North Carolina Appellate Court Dismisses Interlocutory Appeal Based on Failure to Allege Appropriate Appellate Standing in Wrongful Death Car Crash Case

Knowing when and how to file an appeal after a ruling in a case is a critical step to preserving your rights. If you do not comply with the appeal procedures, you will lose your right to appeal. There are many different ways and times during the proceedings that you can file an appeal. As knowledgeable North Carolina personal injury lawyers, we have handled numerous trials on behalf of injured residents and understand how to help you protect your rights.

In a recent appellate opinion, the court considered whether the plaintiff properly appealed from a partial summary judgment order dismissing her claims against two defendants in a wrongful death action that she asserted after her husband was killed in a car crash. The crash happened when a dealership allowed a relative of a vehicle buyer to take the newly purchased vehicle from a dealership lot. The relative crashed it into the back of the decedent’s vehicle, pushing him into oncoming traffic. The decedent’s wife brought a wrongful death claim against the vehicle buyer, the relative, and the dealership. All defendants brought motions for summary judgment and the trial court granted the dealership’s motion. The plaintiff appealed this ruling while her claims against the vehicle buyer and the relative remained.

Because the plaintiff still had pending claims against other parties in the lawsuit, the appeal was classified as an appeal from an interlocutory order, which means the order only resolved some of the claims in the action and not the entire action as a whole. In most situations, there is no immediate right to an appeal from interlocutory orders. In seeking her appeal, however, the plaintiff failed to comply with N.C. Gen. Stat Section 1A-1, Rule 54(b), which requires a trial court’s certification that an order is appropriate for immediate appellate review.

The plaintiff also appealed on the grounds that even though she did not obtain the trial court certification required by statute, she was still entitled to appellate review on substantial-right grounds based on the inconsistent-verdict theory. This theory states that review is proper where proceeding with the litigation might lead to inconsistent verdicts. To be entitled to review on this theory, the party needs to show not only that a claim has been fully adjudicated while other claims remain, but that the same factual issues are presented in both trials and that there is a possibility of inconsistent verdicts on those factual issues.

Reviewing the plaintiff’s request, the appellate court noted that the plaintiff acknowledged her burden, but failed to show that a risk of inconsistent verdicts existed. The plaintiff failed to identify which claims were dismissed and which remain, failed to identify the same factual issues that existed, and failed to explain how inconsistent jury verdicts could result. Instead, the court concluded that the factual allegations against the vehicle buyer and driver were different from the factual allegations against the dealership. Based on these findings, the appellate court dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal.

If you were injured in a personal injury accident, it is essential that you seek counsel from a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer. At Maurer Law, we have handled a wide variety of injury accidents, including wrongful death car crashes. To schedule your free consultation call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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