Butterfield v. Haylee Gray, RN, S. Health Partners, Inc., COA20-218

Docket NºNo. COA20-218
Citation866 S.E.2d 296, 279 N.C.App. 549
Case DateOctober 05, 2021
CourtCourt of Appeal of North Carolina (US)

279 N.C.App. 549
866 S.E.2d 296

Connie BUTTERFIELD and Tracie Caveness as Co-Administrators of the Estate of Todd L. Caveness, Plaintiffs,
v.
Haylee GRAY, RN, Southern Health Partners, Inc., Vickie Shaw, R.T. Adcock, Sheriff Calvin Woodard, Jr., Wilson County, and Hartford Fire Insurance Company, Defendants.

No. COA20-218

Court of Appeals of North Carolina.

Filed October 5, 2021


Abrams and Abrams, P.A., Raleigh, by Douglas B. Abrams and Noah B. Abrams, and Henson & Fuerst, Raleigh, by Rachel A. Fuerst, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Womble Bond Dickinson (US), LLP, Winston-Salem, by Bradley O. Wood, for Defendants-Appellants Vickie Shaw, R.T. Adcock, Sheriff Calvin Woodard, Jr., and Wilson County.

Crumley Roberts, LLP, Greensboro, by Karonnie R. Truzy, for Amicus Curiae, North Carolina Advocates for Justice.

COLLINS, Judge.

279 N.C.App. 549

¶ 1 This appeal arises from the death of Todd Caveness while in the custody of the Wilson County Detention Center. Following Caveness’

279 N.C.App. 550

death, Connie Butterfield and Tracie Caveness, as the co-administrators of his estate ("Plaintiffs"), sued Vickie Shaw and R.T. Adcock, in their individual capacities and in their official capacities as Wilson County Sheriff's Detention Officers; Calvin Woodard, Jr., in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Wilson County; and Wilson County (collectively "Defendants"). Plaintiffs also brought claims against Southern Health Partners ("SHP"), the contractor providing medical care at the Detention Center; Haylee Gray, a nurse employed by SHP; and the Hartford Fire Insurance Company, the surety on Sheriff Woodard's statutory bond purchased pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 162-8.1

¶ 2 Defendants appeal from an order denying their motions for summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ official capacity claims against Shaw, Adcock, and Sheriff Woodard, and

866 S.E.2d 299

Plaintiffs’ claims against Wilson County.2 Shaw, Adcock, and Sheriff Woodard each argue that governmental immunity bars Plaintiffs’ official capacity claims against them to the extent that Plaintiffs seek to recover in excess of the amount of Sheriff Woodard's official bond. The County also argues that governmental immunity bars Plaintiffs’ claims against it and that it cannot be held liable for the actions of its co-defendants. Together, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs may not assert a direct claim under the North Carolina Constitution, because Plaintiffs have an adequate remedy at law that is not barred by governmental immunity. We dismiss Defendants’ argument regarding Plaintiffs’ direct constitutional claim and the County's argument concerning its liability for the acts of its co-defendants because Defendants have not shown a basis for immediate appellate review of these issues. Because Defendants are entitled to the defense of governmental immunity, we reverse the order denying Defendants’ motions for summary judgment on the remaining issues.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

¶ 3 Todd Caveness was arrested and confined in the Wilson County Detention Center ("Detention Center") on 10 January 2016. Caveness entered the Detention Center with documented schizophrenia and anxiety diagnoses. While confined in the Detention Center, Caveness refused food and water, expressing his belief that it had been tampered with. By 2 February 2016, Caveness was weak and had lost approximately 30 pounds since entering the Detention Center. The next day, 3 February

279 N.C.App. 551

2016, Caveness was taken from the Detention Center to the hospital, where he died on the morning of 5 February 2016. An autopsy found that he died of a bilateral pulmonary thromboembolism resulting from dehydration and malnutrition.

¶ 4 Plaintiffs instituted this suit on 7 November 2017. Plaintiffs asserted six claims for relief: (1) "negligent and wanton conduct" by Haylee Gray; (2) "vicarious liability and negligent and wanton conduct" by SHP; (3) "negligent and wanton conduct" by Adcock and Shaw; (4) "relief against Sheriff Calvin Woodard, Jr. in his individual and in his official capacity and action on bond against Hartford Fire and Insurance Company"; (5) "violation of [Caveness’] constitutional rights"; and (6) "liability of Wilson County." Plaintiffs’ claim for relief against Sheriff Woodard was premised on three causes of action: wrongful death under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-18-12, an action against the sheriff's bond under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 58-76-5, and treble damages for injury to a prisoner by a jailer under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 162-55. Plaintiffs also pled that Defendants had waived any applicable immunity.

