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Angel v. Ward

Filed: October 16, 1979.

HATTIE ANGEL
v.
ROBERT L. WARD, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A PARTNER, AND STRAND, SKEES, JONES & COMPANY, A GENERAL PARTNERSHIP ORGANIZED UNDER THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA



Appeal by plaintiff from McConnell, Judge. Judgment entered 28 April 1978 in Superior Court, Forsyth County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 24 August 1979.

Erwin, Judge. Judges Clark and Wells concur.

Erwin

Appellant contends that appellees failed to plead the affirmative defenses of privilege and thereby lose the right to claim such affirmative defenses. We disagree.

In Count II of their answer, defendants alleged:

"Any statements or publications of any materials made by the defendants, or any of them, with respect to the plaintiff were made on a confidential basis, were made in good faith, were made in connection with a quasi-judicial proceeding, and were pertinent and relevant thereto. . . . and the defendants plead absolute privilege in bar of the plaintiff's right to recover in this action.

Even if any such statements or publications of the defendants, or any of them, were not absolutely privileged, which is denied, then such statements were qualifiedly privileged and justified, being made concerning a public official in connection with her official capacity and being made in good faith on a matter in which the defendants had an interest, and the defendants plead qualified privilege in bar of the plaintiff's right to recover in this action."

All that G.S. 1A-1, Rule 8(c), of the Rules of Civil Procedure requires is that the pleading of an affirmative defense contain "a short and plain statement of any matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense sufficiently particular to give the court and the parties notice of the transactions, occurrences, or series of transactions or occurrences intended to be proved." G.S. 1A-1, Rule 8(c), of the Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff was made well aware of the essence of defendants' answer. If not, their remedy was to move for a more definite statement of facts. See Redevelopment Comm. v. Grimes, 277 N.C. 634, 178 S.E.2d 345 (1971). We hold that the appellees have properly alleged the affirmative defenses of absolute and qualified privilege.

In his letter, defendant Ward alleged:

"Mr. Bill Allen

Internal Revenue Service

Greensboro, N.C.

Dear Bill:

It is not my usual manner to make a formal presentation of the inadequacies of a person's work. . . .

Ms. Angel has examined the tax returns of several of our clients in Greensboro and in Reidsville. Our Reidsville manager complained of the manner in which she conducted her examination. He expressed concern for the harrassment [sic] of the client whose tax return was under review. Another partner in our Greensboro office expressed similar concern with respect to his client's treatment at the hands of Ms. Angel. She may not have intended to harrass [sic] the client, but the vindictive way the questions were expressed certainly caused adverse reactions on the part of these ...


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