Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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

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In 2013, the General Assembly established the Eugenics Asexualization and Sterilization Compensation Program to provide compensation to any claimant who was asexualized or sterilized involuntarily under the authority of the now-dismantled Eugenics Board of North Carolina. The claimant in this case was sterilized involuntarily in 1956 and died in 2010. Claimant’s estate (Claimant) filed a claim pursuant to the Compensation Program to the North Carolina Industrial Commission. The Commission denied the claim because Claimant was not alive on June 30, 2013, as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. 143B-426.50(1). Claimant appealed to the full Commission, raising a constitutional challenge to subsection 143B-426.50(1). The full Commission denied the claim but certified the constitutional question to the Court of Appeals. Claimant then appealed. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the appeal because any challenge to the constitutionality of an act of the General Assembly must first be submitted to a three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Wake County. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Claimant’s appeal based on a constitutional challenge was properly before the Court of Appeals, which had appellate jurisdiction over the appeal. Remanded. View "In re Redmond" on Justia Law

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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

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Petitioner, a trooper, was dismissed from the State Highway Patrol for allegedly violating the Patrol’s truthfulness policy. The State Personnel Commission (SPC) concluded that Petitioner’s dismissal was supported by just cause. The superior court reversed, determining that Petitioner’s conduct did not provide just cause for dismissal and that the decision to dismiss Petitioner was arbitrary and capricious. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the official who dismissed Petitioner proceeded under a misapprehension of the law that he had no discretion over the range of discipline he could administer; and (2) as such, by upholding the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety’s use of a per se rule of mandatory dismissal for all violations of a particular policy, the SPC failed to examine the facts and circumstances of Petitioner’s individual case as required by the state’s jurisprudence. Remanded for a decision by the employing agency as to whether Petitioner should be dismissed based upon the facts of this case and without the application of a per se rule. View "Wetherington v. N.C. Dep't of Pub. Safety" on Justia Law

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Landowner sought to develop a townhouse community on residential property and obtained a zoning permit to develop the townhouses. Petitioner appealed the Zoning Officer’s formal determination to the Warren County Board of Adjustment. The Board overturned the Zoning Officer’s decision and revoked the zoning permit issued to Landowner. Landowner and Warren County subsequently entered into a consent order agreeing that the zoning permit would be reinstated. A Zoning Officer then issued a determination that the subject property was not restricted by Warren County Zoning Ordinances. Petitioner appealed the Zoning Officer’s determination. The Zoning Officer, however, did not place Petitioner’s appeal on the Board’s agenda. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of mandamus in superior court, requesting that the court compel Respondents to place his appeal on the Board’s next available agenda for a hearing. The court granted the petition. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that the Zoning Officer had a mandatory statutory duty to transmit Petitioner’s appeal to the Board and the Petitioner had a right to have its appeal placed on the Board’s agenda. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a zoning officer may not refuse to transmit an appeal from his own zoning determining to the county board of adjustment for its review. View "Morningstar Marinas/Eaton Ferry, LLC v. Warren County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a resident of Georgia, entered into an employment contract with Employer. Plaintiff was in South Carolina when he signed the offer letter. Plaintiff later transferred to Employer's Charlotte, North Carolina division, but Plaintiff never had a route that involved any deliveries in North Carolina during his employment with Employer. After Plaintiff received a work-related injury, Plaintiff began receiving disability and medical compensation according to Georgia law. Plaintiff later filed a claim for benefits with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. The Commission concluded that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claim. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff’s transfer to Employer’s Charlotte division involved a modification of Plaintiff’s employment contract, and that the modification was a proper basis to find the contract was “made” within North Carolina for purposes of establishing the Commission’s jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-36, which authorizes compensation pursuant to North Carolina law if an individual’s employment contract was “made” in North Carolina, does not apply to a contract initially made in another state and subsequently modified in North Carolina. View "Burley v. U.S. Foods, Inc." on Justia Law

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Aqua North Carolina (Aqua), a public utility providing water and utility service, requested authority from the North Carolina Utilities Commission to implement a rate adjustment mechanism of the type described in N.C. Gen. Stat. 62-133.12. After a hearing, the Commission approved Aqua’s request, finding that the request to implement a rate adjustment mechanism was in the public interest. The Attorney General appealed the Commission’s order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission provided sufficient findings, reasoning, and conclusions to support its finding that the mechanism is in the public interest and that the Commission’s determination is supported by substantial evidence in view of the record as a whole. View "State ex rel. Utils. Comm'n v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed a request that the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission issue a declaratory ruling clarifying the application of the Commission’s groundwater protection rules to coal ash lagoons. After the Commission issued its declaratory ruling, Petitioners sought judicial review, claiming that the Commission had misconstrued the applicable regulations and erred in failing to construe the applicable regulations in the manner contended for by Petitioners in their original request for declaratory relief. The trial court determined that portions of the Commission’s decision were plainly erroneous and inconsistent with the regulations and reversed the Commission’s decision with respect to Petitioners’ second request for a declaratory ruling. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded to the trial court with instructions to dismiss Petitioners’ appeal from the Commission’s declaratory ruling on mootness grounds, holding that the General Assembly’s enactment of Chapter 122 of the 2014 North Carolina Session Laws supersedes the rule at issue in this appeal with respect to coal ash lagoons located at facilities with active permits. Remanded. View "Cape Fear River Watch v. N.C. Envtl. Mgmt. Comm’n" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Duke Energy Carolinas filed an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission requesting authority to adjust and increase its North Carolina retail electric service rates. The Commission entered an order granting a $234,480,000 annual retail revenue increase, approving a 10.2 percent return on equity (ROE), and authorizing the use the single coincident peak (“1CP”) cost-of-service methodology. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission made sufficient findings regarding the impact of changing economic conditions upon customers, and these findings were supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence in view of the entire record; (2) the use of 1CP did not unreasonably discriminate against residential customers; and (3) no improper costs were included in the Commission’s order. View "State ex rel. Utils. Comm'n v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) charged Twin County Motorsports, Inc. with violating N.C. Gen. * Stat. 20-183.7B(a)(3) for allowing a person not licensed as a safety inspection mechanic to perform safety inspections. Lance Cherry, an officer and shareholder of Twin County, requested a hearing before the DMV and appeared at the hearing on behalf of Twin County. After concluding that sufficient evidence sustained the finding that Twin County violated section 20-183.7B(a)(3), the hearing officer levied a civil penalty and suspended Twin County’s inspection license. The Commissioner of the DMV upheld the hearing officer’s order. Twin County appealed, arguing that Twin County, as a corporation, should not have been represented by Cherry, a nonattorney, at the DMV hearing. The trial court agreed and remanded the matter for a new hearing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a nonattorney’s appearance on behalf of a corporate entity before an administrative hearing officer does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law, and therefore, the trial court erred in reversing the DMV’s final agency decision in this case. View "In re Twin County Motorsports, Inc." on Justia Law