carAn interesting unpublished 2013 appellate decision related to contributory negligence arising out of a rear-end car accident. The plaintiff sued the defendants, arguing that the accident happened as a direct result of their negligence. She voluntarily dismissed one of the defendants but took the other defendant to trial.

The case arose when the plaintiff and the defendant were driving southbound when the defendant rear-ended the plaintiff. The plaintiff had been driving at about 35 mph when she signaled to make a left turn. She was starting the turn when she was hit on the rear passenger side of her car. The defendant had been following the plaintiff and felt aggravated by the slow speed of the plaintiff, and she said that there was no turn signal when the plaintiff suddenly stopped. The defendant braked and turned right to try to avoid hitting the plaintiff.

After the crash, the plaintiff’s car went to the right of her driveway and moved through her yard before hitting trees and a deck and landing on its side. The impact resulted in the deployment of the airbags. The windshield shattered. The plaintiff’s body was pushed back, while her head moved forward, and she had to be taken out of the car by firemen. She suffered injuries to her neck and back and had medical bills of about $12,500. However, when the accident happened, her driver’s license had been revoked, and she didn’t have a license to operate a car.

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airbagMany drivers feel secure because they believe that if there is a serious accident, their airbag will deploy and possibly save them from catastrophic or fatal injuries. Many North Carolina residents who suffer from injuries arising out of a car crash point out, “My airbag never went off.” They have this reaction even when it would have made no difference to their injuries. However, airbags aren’t designed to go off in every crash and situation.

Back in 1999, the federal government changed the standards for airbags, noting that airbag deployment sometimes caused serious injuries or even death. Those at particular risk were kids, small adults, and sometimes occupants who weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Due to the change in standards, car manufacturers developed sensors that evaluate different data points including deceleration and make a determination about whether to deploy the airbags. Some sensors exist outside the car and react to an object hitting the car, while others are inside and relate to the occupants’ weight and size. Airbags can sometimes deploy when the bottom of the vehicle hits a low object on the road.

In some cases, an airbag can kill or injure someone, although such injuries and fatalities are rare. If your airbag didn’t go off when you thought it should have, as a plaintiff you’d have to show what’s called an “enhanced injury” as a result of the failure. This means you’ll have to show your injuries were worsened or exacerbated because of the failure. In most cases, this is hard to do and viable only in cases involving catastrophic injuries or a wrongful death.

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moldIn a recent North Carolina appellate case, the plaintiff sued a Homeowners’ Association when she fell and hurt herself on a moldy walkway in her condo complex. Before falling, she’d been a tenant for six years and went to her unit by using a staircase on the side of the building. After having a rotator cuff surgery, she had to start using the elevator to get to her unit.

She could get to the parking lot from the elevator by using the wooden walkways. There were two, each of which included a 90-degree turn around a column. Tenants would come out of the building, walk down the wooden walkway, turn at the column, and keep walking on the walkway to get to the parking lot.

The HOA contracted with a management company in 2012 and 2013, and the company took over maintenance of the walkways. An employee of the management company told her employer that the walkways were dangerous because of mold that made them slick when wet in 2012. She submitted an estimate to get the walkways power washed, but the defendant didn’t respond.

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truckIn a recent North Carolina appellate case, a woman appealed from an order in favor of several defendants, including a contractor and a seafood company. A driver of a rollback commercial truck had delivered a propeller in Virginia on his way to a newspaper company. On the same day, a driver of a pickup truck who was employed by a seafood company drove for his employer to the newspaper company. The driver of the rollback met up with him for the purpose of taking possession of a scallop dredge and getting a crane to load it onto the commercial truck.

Neither the driver of the rollback nor the driver of the pickup operated the crane. Once the crane left the dredge and was put on the commercial truck, the dredge was strapped down by the defendant and the driver of the rollback. The two decided the rollback driver would drive the pickup truck back, and the defendant would drive the commercial truck with the dredge.

About five minutes later, the defendant began backing out of the gate and felt the dredge shift. He pulled over. The rollback driver got out of the pickup and went over to his truck. They made sure the straps were fastened, but when the defendant got next to him, the dredge crushed the rollback driver, killing him.

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operating roomIn a recent North Carolina appellate decision, the court considered an appeal dismissing a plaintiff’s complaint against a doctor, health care system, and physician group. The plaintiff had sued the defendants, asking for money damages for medical negligence after the defendant doctor performed heart surgery on the plaintiff. During surgery, the doctor didn’t control or monitor the plaintiff, and while she was open with surgical tools inside her, she fell from the surgical table. Her head and body hit the floor.

She suffered a jaw injury, bruises, and a concussion and was battered on the side of her body. Later, she’d have nightmares about the fall. A process server served the physician group by serving its registered agent in September 2015. Ten days later, the doctor was served. Five days later, the health care system was served by delivering the complaint to its CFO.

The doctor and physician group answered and moved to dismiss. They denied the allegations and raised various defenses. The health care system moved to dismiss. The CFO provided an affidavit, explaining he was just the CFO, rather than the registered agent.

