Justia North Carolina Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the opinion and award of the North Carolina Industrial Commission denying Plaintiff relief on her claim for disability compensation from Defendants, holding that there was no error.On appeal, the court of appeals held that Plaintiff's claim was not time-barred under N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-24 and thus reversed the Commission's dismissal of Plaintiff's claim based on a 2014 injury. The court remanded the case to the Commission for a determination as to whether Plaintiff suffered a compensable injury under the Workers' Compensation Act. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's claim was not barred by section 97-24. View "Cunningham v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the ruling of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's denial of Plaintiff's N.C. Gen. Stat. Chapter 50B domestic violence protective orders (DVPO) complaint, holding that the district court did not err in determining that it had subject matter jurisdiction to allow Plaintiff to proceed with her Chapter 50B DVPO action.Plaintiff struck through a notice of voluntary dismissal and wrote "I do not want to dismiss this action" on a notice of voluntary dismissal form that she had filed less than one hour before after learning that she could request a DVPO under Chapter 50B. The trial court concluded that the handwritten amendment could revive Plaintiff's previously dismissed complaint and therefore exercised jurisdiction over the subsequent hearing. The court of appeals reversed the trial court's denial of Plaintiff's Chapter 50B complaint and remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court modified and affirmed, holding that the trial court had proper jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's DVPO complaint and motions where Plaintiff's amended form served as a functional Rule 60(b) motion for equitable relief from her mistaken dismissal, and the court of appeals did not err in determining the same. View "M.E. v. T.J" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the decision of the court of appeals holding that the decision of the North Carolina Industrial Commission should be reversed and this case remanded to the Commission for recalculation of Plaintiff's average weekly wage, holding that the court of appeals did not err.Plaintiff, an injured employee, received temporary disability benefits. Plaintiff later requested that his claim be assigned for a hearing, claiming that Defendant, his employer, had unilaterally lowered the amount of temporary total disability benefits that he had been receiving with respect to his back injury and that the parties could not agree with respect to the amount of benefits to which Plaintiff was entitled. The Commission determined that the fifth method for calculating Plaintiff's average weekly wage was appropriate for use in this case. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the findings and conclusions that the Commission made in support of its average weekly wages determination appeared to rest upon a misapplication of the applicable legal standard. View "Nay v. Cornerstone Staffing Solutions" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming an order of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Insureds and against Insurer in reliance upon its prior decision in N.C. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. v. Gurley, 139 N.C. App. 178 (2000), holding that the lower courts erred.Matthew Bronson, who was intoxicated, collided with a vehicle owned by Pamela Dana, resulting in serious injuries to Pamela and William Dana, who was riding in the passenger seat. Pamela died from her injuries. At the time of the accident, Pamela was insured under a policy of automobile liability insurance issued by Insurer. William, individually and as administrator of Pamela's estate, claimed to be entitled to an additional $74,750 in underinsured motorist coverage over the amount that Insurer had already tendered to them. Insurer filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the amount of underinsured motorist coverage it was required to provide to the Danas. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the Danas, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the application of Gurley in this case was error. View "N.C. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. v. Dana" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the trial court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant, Logan Wagner, in a proceeding initiated by Plaintiff, Marisa Mucha, who was seeking to obtain a domestic violence protection order, holding that Defendant did not have the requisite minimum contacts with North Carolina.The only contact Defendant had with North Carolina was more than two dozen phone calls he made to Plaintiff's cell phone on the day she moved to North Carolina. Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint and motion for a DVPO in District Court, Wake County. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss and entered a DVPO. The Supreme Court dismissed the trial court's order, holding that the Due Process Clause forbade the trial court from exercising personal jurisdiction over him to enter a DVPO. View "Mucha v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court dismissing this complaint against Defendants in their individual capacities, holding that the complaint adequately stated claims for the tort relief sought by the Estate of Melvin Joseph Long.Long was working to reconnect a trailer-mounted chiller on the campus of North Carolina State University (NCSU) when a metal flange fatally hit him with great force. Long's Estate brought this action against NCSU employees who had worked on the chiller during the months before Long's accident. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted. The court of appeals reversed, holding (1) Defendants had been sued in their individual capacities and were therefore not entitled to the defense of sovereign immunity; and (2) the complaint adequately stated claims for negligence and gross negligence. View "Estate of Long v. Fowler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order and declaratory judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant in this personal injury action, holding that, under the circumstances, Defendant was not entitled to collect underinsured benefits.Defendant was a North Carolina resident who sought to collect underinsured motor vehicle coverage benefits from Plaintiff, her North Carolina insurer, after she was injured while traveling in Alabama in a car owned and operated by a Tennessee resident and insured by a Tennessee insurer. Plaintiff denied the claim and initiated a declaratory judgment action seeking a ruling establishing that the UIM coverage of its politics did not apply to Defendant's injuries. The trial court concluded that Defendant was not entitled to coverage under the UIM provision of her insurance contract. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the amount of the stacked UIM coverage limits exceeded the sum of the applicable bodily injury coverage limits, the Tennessee driver's car was an "underinsured motor vehicle" as defined under North Carolina's Financial Responsibility Act for the purposes of giving effect to Defendant's contract with Plaintiff. View "N.C. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. v. Lunsford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Business Court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that the Business Court properly determined that North Carolina's economic loss rule requires negligence claims to be based upon the violation of an extra-contractual duty imposed by operation of law.At issue was whether a commercial property owner who contracts for the construction of a building may seek to recover in tort for its economic loss from a subcontracted manufacturer of building materials with whom the property owner does not have contractual privity. Applying the economic loss rule irrespective of the existence or lack of a contractual relationship between the property owner and the subcontracted manufacturer, the court dismissed Plaintiff's negligence claim with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that purely economic losses are not recoverable under tort law, particularly in the context of commercial transactions. View "Crescent University City Venture, LLC v. Trussway Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court reversing the trial court's order granting judgment on the pleadings regarding Plaintiffs' claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, holding that the court of appeals did not err.Plaintiffs filed a complaint including claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful death after their two-year-old child was accidentally killed by a shotgun at Defendants' home. The trial court granted Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, dismissing all of Plaintiffs' claims. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that Plaintiffs' allegations regarding foreseeability were sufficient to support a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs' allegations were sufficient to support their claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress against Defendants. View "Newman v. Stepp" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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