Recently, two North Carolina plaintiffs appealed after the defendants’ summary judgment motion was granted in a case alleging negligence, gross negligence, battery, assault, vicarious liability, and reckless infliction of emotional distress, among other causes of action.
This North Carolina personal injury case arose when the defendants started constructing on a piece of property adjacent to the plaintiffs’ home. The construction company’s trucks used the plaintiffs’ driveway as a turnaround for large construction trucks. This damaged the plaintiffs’ driveway. The plaintiff explained to an employee (the defendant) that he’d given some information about their own home and how valuable it was to them. The goal of the plaintiff was to make sure the construction company and its employees understood the importance of the property, since they were turning around on their little driveway, which was made of river rocks. The plaintiff was concerned that the workers were tearing up the driveway and being inconsiderate.
The defendant’s construction workers kept using the driveway as a turnaround. The plaintiff and the defendant spoke three times about the workers using the driveway. The defendant told the plaintiff he had a small crew and would talk to them about it.
However, while the plaintiffs were having coffee on their front porch one morning in December, they saw another construction company employee try to turn his car on the driveway. The plaintiff asked the employee not to use the driveway, and the employee confronted him about giving them a hard time. According to the plaintiff, the employee shouted obscenities at them and reversed at top speed out of the driveway and down the street.
The plaintiff went to get the employee’s phone number from the construction site. He came back with the defendant, who parked the truck halfway onto their property. Both of them approached the plaintiff. The plaintiff told the defendant that his crew kept using their driveway after being asked not to do so. The employee eventually got angry and took a stance that scared the plaintiff.
The defendant told the employee to go to the back of the yard, but the employee postured and moved toward the plaintiff. Frightened, the plaintiff grabbed the defendant’s body to keep him from hitting him. The plaintiff fought with the construction employee and asked him to stop. He blacked out. His leg was broken, and the plaintiff believed it was due to the defendant stomping on his leg with his boot. He assumed it was the defendant because nobody else was there, and he apologized to both plaintiffs for doing it, but he didn’t actually see the defendant’s foot on his leg.
When he woke, the defendant helped him into his wife’s car. The doctor diagnosed him with a broken leg. The plaintiff called the police, who told him to talk to a magistrate, and the magistrate told him he could press charges. The plaintiff’s leg had to be in a boot for 3-4 months. The plaintiff was diagnosed with a spiral break in his lower tibia and the fibula of his lower leg. The injuries permanently affected his career and stopped him from enjoying his daily activities, including physical exercise and parenting. They also resulted in his wife’s stress and extreme emotional distress, including deprivation of her husband’s companionship.
The defense attorney claimed nothing showed extreme or outrageous behavior by the defendants. He also claimed that the defendant had pulled the plaintiff off the employee, and the employee’s posturing wasn’t enough to constitute assault. He also argued that the plaintiff hadn’t shown any actual notice to the employer that the employee was somehow unfit or that he was negligently hired, supervised, or trained.
The plaintiff’s attorney argued that the employee had lunged at the plaintiff. However, the trial court granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion.
The plaintiffs appealed. Among other things, the appellate court explained that a battery is the offensive touching of someone else without consent. The elements of battery are intent, injurious or offensive contact, causation, and lack of privilege. The appellate court agreed with the plaintiffs that it was more likely than not the defendant stepped on his leg, since the employee was already on the ground. It also determined there was a genuine factual issue as to whether the plaintiff had acted as a reasonably prudent person would under the circumstances in connection with the negligence claim, so summary judgment wasn’t proper with regard to that claim.
The case was partially affirmed and partially reversed.
If you suffered injuries due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another party, the experienced North Carolina personal injury attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 888-258-1087 or via our online form.
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