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basketballIn a recent North Carolina appellate case, the court considered injuries to a basketball referee. The case arose while the plaintiff was hired to referee a high school basketball game. The tournament was created by a basketball club, but the high school was managed by the Education Board. The club paid the Board a fee to use their basketball court as the site of the tournament.

Before the day he was injured, the plaintiff hadn’t refereed at that particular gym. As a ref, he had to run along the court while monitoring the participants’ play. He claimed that while running alongside the game, he stepped on a warped part of the floor next to the court. He fell down and experienced an injury to his knee. The plaintiff also claimed that after taking the spill, the other officials advised him they ran around the warpage so that they wouldn’t fall.

The plaintiff sued the club and the Board, as well as the club owners, alleging he’d suffered a ligament tear and fracture, for which he needed surgery and incurred more than $300,000 in expenses. The Board denied the allegations and defended on the basis of failure to state a claim, and then it moved to dismiss. The judge granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice.

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pregnant womanIn a recent North Carolina appellate case, the plaintiffs appealed from a judgment in favor of a women’s center and two health care providers. According to their complaint, one of the plaintiffs had come under the medical care of the defendants to manage her pregnancy. In March 2007, she was admitted for the medical induction of labor after her pregnancy progressed a week past her expected delivery date. Seven days after admission, there was a notation that a Pitocin induction was planned and would continue with increasing dosage throughout the day.

A couple of days later, the defendant doctor assumed responsibility for her obstetrical care during labor, while the defendant midwife assumed responsibility for midwifery care during that time. The midwife made a record in the woman’s chart that Pitocin would be administered again to the woman. An hour and a half later, she’d ordered that the dosage should stay at six mu/min. About an hour later, the midwife conducted a vaginal exam and found that the woman’s cervix was six cm dilated and consulted with the defendant doctor.

Almost an hour later, the defendant doctor performed a vaginal exam and found she was fully dilated at 10 cm. They stopped the Pitocin administration, and the midwife was paged. The woman started pushing, but a little over an hour later, she was only making slow progress.

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planeIn a recent North Carolina appellate decision, an aircraft company appealed from a denial of its motion to dismiss. The plaintiff was the executor of a couple’s estates. He sued the aircraft company as well as four other companies. Two of the defendants were North Carolina corporations, known as the AirCare defendants.

The case arose when the couple was flying in an aircraft piloted by the wife. The engine lost oil pressure and failed to make power, and then it lost power. The aircraft went through a forced landing, in which it crashed into trees and caught fire. The couple was killed. According to the complaint, the engine was defective, but this was not detected by the decedents before they took off, and the engine suffered from starvation of oil to its rotating components.

The other defendants, known as the CMI defendants, and an aircraft company had supplied parts to be installed during the maintenance of the aircraft by the AirCare defendants. These parts included a starter adapter gear, which could result in this type of failure if it was improperly installed. The plaintiff sued on the basis of negligence, breach of express and implied warranties, strict liability, and negligent misrepresentation against various combinations of the parties.

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babyIn a recent North Carolina appellate decision, the defendants appealed from a motion to dismiss on the basis of public official immunity. A child and his mother sued the defendants for negligence, gross negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, medical malpractice, and punitive damages. They alleged that after the child was born, the defendants, who were employees of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, followed screening procedures for newborns that they knew wouldn’t be sufficient for older infants. As a result, they missed diagnosing a metabolism error in the child that later resulted in an emergency that caused him permanent, severe brain damage.

The defendants moved to dismiss and strike, claiming that the court couldn’t hear the lawsuit because they were being sued as government employees, and the State hadn’t waived sovereign immunity, so as public officials, they were entitled to immunities provided to public officials.

On the hearing date, the plaintiffs argued that they’d amended the complaint to show they were suing the defendants as individuals rather than as public officials. The court granted the plaintiffs’ amended motion to amend their complaint again. It denied the motions to dismiss. The plaintiffs amended their complaint, and the defendants answered. They appealed the orders denying the dismissals.

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cheesecakeIn a recent North Carolina appellate case, the court considered parents’ claims related to the negligent injury of their minor daughter. The parents had sued a major chain restaurant in Durham County, alleging that it was incorporated in California but engaged in commerce within North Carolina under a Certificate of Authority and did business with the public in counties in North Carolina.

The parents claimed they ordered half a regular cheesecake and half an ultimate red velvet cheesecake from the defendant’s restaurant at a mall. The plaintiff told the defendant that her daughter was severely allergic to nuts and was told that the type of cheesecake the plaintiff ordered didn’t have nuts. However, an employee made a mistake and gave the plaintiff half a low carb cheesecake instead of a regular one. The low carb version had nuts. The minor daughter became violently sick due to the nuts and needed to be hospitalized.

The defendant moved to dismiss on the ground that the county where the complaint was filed was not the proper venue, since its registered office was in Wake County rather than Durham. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss but did transfer the case. The plaintiffs appealed the change in venue. It argued that this was a reversible error.

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