Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals holding that Plaintiff failed properly to plead administrative negligence under N.C. Gen. Stat. 90-21.11(2)(b), holding that the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on pain and suffering damages.Plaintiff failed a complaint for medical negligence against Defendant, and the case proceeded to trial. At the close of Plaintiff's evidence, Defendant moved for a directed verdict. The trial court denied the motion. The jury returned verdicts finding that the decedent's death was caused by Defendant's negligence and negligent performance of administrative duties. The court of appeals reversed in part, vacated in part, and granting a new trial in part, holding (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's award for pain and suffering, and (2) Plaintiff did not sufficiently plead administrative negligence. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court properly denied Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on pain and suffering damages; (2) Plaintiff was not required to plead a claim for administrative negligence separate from medical negligence; (3) Defendant was not entitled to a new trial; and (4) the trial court did not err by granting Plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict on contributory negligence. View "Estate of Savino v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment finding Defendants liable for defamation and awarding Plaintiff compensatory and punitive damages, holding that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that it was required to find one of the statutory aggravating factors before awarding punitive damages pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 1D-15(a).Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to support a finding of actual malice by clear and convincing evidence; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendants' motions for directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict; (3) the trial court did not err in instructing the jury on the issue of falsity; but (4) the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that it was required to find one of the statutory aggravating factors before awarding punitive damages. View "Desmond v. News & Observer Publishing Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' decision affirming the North Carolina Industrial Commission's finding that the uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) proceeds that Plaintiff received on behalf of her husband's estate through the settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit were subject to Defendants' subrogation lien under N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-10.2, holding that the UIM proceeds recovered from the wrongful death lawsuit may not be used to satisfy Defendants' workers' compensation lien.The decedent, Plaintiff's husband and an employee of Employer, was involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident with a third party in South Carolina. The Commission ordered Defendants to pay workers' compensation benefits to Plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed a wrongful death case seeking damages from the third party driver. The parties reached a settlement agreement that included recovery in the form of UIM proceeds. The workers' compensation insurance carrier for Employer subsequently claimed a lien on the UIM proceeds that Plaintiff recovered from the wrongful death settlement. The Commission ordered the distribution of Plaintiff's entire recovery from the South Carolina wrongful death settlement, concluding that Defendants were entitled to subrogation under section 97-10.2. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendants may not satisfy their workers' compensation lien by collecting from Plaintiff's recovery of UIM proceeds in her South Carolina wrongful death settlement. View "Walker v. K&W Cafeterias" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this negligence action, holding that because the alleged defect was open and obvious and thus should have been evident to Plaintiff and because Plaintiff did not take reasonable care, summary judgment was properly granted.Plaintiff visited Defendant's church property for a funeral and helped carry the casket. Plaintiff tripped near the top of the stairs and was injured. The top step was visibly higher than the other steps and made of noticeably different materials. The trial court found that Defendant was entitled to summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether the condition of the top step was open and obvious, whether the top step caused Plaintiff's fall, and whether Plaintiff was contributorily negligent. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the top step was an open and obvious condition such that a reasonably prudent person would have recognized it and taken appropriate care to avoid injury while using it; and (2) Plaintiff did not take the care that an ordinary person would have taken while carrying the casket up the set of stairs and so was contributorily negligent. View "Draughon v. Evening Star Holiness Church of Dunn" on Justia Law

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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