North Carolina Appellate Court Discusses the Interlocutory Appeal Rule in Wrongful Death Case

If you are seeking compensation after an accident, there may be times when you disagree with the court’s decision about a dispute in the case and want to file an appeal. There are only a few situations in which the appellate court will hear an appeal before the case has been resolved in a final decision, such as a judgment for the plaintiff or the defense. It is also important to note that there are deadlines for when a party must file an appeal. If you do not comply with these deadlines, you may waive your right to an appeal. North Carolina personal injury lawyer Jason M. Burton is prepared to help you protect your rights and pursue the compensation that you deserve.

A recent North Carolina appellate court opinion discusses the importance of understanding when and how to appeal. The plaintiff in the case was a woman who brought claims against multiple parties stemming from a fatal car accident involving her husband. Her complaint alleged that one of the defendants, a dealership, allowed a relative of a vehicle buyer to drive a new vehicle from the lot. The relative subsequently got into an accident with the plaintiff’s husband, rear-ending his vehicle and pushing him into oncoming traffic. The plaintiff filed suit against the dealership, the relative, and the buyer of the vehicle. Each of the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment.

The lower court granted the dealership’s motion, finding that it was not liable for the husband’s death, and the plaintiff appealed. The other claims against the vehicle buyer and the relative were still pending before the court. For this reason, the appeal was considered an interlocutory appeal. Most appeals take place after there has been a final resolution in the litigation rather than before the case has been resolved. Here, the plaintiff failed to comply with N.C. Gen. Stat. Section 1A-1, Rule 54(b), stating that an appellant must obtain a certification from the trial court that an order is appropriate for immediate appellate review.

The plaintiff argued that even though she failed to comply with this requirement, she was still entitled to appellate review on the basis that a substantial right was being affected because the case could result in inconsistent verdicts. Proceeding on this theory required the plaintiff to show that one claim had been fully adjudicated, that the other claims involved the same factual issues, and that there was a possibility that inconsistent factual conclusions could be reached.

The appellate court ultimately decided that the plaintiff failed in demonstrating that there was a risk of inconsistent verdicts and denied the appeal. Specifically, the plaintiff did not show which claims were dismissed and which remained, failed to identify the factual issues remaining, and did not explain how the jury could reach inconsistent verdicts.

If you are involved in a wrongful death case, the last thing that you need is to be trying to figure out how to navigate the North Carolina legal system. Attorney Burton will ensure that your case is handled efficiently and compassionately during all phases of the litigation. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 1-833-623-0042 or contact us online to get started.