In 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.
His wife filed a wrongful death action and survival claim against the defendant driver, as well as his employer and the contracting company. The defendants moved for partial summary judgment, arguing there was no genuine factual issue about liability.
The trial court listened to the arguments. The defense argued that the contracting companies weren’t entities. They also showed that the seafood company had been dissolved and that a different seafood company had actually employed the driver. They also argued that a corporate officer, which one of the defendants was, was not a proper party to a lawsuit against a corporation.
The plaintiff argued that there was a genuine factual issue about whether any of the corporations employed the defendant driver on the date of the accident. She also argued there was conflicting evidence about how involved the defendants were. She claimed that they’d checked with the Secretary of State’s office about the existence of the corporate entities, and there was no corporation of the name stated by one of the defendants.
Partial summary judgment was granted in favor of the defendants on the basis that there was no genuine issue of material fact, and the defendants weren’t necessary or proper parties to the litigation. The plaintiff appealed the order and voluntarily dismissed the actions against the driver and the seafood company without prejudice.
On appeal, the defendant asked to supplement the record, and it included a complaint that was filed one month after the voluntary dismissal of two of the defendants. It included similar allegations to the earlier case.
The appellate court explained that when partial summary judgment in favor of a defendant is granted, and the plaintiff then voluntarily dismisses the claims that are left, the order of the trial court is a final judgment. By filing a new action, the rights of all of the parties were still pending, and therefore, the summary judgment was no longer a final judgment. The appeal was interlocutory then and had to be dismissed.
If you lost a loved one due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another party, the experienced North Carolina wrongful death attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 844-817-8058 or via our online form.
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