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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 affirmed the orders of the trial court dismissing the claims that Plaintiffs asserted their first amended complaint and denying Plaintiffs’ second motion to amend their complaint, holding that the trial court did not err by dismissing Plaintiffs’ amended complaint and denying Plaintiffs’ second amendment motion. Plaintiffs commenced this action by filing a complaint asserting fifteen claims. Plaintiffs subsequently amended their complaint and then filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. The trial court denied the second amendment motion because it involved undue delay and suggested the existence of a dilatory motive. After Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed some of their claims, the trial court granted Defendants’ dismissal motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the orders of the district court were not an abuse of its discretion. View "Azure Dolphin, LLC v. Barton" 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 vacating the judgment entered by the trial court convicting Defendant of possession of a firearm by a felon and having attained habitual felon status on the grounds that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that it could convict Defendant based upon a constructive possession theory that lacked sufficient evidentiary support. The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred by holding (1) challenges to jury instructions allowing juries to convict criminal defendants on the basis of legal theories that lack evidentiary support are not subject to harmless error analysis, and (2) even if such a harmlessness analysis were appropriate, there was a reasonable possibility that the outcome at Defendant’s trial would have been different had the trial court refrained from allowing the jury to convict Defendant on the basis of a constructive possession theory. Specifically, the Court held that there was not a reasonable possibility that, in the absence of the erroneous constructive possession instruction, the jury would have acquitted Defendant. View "State v. Malachi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the decision of the court of appeals finding no error in Defendant’s convictions and sentences. The Court of Appeals held that Defendant waived her sentencing arguments because Defendant failed to voice any objection to her sentence or the sentencing proceedings in the trial court. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) Defendant waived her Eighth Amendment arguments by failing to raise them before the sentencing court; (2) Defendant’s nonconstitutional sentencing issues were preserved for appellate review by statute despite her failure to lodge a contemporaneous objection but were nonetheless meritless; and (3) discretionary review was improvidently granted as to Defendant’s ineffective assistance claim. View "State v. Meadows" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals dismissing Defendant’s appeal from a trial court order changing venue, holding that Defendant’s appeal from this order was interlocutory and not subject to immediate review. Plaintiff filed a complaint in Union County seeking child custody, child support, and equitable distribution. Apparently before he was served with Plaintiff’s action, Defendant filed a complaint in Pitt County seeking child custody. Defendant then filed in Union County a motion to change venue to Pitt County. The trial court granted the motion based upon the convenience of witnesses, determining that Defendant’s motion challenging venue was proper because it was equivalent to an “answer.” Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as interlocutory. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) while Defendant’s filing was not an “answer” under the Rules of Civil Procedure, the trial court had the authority to enter the discretionary order changing venue; and (2) Plaintiff’s appeal from the order was interlocutory and warranted dismissal. View "Stokes v. Stokes" on Justia Law

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In this case presenting the question of whether a handwritten codicil that referenced a provision of a self-proving will was valid the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the order of summary judgment in favor of a propounder, holding that the issue was not appropriate for summary judgment but instead presented a question of fact for the jury to resolve. Sometime after the testator executed a properly attested self-proving will a handwritten notation was added to the will. If a valid codicil, the notation modified the will and disinherited the caveators in favor of the proponent. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the proponent and ordered that the will be probated as modified by the codicil. The Court of Appeals reversed and directed the trial court to grant summary judgment for the caveators. The Supreme Court reversed, held (1) the self-proving will and the holographic codicil together clearly evidenced testamentary intent by simply referencing the applicable portion of the will to amend; but (2) a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the phrase “begin[n]ing 7-7-03” showed the testator’s then-present testamentary intent. View "In re Will of Allen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the conclusion of the Business Court that British American Tobacco PLC (BAT) did not owe fiduciary duties to other Reynolds American, Inc. shareholders in the context of Reynolds’ acquisition of Lorillard, Inc. and granting BAT’s motion to dismiss, holding that the Business Court properly dismissed Plaintiff’s breach-of-fiduciary claim against BAT. BAT owned forty-two percent of the stock in Reynolds and agreed to fund a portion of the Lorillard transaction by purchasing enough of the newly acquired shares to maintain its forty-two percent ownership interest. This agreement diluted the voting power of Reynolds’ other minority shareholders, including Plaintiff. Plaintiff filed a putative class action suit on behalf of similarly situated stockholders. The Business Court granted BAT’s motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff’s allegations, if true, would satisfy the actual control test as elucidated in Delaware caselaw. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because BAT was not a majority or controlling stockholder, it did not owe fiduciary duties to the other Reynolds stockholders. View "Corwin v. British American Tobacco PLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the final judgment of the Business Court that upheld the declaratory ruling issued by the North Carolina Board of Physical Therapy Examiners pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 150B-4 determining that dry needling constitutes physical therapy, holding that the Physical Therapy Board’s decision was consistent with its enabling statutes and administrative rules. This case arose from a nearly decade-long debate over whether dry needling is confined to the practice of acupuncture. The Physical Therapy Board concluded that dry needling falls within the practice of physical therapy and issued a declaratory ruling reaffirming its conclusion that dry needling constitutes physical therapy. The Acupuncture Board appealed the ruling, and the Business Court affirmed. On appeal, the Acupuncture Board argued that dry needling is part of the practice of acupuncture rather the physical therapy. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the Physical Therapy Board did not err in determining that dry needling is within the scope of physical therapy. View "N.C. Acupuncture Licensing Board v. N.C. Board of Physical Therapy Examiners" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals upholding Defendant’s conviction for attempted murder, holding that Defendant’s motion to dismiss was improperly denied. A jury found Defendant guilty of attempted first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree murder. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the attempted murder charge because there was “sufficient evidence of an overt act to permit the case to go to the jury.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Court of Appeals’ reliance upon cases from other jurisdictions, all of which had statutory frameworks different from this Court’s, provided inadequate support for its decision; and (2) the evidence did not show an “overt act” amounting to attempt as defined by North Carolina law. View "State v. Melton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law