Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court

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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

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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

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Plaintiff, an Alabama corporation, filed a breach of contract action against Defendant, a North Carolina limited liability company, in Alabama, alleging breach of contract. The Alabama court entered a default judgment against Defendant. Plaintiff subsequently filed a request to file a foreign judgment in a North Carolina court, presenting a certified copy of the Alabama judgment. In response, Defendant filed a motion for relief from and notice of defense to the foreign judgment. The trial court denied Plaintiff’s motion, concluding that, in accordance with N.C. R. Civ. P. 60(b), the intrinsic fraud of Plaintiff in obtaining the underlying Alabama judgment precluded enforcement of the Alabama judgment as a judgment of North Carolina. The Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s order, concluding that intrinsic fraud was not a sufficient ground under the Full Faith and Credit Clause to deny Plaintiff’s motion to enforce the Alabama judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals as modified, holding that the Alabama judgment was a final judgment and was entitled to the same credit in North Carolina that it would be accorded in Alabama, and Rule 60(b) had no applicability as a defense to a foreign judgment. View "DocRx, Inc. v. EMI Servs. of N.C., LLC" on Justia Law

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Borrowers applied from a home mortgage loan from Lender. During the transaction, a loan officer made an incorrect statement about lien priority. Borrowers later filed breach of fiduciary and negligent misrepresentation claims against Lender, alleging that the junior status of Lender’s lien decreased the marketability and value of their home and exposed them to increased liability. The trial court granted Lender’s motion for summary judgment on all claims. The Court of Appeals concluded that material issues of fact barred summary judgment on Borrowers’ breach of fiduciary duty claim, reasoning that Lender’s assurance of a first priority lien on Borrowers’ new mortgage loan was an act beyond the scope of a normal debtor-creditor relationship. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment for Lender on both claims where no fiduciary duty existed and where Plaintiffs did not forecast evidence that they made a reasonable inquiry into the validity of the loan officer’s statements. View "Dallaire v. Bank of Am., N.A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Defendants formed a limited liability company. The operating agreement contained an arbitration provision providing that any dispute arising out of the operating agreement shall be settled by arbitration. Plaintiff later filed suit against Defendants, alleging numerous claims, including breach of good faith and breach of fiduciary duty. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration on those two issues under the operating agreement. The trial court denied the motion, concluding (1) the two claims in question did not arise out of the operating agreement or any breach or violation of the agreement, and (2) alternatively, Defendants waived any right they had to arbitration by engaging in discovery that would not have been available as a matter of right during the arbitration process and that Plaintiffs were prejudiced by these actions. The court of appeals affirmed on the basis of waiver. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish prejudicial actions inconsistent with arbitration, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in affirming the trial court's order finding waiver of contractual arbitration rights. Remanded. View "HCW Ret. & Fin. Servs., LLC v. HCW Employee Benefit Servs., LLC" on Justia Law

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Respondents in this case were owners of a condominium unit, and Petitioner was the administrator and manager of the condominium. At issue in this case was whether the trial court erred in granting a judgment and dismissal in favor of Respondents, pursuant to N.C. R. Civ. P. 42, reasoning that Petitioner's lien and foreclosure claim against Respondents' condominium unit was invalid because it was based upon an improperly administered assessment and not a valid debt. The court of appeals vacated and remanded the matter to the trial court, concluding that Petitioner's assessment against Respondents' unit was unlawful, in that it was not uniform and not levied on a pro rata basis, but concluded further that Petitioner did have the authority to make the assessment against Respondents. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the decision of the court of appeals that Petitioner's assessment against Respondents' unit was unlawful because it was not applied uniformly nor calculated in accord with Respondents' percentage undivided interest in the common areas and facilities; and (2) held that the remaining issues addressed by the court of appeals were not properly before the Court. Remanded. View "In re Foreclosure of Johnson" on Justia Law

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Janice Willis executed a general warranty deed reserving a life estate in her home for herself and conveying the remainder to her Eddie in fee simple. While Janice was still alive, Eddie died, and his interest passed to his children. Janice subsequently sought reformation of the deed based on unilateral mistake of the grantor in the absence of fraud. The trial judge granted a directed verdict for Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, holding that, under Crawford v. Willoughby and its progeny, reformation of a deed was unavailable as a remedy in this case.

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After two decades of marriage, William and Teresa Underwood divorced. The district court entered a consent order requiring William to make monthly alimony payments to Teresa. Ten years later, William asked the trial court to terminate his alimony obligation because Teresa was cohabitating with another man. The trial court terminated the alimony payments. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the trial court lacked the authority to terminate or modify the alimony payments because a reciprocal consideration provision in the consent order demonstrated that the parties unambiguously intended the order to be unmodifiable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court did not err because (1) N.C. Gen. Stat. 50-16.9(b) requires the termination of alimony payments to a dependent spouse who engages in cohabitation, and (2) the reciprocal consideration provision was unenforceable. Remanded.

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Gervis Sadler owned a house that he insured through a limited-peril policy issued by North Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (Farm Bureau). Farm Bureau adjusters investigated the home on two separate occasions, but Sadler disagreed with the amount of loss and asked for a disinterested appraisal. In the disinterested appraisal, Farm Bureau's appraiser valued the loss at $31,561. The appraisal award calculated by Sadler's appraiser and the umpire valued the loss at $162,500. Farm Bureau filed a complaint for declaratory relief, alleging the appraisal award failed to itemize the damages so Farm Bureau could determine the covered losses. Sadler moved for partial summary judgment on his breach of contract counterclaim. The trial court granted Sadler's request for partial summary judgment. Farm Bureau appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in granting partial summary judgment in favor of Sadler because genuine issues of material fact needed to be resolved before the loss covered by the policy could be determined.