Recent court decisions have signaled the courts’ proclivity to prefer arbitration over full-fledged litigation when provisions in construction contracts are called into question. While the courts recognize a party’s constitutional right to a jury trial, the courts also lean strongly towards resolving disputes via arbitration as a matter of public policy, especially if a construction contract carves out arbitration as an alternative to litigation. Continue reading
In Beaufort Builders, Inc. v. White Plains Church Ministries, Inc., 783 S.E.2d 35 (N.C. Ct. App. 2016), the Court of Appeals of North Carolina addressed whether the economic loss rule barred the negligence claim of White Plains Church Ministries, Inc. (White Plains) against Charles F. Cherry (Cherry), the owner of Beaufort Builders, Inc. (Beaufort Builders). The court held that, because the economic loss rule would bar White Plains’ negligence claims against Beaufort Builders, White Plains could not pursue a third-party negligence claim against Cherry, individually.
In Severn Peanut Company, Inc. v. Industrial Fumigant Company, 807 F.3d 88 (4th Cir. (N.C.) 2015), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Fourth Circuit), applying North Carolina law, considered whether a consequential damages clause in a contract between the Severn Peanut Company, Inc. (Severn) and Industrial Fumigant Company (IFC) barred Severn and its subrogating insurer, Travelers Property Casualty Company of America (Travelers), from recovering over $19 million in damages that Severn suffered as the result of a fire and explosion at its Severn, North Carolina plant. The Fourth Circuit, rejecting Severn’s unconscionability and public policy arguments related to the consequential damages clause and finding that the economic loss doctrine barred Severn from pursuing negligence claims, affirmed the trial court’s judgment granting summary judgment in IFC’s favor.
In July of 2015, the North Carolina legislature amended N.C. Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(4), which governs expert discovery. The new rule becomes effective October 1, 2015 and applies to actions commenced on or after that date.
Under the old rule, parties can obtain discovery related to trial experts by issuing expert interrogatories. Parties can also, upon motion, obtain additional discovery, such as deposition testimony and, with respect to such additional discovery, the court may require the party seeking discovery to pay a fair portion of the fees and expenses incurred by the opposing party in obtaining this additional discovery from its expert.
Pursuant to North Carolina Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1), a plaintiff, under certain conditions, can voluntarily dismiss his or her complaint and file a new action based on the same claim within one year after the dismissal. In Murphy v. Hinton, — S.E.2d –, 2015 WL 4081966 (N.C. App. July 7, 2015), the Court of Appeals of North Carolina considered whether the plaintiff, who voluntarily dismissed her wrongful death complaint without prejudice, could take advantage of Rule 41(a)(1)’s tolling provision and extend the statute of limitations for an additional year. The court, following Estrada v. Burnham, 316 N.C. 318, 341 S.E.2d 358 (1986), held that, in order to toll the statute of limitations, the original complaint must conform in all respects to the rules of pleading. The court also held that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(1) because the plaintiff’s negligence claim failed to identify the duty that the plaintiff owed, failed to allege unreasonable conduct and otherwise failed to reference the essential elements of a negligence cause of action. Because the plaintiff’s complaint failed to comply with the “rudimentary notice pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(1),” the court held that the plaintiff could not rely on Rule 41(a)(1) to extend the statute of limitations. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s complaint based on the statute of limitations.