¶ 5 Defendants answered and raised multiple defenses, including that governmental immunity barred Plaintiffs’ claims. Defendants moved for summary judgment. Adcock, Shaw, and Sheriff Woodard each argued that governmental immunity barred the claims brought against them in their official capacities to the extent that Plaintiffs sought to recover in excess of the amount of Sheriff Woodard's official bond. Wilson County argued that governmental immunity barred Plaintiffs’ claim against it, and that it could not be held liable for the acts of the other defendants as a matter of law. Defendants collectively argued that the availability of adequate remedies at law foreclosed Plaintiffs’ direct claim under the North Carolina Constitution. Following briefing and argument of counsel, the trial court denied the motions for summary judgment. Defendants timely gave written notice of appeal.

II. Appellate Jurisdiction

¶ 6 The trial court's order denying Defendants’ motions for summary judgment is interlocutory "because it is not a judgment that ‘disposes of the cause as to all the parties, leaving nothing to be judicially determined between them in the trial court.’ " Snyder v. Learning Servs. Corp. , 187 N.C. App. 480, 482, 653 S.E.2d 548, 550 (2007) (quoting Veazey v. City of Durham, 231 N.C. 357, 361-62, 57 S.E.2d 377, 381 (1950) ). Parties are generally not entitled to an immediate

866 S.E.2d 300

appeal of an interlocutory order. Goldston v. Am. Motors Corp. , 326 N.C. 723, 725, 392 S.E.2d 735, 736 (1990).

279 N.C.App. 552

¶ 7 Immediate appeal of an interlocutory order is permitted, however, where the order affects a substantial right. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-277(a) (2019). "To confer appellate jurisdiction based on a substantial right, ‘the appellant must include in its opening brief, in the statement of the grounds for appellate review, sufficient facts and argument to support appellate review on the ground that the challenged order affects a substantial right.’ " Doe v. City of Charlotte , 273 N.C. App. 10, 21, 848 S.E.2d 1, 9 (2020) (quoting Denney v. Wardson Constr., Inc. , 264 N.C. App. 15, 17, 824 S.E.2d 436, 438 (2019) ); see also N.C. R. App. P. 28(b)(4). The appellant has the burden of showing that the order appealed from affects a substantial right. Coates v. Durham Cnty. , 266 N.C. App. 271, 273, 831 S.E.2d 392, 394 (2019).

¶ 8 Defendants assert as the sole ground for appellate review that "the denial of a motion for summary judgment grounded on the defense of governmental immunity affects a substantial right and therefore is immediately appealable." "[I]t is well-established that the denial of a motion for summary judgment grounded on governmental immunity affects a substantial right and is immediately appealable[.]" Lucas v. Swain Cnty. Bd. of Educ. , 154 N.C. App. 357, 360, 573 S.E.2d 538, 540 (2002) (citation omitted). We will therefore review the trial court's denial of Defendants’ motions for summary judgment to the extent the denial concerns the defense of governmental immunity.

¶ 9 Defendants have failed, however, to meet their burden of showing that the denial of summary judgment as to Plaintiffs’ direct constitutional claim is immediately appealable. Defendants fail to address the direct constitutional claim in their statement of grounds for appellate review. In the body of their brief, Defendants argue only that adequate remedies at law foreclose Plaintiffs’ constitutional claim; they do not argue that the constitutional claim is barred by immunity. Accordingly, we lack jurisdiction to address Defendants’ appeal of the trial court's denial of summary judgment as to the direct constitutional claim and we dismiss Defendant's appeal of this issue.

¶ 10 Similarly, Wilson County has failed to meet its burden of showing that the denial of summary judgment based on its argument that it could not be held liable for the acts of the other defendants as a matter of law is immediately appealable. Wilson County fails to address this argument as a basis for immediate review in its statement of grounds for appellate review. In the body of its brief, Wilson County advances no argument for immediate review on this basis. Accordingly, we lack jurisdiction to address Wilson County's appeal of the trial court's denial of summary judgment based on this theory and we dismiss Wilson's County's appeal of this issue.

...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT