Tuesday, August 04, 2009, 3:35 PM

Quick Notes on Today's NC Court of Appeals Decisions

Companies entering into contracts with governmental entities should double check to make sure that the contract contains all the statutorily required provisions or they may find themselves without a remedy for a breach of contract. In Crystal Transportation v. Wake County Board of Education, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court should have dismissed the plaintiff's breach of contract action because the omission of the preaudit certification required by North Carolina General Statutes Section 115C-441 from the parties' contract rendered the contract invalid and unenforceable. In reaching its decision, the Court relied heavily on an earlier decision, Data General Corp. v. County of Durham, that interpreted an almost identical statutory provision involving to contracts with local governments.

In Worthy v. The Ivy Community Center, the Court of Appeals held that lay witnesses are competent to testify regarding the cause of a fire when the witness was an eye witness to the fire. However, the Court expressly declined to address "whether expert testimony might be necessary [to establish the cause of a fire] in a case relying only upon circumstantial evidence[.]"

According to the majority opinion in Fussell v. North Carolina Farm Bureau, local governments breach their duty to use ordinary care in restoring water service to a residential property by turning the water on while no one is at home. According to the complaint, on June 24, 2004, an employee of the Town of Apex went to the plaintiffs' newly purchased property to restore their water service. The employee left the plaintiffs' property after restoring water service despite seeing the water meter turning - indicating that water was flowing into the house - and knowing that no one was at home. Unbeknownst to the employee, the faucet on an upstairs bathtub was open and the tub's drain was closed. The bathtub overflowed for several days causing severe damage to the plaintiffs' home. The majority held that the plaintiffs' complaint stated a claim for negligence against the Town. Judge Bryant dissented.


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