Snyder v. Learning Services Corp., No. COA07-98.

Docket NºNo. COA07-98.
Citation653 S.E.2d 548
Case DateDecember 04, 2007
CourtCourt of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
653 S.E.2d 548
David N. SNYDER, Administrator of the Estate of Timothy C. Snyder, Plaintiff
v.
LEARNING SERVICES CORPORATION, and E.J. Harrill, Defendants.
No. COA07-98.
Court of Appeals of North Carolina.
December 4, 2007.

[653 S.E.2d 549]

Appeal by defendants from order entered 2 October 2006 by Judge J.B. Allen, Jr. in Superior Court, Wake County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 11 September 2007.

Kirby & Holt, L.L.P., by David F. Kirby, Laurie G. Armstrong, and William B. Bystrynski, Raleigh, for plaintiff-appellee.

Cranfill, Sumner, & Hartzog, L.L.P., by H. Lee Evans, Jr., Jaye E. Bingham, and Katherine Hilkey-Boyatt, Raleigh, for defendants-appellants.

WYNN, Judge.


In general, statutory immunity is "available to [a defendant] if he satisfies all of the [statutory] requirements."1 Here, the defendants claim qualified immunity under North Carolina General Statutes § 122C-210.1, which is available for one "who follows accepted professional judgment, practice, and standards."2 Because we find that a question of fact remains as to whether the defendants followed accepted professional judgment, practices, and standards, we conclude that they are not entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law.

Sometime after dark on 31 January 2004, Timothy Snyder wandered away from Defendant Learning Services Corporation's rehabilitation center in Durham County. He was found dead of hypothermia a few blocks away on 5 February 2004.

Thereafter, Plaintiff David Snyder, Timothy Snyder's brother, brought a wrongful death action against Learning Services and E.J. Harrill, its former co-Chief Operating Officer at its Durham location, on 31 May 2005. In his complaint, Mr. Snyder alleged negligence, gross negligence, willful and wanton conduct supporting punitive damages, premises liability, and corporate negligence. Ms. Harrill was named only in the negligence claim.

On 1 August 2005, Learning Services and Ms. Harrill filed their answer and a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Learning Services claimed it was entitled to immunity from Mr. Snyder's claim under North Carolina General Statutes § 122C-210.1; however, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss on 4 April 2006. Defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment on 8 September 2006, again arguing that they were

653 S.E.2d 550

entitled to immunity under Section 122C-210.1 because Mr. Snyder had failed to allege conduct rising to the level of grossly negligent, willful, or wanton. Defendants further argued that Mr. Snyder's claim for punitive damages should fail because he had not offered evidence that the Learning Services employees, officers, directors, or managers had participated in or condoned willful or wanton conduct, as required by North Carolina General Statutes § 1D-15(a).

The trial court denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment and partial summary judgment on 2 October 2006. Defendants appeal to this Court, acknowledging that they are appealing an interlocutory order and arguing that the trial court erred as a matter of law in finding that Mr. Snyder has shown facts sufficient to overcome the immunity that would otherwise be afforded to Learning Services under Section 122C-210.1.

At the outset, this Court must address the issue of whether this appeal may be heard, as Defendants are appealing an interlocutory order denying summary judgment and partial summary judgment. Denial of 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." Veazey v. City of Durham, 231 N.C. 357, 361-62, 57 S.E.2d 377, 381, reh'g denied, 232 N.C. 744, 59 S.E.2d 429 (1950). Nevertheless, Defendants contend that the trial court's order affected a substantial right, and thus, under N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 1-277 and 7A-27(d), this Court has jurisdiction to consider the interlocutory appeal.

A "substantial right" is one "affecting or involving a matter of substance as distinguished from matters of form: a right materially affecting those interests which a [person] is entitled to have preserved and protected by law: a material right." Oestreicher v. American Nat'l Stores, Inc., 290 N.C. 118, 130, 225 S.E.2d 797, 805 (1976). Defendants rely upon a prior holding of this Court that "[t]he denial of a motion for summary judgment based on the defense of qualified immunity does affect a substantial right and is immediately appealable." Gregory v. Kilbride, 150 N.C.App. 601, 615, 565 S.E.2d 685, 695 (2002), disc. review denied, 357 N.C. 164, 580 S.E.2d 365 (2003).

The Gregory panel cited to Rousselo v. Starling, 128 N.C.App. 439, 495 S.E.2d 725, appeal dismissed and review denied, 348 N.C. 74, 505 S.E.2d 876 (1998), for that proposition. However, Rousselo involved a substantial right being implicated with respect to qualified immunity in the narrow context of a section 1983 case, not any instance in which qualified immunity has been implicated as an affirmative defense. See id. at 443, 495 S.E.2d at 728 ("[W]hen a motion for summary judgment based on immunity defenses to a section 1983 claim is denied, such an interlocutory order is immediately appealable before final judgment.") (quoting Corum v. Univ. of North Carolina, 330 N.C. 761, 413 S.E.2d 276 (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985)), reh'g denied, 331 N.C. 558, 418 S.E.2d 664, cert. denied, 506 U.S. 985, 113 S.Ct. 493, 121 L.Ed.2d 431 (1992)).

We note too that the statement in Gregory was dicta and therefore not binding on other panels of this Court. When stating that "[t]he denial of a motion for summary judgment based on the defense of qualified immunity does affect a substantial right...

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  • Butterfield v. Haylee Gray, RN, S. Health Partners, Inc., COA20-218
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • October 5, 2021
    ...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......
  • Butterfield v. Gray, COA20-218
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • October 5, 2021
    ...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 imm......
  • Vaden v. Dombrowski, No. COA07-51.
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • December 4, 2007
    ...order ex mero moto only when requested by a party and as provided by Rule 41(b)." N.C. Gen.Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 52 (2003) (emphasis added). 653 S.E.2d 548 Pursuant to Rule 52 the trial court did not err in failing to make findings of fact where they were not requested by a party. See id. The ......
  • Boryla-Lett v. Psychiatric Solutions of Nc, No. COA08-1357.
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • November 3, 2009
    ...& Human Servs., 179 N.C.App. 483, 487-88, 634 S.E.2d 572, 576 (2006); see generally Snyder v. Learning Servs. Corp., 187 N.C.App. 480, 653 S.E.2d 548 (2007). We hold that the qualified immunity afforded by North Carolina General Statutes, section 122C-210.1 applies to all defendants sub jud......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Butterfield v. Haylee Gray, RN, S. Health Partners, Inc., COA20-218
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • October 5, 2021
    ...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......
  • Butterfield v. Gray, COA20-218
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • October 5, 2021
    ...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 imm......
  • Vaden v. Dombrowski, No. COA07-51.
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • December 4, 2007
    ...order ex mero moto only when requested by a party and as provided by Rule 41(b)." N.C. Gen.Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 52 (2003) (emphasis added). 653 S.E.2d 548 Pursuant to Rule 52 the trial court did not err in failing to make findings of fact where they were not requested by a party. See id. The ......
  • Boryla-Lett v. Psychiatric Solutions of Nc, No. COA08-1357.
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • November 3, 2009
    ...& Human Servs., 179 N.C.App. 483, 487-88, 634 S.E.2d 572, 576 (2006); see generally Snyder v. Learning Servs. Corp., 187 N.C.App. 480, 653 S.E.2d 548 (2007). We hold that the qualified immunity afforded by North Carolina General Statutes, section 122C-210.1 applies to all defendants sub jud......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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