BLOGS: North Carolina Appellate Blog

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Thursday, January 27, 2011, 10:44 AM

Fourth Circuit Notes

A couple of quick notes on developments from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals:

  • On Wednesday, President Obama nominated Judge Henry F. Floyd to the Fourth Circuit. For the past seven years, Judge Floyd has served as a United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina.
  • Also on Wednesday, the Fourth Circuit granted a joint motion from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the federal government to expedite proceedings in Virginia v. Sebelius - Virginia's constitutional challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The case is scheduled to be heard between May 10 and 13th. It is anticipated that the Fourth Circuit will hear oral argument in another case challenging the constitutionality of the Act – Liberty University v. Geithner – on the same day oral arguments take place in Virginia v. Sebelius.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011, 12:09 AM

COA: Decision Upholding Punitive Damages Award Requires Written Rationale; No Award of Costs for Expert Witness Prep

Today the COA held that a trial court's decision upholding an award for punitive damages must include the reasons for the same, and that the trial court improperly awarded costs for expert witness preparation time. The case is Springs v. City of Charlotte.

Springs brought a negligence suit against the city and other defendants related to a car accident in which she was rear-ended by a city bus. The COA first held that the trial court should have issued a written opinion spelling out its reasons for denying Defendants' motion for JNOV on the jury's punitive damages award, as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1D-50. The COA remanded the case to the trial court for entry of a written setting out its reasons for upholding the punitive damages

The COA also gave the trial court another issue to consider on remand - reassessment of its award of costs related to Plaintiff's expert witnesses. The COA first reviewed statutes that give the trial court authority to award costs: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-305(d)(11) provides that costs may be awarded for the actual time an expert spends testifying, and N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-314(b) allows the trial court discretion to award fees for an expert witness' time in attendance at trial even when not testifying, as well as the expert's travel expenses. The COA concluded that the trial court erred in awarding costs for expert witness preparation time because there is no express statutory authorization for such costs.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 8:39 AM

COA Opinions

The Court of Appeals released 14 opinions today. We will have more on any cases of interest later.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011, 9:19 AM

NC Case Before US Supreme Court

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in Goodyear Luxembourg Tires v. Brown. The question before the Court was: "Whether a foreign corporation is subject to general personal jurisdiction, on causes of action not arising out of or related to any contacts between it and the forum state, merely because other entities distribute in the forum state products initially placed in the stream of commerce by the corporation." In other words, is a foreign company subject to the jurisdiction of a United States state court simply because another entity sells the foreign company's products in the United States.

The Supreme Court will be reviewing an opinion issued on August 18, 2009 by Judge Ervin of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Judge Ervin, joined by Judges Wynn and Stephens, held that the Goodyear's foreign subsidiaries were subject to jurisdiction in North Carolina's state courts because had “purposefully injected their products into the stream of commerce” and “knew or should have known” that the tires would be distributed in the United States and North Carolina. The North Carolina Supreme Court denied Goodyear's petition for discretionary review on April 14, 2010.

SCOTUSblog has a variety of informative posts on the case:

Tuesday, January 04, 2011, 9:19 AM

Thigpen Reappointed to COA

Various news outlets are reporting that Governor Perdue has appointed Judge Cressie Thigpen to the North Carolina Court of Appeals to fill the vacancy left by Barbara Jackson's election to the North Carolina's Supreme Court. Judge Thigpen was appointed in August to fill the seat vacated by Judge James A. Wynn upon his confirmation to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, but was defeated by Judge Doug McCullough in November's election.

COA Opinions

The North Carolina Court of Appeals issued 19 opinions this morning. We will have more on any cases of interest later.
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