal information and that the bank should have disclosed the inflating appraised property values to them. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss on the basis that Plaintiffs did not receive the appraisals at the time of their decisions to purchase. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because it was undisputed that Plaintiffs decided to purchase the investment properties without consulting an appraisal and obligated themselves to purchase the properties independent of the loan process, Defendants were entitled to dismissal of all claims. View "Arnesen v. Rivers Edge Golf Club & Plantation, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff and Defendant had three children during the course of their long-term domestic relationship. After they separated, Plaintiff, on the minor children’s behalf, brought claims alleging, inter alia, negligence, gross negligence, premises, liability, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant and dismissed the children’s claims, concluding that Plaintiff’s claims on the unemancipated minors’ behalf were barred under the parent-child immunity doctrine. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that the trial court erred in dismissing the unemancipated minors’ intentional infliction of emotional distress and gross negligence claims, as well as the related punitive damages claim, due to an exception to the parent-child immunity doctrine found in Doe v. Holt that any injuries sustained by unemancipated minors arising from a parent’s willful and malicious acts may be actionable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant’s conduct did not rise to the level of willful and malicious conduct against the unemancipated minors, and therefore, the trial court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendant on all of Plaintiff’s claims was correct. View "Needham v. Price" on Justia Law

by
After visiting a county office building to pay his water bill, James Bynum fell while walking down the front steps. As a result, Bynum’s legs and right arm were paralyzed. Bynum and his wife filed a complaint against the County alleging that the County negligently failed to inspect, maintain, and repair a county office building. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of governmental immunity. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the County was entitled to summary judgment on the basis of governmental immunity because the County’s operation of the building was governmental in nature. View "Bynum v. Wilson Cnty" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Corinna and her husband founded Piedmont Southern Air Freight, a shipping company. Corinna later delegated responsibility and authority for the company to her son Jack. Jack partnered with Larry to create Piedmont Express Airways and Piedmont Capital Holding of North Carolina. Plaintiffs each gave the Piedmont companies $200,000 as a loan and as an investment. After all of Plaintiffs' $400,000 had been spent, Plaintiffs sued Jack, Larry, Corinna, and the Piedmont companies to recover the funds, alleging several claims. As for Corinna, only Plaintiffs' breach of fiduciary duty and piercing the corporate veil claims were submitted to the jury. The jury entered a verdict against Corinna on those issues. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed on the breach of fiduciary duty issue, holding that Plaintiffs' evidence on their breach of fiduciary duty claim was insufficient as a matter of law, and Plaintiffs' agency claims were the only remaining claims to which personal liability may attach under the piercing the corporate veil doctrine. Remanded for consideration of Plaintiffs' cross-appeal from the trial court's dismissal of their agency claims against Corinna and the effect of the agency claims on the application of the piercing the corporate veil doctrine. View "Green v. Freeman" on Justia Law

by
After a house on property belonging to a motorcross park caught fire, an investigator for property's insurer (Farm Bureau) found evidence of arson. The investigator's findings also included allegations that the park's president and sole shareholder (Volpe) had failed to report to Farm Bureau that there was a deed of trust on the property when she insured it and when she filed a claim of loss after the fire. Volpe was subsequently charged with obtaining property by false pretenses based upon her sale of the burned property to a purchaser who did not know it was encumbered. The trial court found Volpe was not involved in the fire, that Farm Bureau caused a criminal proceeding to be instituted against Volpe, and that Farm Bureau was liable to Volpe for malicious prosecution. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded, holding that the insurance investigator's report to a law enforcement officer did not constitute the initiation of a malicious prosecution, and Farm Bureau's actions did not constitute an unfair and deceptive practice. View "N.C. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Cully's Motorcross Park, Inc." on Justia Law