Affinity brought a declaratory judgment claim, a breach of contract claim, a breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing claim, and an unfair and deceptive trade practices claim against its insurer Starstone. The district court granted summary judgment on the pleadings as to the declaratory judgment and breach of contract claims but not as to the extracontractual claims. Affinity then entered into a stipulated dismissal without prejudice of the extracontractual claims saying the claims could not be revived through amendment based on the court’s summary judgment ruling so the entire action had been finally resolved on the merits. Affinity then appealed the district court’s summary judgment order.
Affinity Living Grp., LLC v. Starstone Specialty Ins. Co.: The Fourth Circuit Demarcates When Voluntary Dismissal of Some Claims Allows Appellate Jurisdiction
Vaitovas v. City of Greenville (No. COA19-732): The State is Always Interested
This procedural opinion from the Court of Appeals offers a reminder of how to ensure an appeal proceeds without unnecessary delay or additional cost. Unfortunately for the parties, this object lesson comes at the expense of an appeal dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and further proceedings at the trial level before the Court of Appeals will reach the merits of what is likely to be an appeal in a very similar posture.
Ward v. AutoZoners, LLC: Fourth Circuit Rejects Punitive Damages in Hostile Work Environment Title VII Case
A jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff on a hostile work environment claim under Title VII and an intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) claim under North Carolina law. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the verdict but reversed as to punitive damages, holding that there was insufficient evidence to warrant them. The upshot is that punitive damages for Title VII claims are only available when a manager participates personally in the harassment, though the extent of the required participation remains undefined. This case is also a reminder that it is a good idea to periodically review sexual harassment policies and conduct regular workplace trainings so those policies are actually carried out.
DTH Media Corp. v. Folt: No More Implied Conflict Preemption in North Carolina?
This case will draw much media attention as it requires the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (“UNC”) to release records of students who were found to have violated the university’s sexual assault policy. This post will not discuss any of those real-world effects; instead, it will describe both the majority’s and the dissent’s approach to preemption analysis and how the majority’s narrow approach to federal preemption may bear on future cases. This opinion accords with the trend at the United States Supreme Court to significantly narrow the doctrine of conflict preemption—after Folt, application of conflict preemption in North Carolina state court requires that it be impossible to simultaneously comply with both state and federal law.
PHG Asheville, LLC v. City of Asheville: North Carolina Supreme Court Clarifies Standards of Review for Different Aspects of Reviewing a Local Ordinance Decision
PHG Asheville, LLC (“PHG”) applied for a conditional use permit to construct a hotel in Asheville in July 2016. After hearing evidence at a public hearing, the city council denied the application. In its denial, the city council made forty-four findings of fact and concluded that the application failed to satisfy six of the seven criteria set out in the city’s development ordinance. When PHG sought judicial review, both the trial court and the Court of Appeals held that the city had applied the incorrect legal framework and the permit should issue. With slight modification, the Supreme Court affirmed. Given the prevalence of conditional use zoning in towns and cities in North Carolina, this ruling will bolster real estate development across the state.