In a recent North Carolina car accident decision, the plaintiff appealed from an order granting a defendant insurer’s motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff sued a man and woman in 2009. Summons were issued against them, and service was made soon afterward. Summons was then issued to the insurer through the Commissioner of Insurance. The insurer moved to dismiss years later, and an order of voluntary dismissal without prejudice was entered.
Shortly after the dismissal, the plaintiff refiled the lawsuit, and service was made against the defendants and insurer. Towards the end of the year, notices of voluntary dismissal without prejudice were filed. In 2016, the complaint was refiled.
In the 2016 complaint, the plaintiff claimed he owned a Chevy truck, and the defendant owned a Chevy Silverado truck. The other defendant owned a Ford truck. The defendant who owned a Chevy truck was in default on repaying an auto loan that secured his truck. The plaintiff’s employer had contracted with the bank that had given the defendant the loan to buy the Chevy truck. The plaintiff was told the defendant’s truck was on the other defendant’s property. He went with his wife to repossess the Chevy Silverado. After he took it, his truck was blocked by another car and a cable so that he couldn’t go back to the road.
When he left his truck, he saw the defendant driving the other defendant’s truck toward the plaintiff. The defendant hit the brakes on the Ford truck, which started skidding in the plaintiff’s direction. While the Ford was coming to a stop, the defendant opened the door to try to get out of it. The Ford hit the plaintiff. The defendant hit both his Chevy Silverado and the plaintiff’s Chevy with a metal bar, damaging both of the trucks.
The defendant took some objects out of the Chevy Silverado. Meanwhile, the other defendant stayed in the truck. The plaintiff and his wife left in his truck with the Chevy Silverado. The plaintiff sued the defendants for personal injury, negligence, and punitive damages. He made an uninsured or underinsured coverage claim against Mid-Continent.
In 2017, Mid-Continent moved for summary judgment, arguing that since the defendants didn’t have an insurance policy to provide liability coverage, and Mid-Continent had an insurance policy that covered the plaintiff’s vehicle at the time of the incident, the plaintiff’s claims were entirely uninsured motorist claims covered by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-279.21(b)(3). The statute of limitations required uninsured motorist insurance carriers to be served within three years of the date of injury. In this case, the auto accident happened in 2006, but Mid-Continent wasn’t served with the summons and complaint until six weeks after the expiration of the statute of limitations. The lower court entered an order granting the insurer’s motion for summary judgment.
The plaintiff appealed. He argued he wasn’t required to serve the uninsured motorist insurer within three years of the injury date to be within the statute of limitations time period, that a civil summons didn’t need to be issued against the uninsured motorist carrier, and that he’d timely served the insurer.
The appellate court disagreed. It explained that under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-279.21(b)(3)(a), for the uninsured motorist carrier to be bound, the insurer needed to be served with the summons, complaint, or other process in the action against the uninsured motorist. After proper service, it would become a party to the litigation, even though it was not named, and could defend in its own name or that of the uninsured motorist. The statute didn’t specify the time limits, but case law did.
In this case, the statute of limitations was three years and expired in February 2009. Mid-Continent wasn’t served until March 2009, outside the appropriate window. The appellate court affirmed summary judgment for the insurer.
If you have been harmed due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another party, the experienced Charlotte car accident attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. We represent clients in the Charlotte, NC metro area and also Greensboro, NC and Winston-Salem, NC. Contact us at 888-258-1087 or via our online form.
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