Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court ordered that Respondent Michael A. Stone, a judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division 16A, be censured for conduct in violation of Canons 1, 2A, and 2B of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of N.C. Gen. Laws 7A-376, holding that the Judicial Standards Commission's findings were adequately supported by clear and convincing evidence and supported the Commission's conclusions of law. The Commission filed a statement of charges against Respondent alleging that he had engaged in conduct inappropriate to his judicial office by, among other things, demonstrating a lack of respect for the office and by making a number of misleading and grossly negligent assertions regarding his representation of a former client. Based on its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Commission recommended that the Supreme Court censure Respondent. After weighing the severity of Respondent's misconduct against his candor and cooperation, the Supreme Court concluded that the Commission's recommended censure was appropriate. View "In re Stone" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that summary judgment was improper in this case alleging fraudulent concealment and professional negligence. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants failed properly to prepare and file her delinquent tax returns for tax years 2006 through 2009 and intentionally deceived her about the status of the returns. The trial court allowed Defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment regarding Plaintiff’s fraudulent concealment claim, the corresponding claim for punitive damages, and Defendants’ statute of repose defense for professional negligence for tax years 2006 and 2007. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision regarding the statute of repose and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s fraudulent concealment claim and Plaintiff’s related claim for punitive damages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding the fraudulent concealment claim and the accompanying punitive damages claim, as well as the triggering event for the running of the statute of repose. View "Head v. Gould Killian CPA Group, P.A." on Justia Law

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CommScope Credit Union (Plaintiff), a state-chartered credit union, hired Butler & Burke, LLP (Defendant), a certified public accounting firm, to conduct annual independent audits of its financial statements. Plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging breach of contract, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and professional malpractice. Defendant pleaded seven affirmative defenses, including contributory negligence and in pari delicto. The trial court subsequently granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) the specific allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint were sufficient to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, and (2) Defendant’s affirmative defenses would not entitle Defendant to dismissal at this stage. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) Plaintiff’s allegations did not establish that Defendant owed it a fiduciary duty in fact, and therefore, the trial court correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim; and (2) the members of the Court are equally divided on whether the facts alleged in the complaint established the defenses of contributory negligence and in pari delicto, and therefore, the court of appeals’ decision on this issue is left undisturbed. View "CommScope Credit Union v. Butler & Burke, LLP" on Justia Law

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The suit arose from Plaintiff's visit to the dentist for a routine tooth extraction, which Plaintiff alleged resulted in a broken jaw. The trial court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment for Plaintiff's failure to comply with N.C. R. Civ. P. 9(j) in proffering her only expert witness. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the expert witness could have been reasonably expected to qualify under N.C. R. Evid. 702 as required by Rule 9(j). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's proffered expert witness could have been "reasonably expected to qualify as an expert witness" under Rule 702, and therefore, Plaintiff satisfied the preliminary requirements of Rule 9(j). Remanded. View "Moore v. Proper" on Justia Law