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Evans v. Family Inns of America

December 29, 2000

BETTY EVANS, PLAINTIFF, V.
FAMILY INNS OF AMERICA, INC., FAMILY INNS OF AMERICA FRANCHISING, INC., INNCO MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, ROWLAND ASSOCIATES, LTD. A LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, BILL THOMAS, KENNETH SEATON, WAYNE DAVIS, AND GERALD WILLIAMSON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lewis, Judge.

Appeal by plaintiff from order entered 28 May 1999 and order entered 22 July 1999 by Judge Robert F. Floyd, Jr. in Robeson County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 28 August 2000.

At approximately 2 a.m. on 17 August 1994, plaintiff Betty Evans was a victim of an armed robbery while staying at the Family Inn motel in Rowland, North Carolina ("Family Inn"). More than one gunmen entered plaintiff's room, where she was staying with Willie Izzard, and ordered her to cover her head with the sheets. The assailants left with plaintiff's purse, her Bible, cash that she had placed in the Bible, her grandchildren's pictures, change, a watch, a camera and the keys to her rental car; however, they never took anything from the car. Plaintiff was not physically injured as a result of the robbery. After the incident, plaintiff reported the robbery, but had no specific conversation with the desk clerk about the events of the robbery. The Family Inn offered plaintiff and Mr. Izzard another room for the night, which they accepted, and left the next day.

On 16 March 1998, plaintiff brought suit against numerous defendants variously associated with the Family Inn, asserting claims of (1) negligence, (2) negligent infliction of emotional distress, (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress and (4) unfair trade practices, requesting compensatory, punitive and treble damages.

On 18 March 1999, defendants (1) Family Inns of America Franchising, Inc., (2) Rowland Associates, Ltd., (3) Kenneth Seaton, and (4) Gerald Williamson ("first set of defendants"), moved for summary judgment on all claims. The trial court granted summary judgment on all claims in favor of this first set of defendants. In addition, defendants (5) Family Inns of America, Inc., (6) Innco Management Corporation, (7) Bill Thomas and (8) Wayne Davis ("second set of defendants") moved for partial summary judgment dismissing all of plaintiff's claims except for the sole claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress. Although the parties do not address it on appeal, in its order allowing partial summary judgment, the trial court mistakenly stated that the second set of defendants did not seek dismissal of plaintiff's claims of negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Ultimately, the trial court granted partial summary judgment on the claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, punitive damages, and unfair trade practices in favor of the second set of defendants. This leaves pending plaintiff's claims for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress only against the second set of defendants. Plaintiff appeals from the summary judgment order and from the trial court's order ruling on certain of both parties' motions in limine.

As previously noted, the trial court granted summary judgment as to the claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and unfair trade practices as to all defendants. We begin by addressing plaintiff's contention that the evidence creates a triable issue as to these claims. In making this contention, plaintiff incorporates the arguments regarding these claims from a companion case also filed this day, Connelly v. Family Inns, Inc., COA No. 99-1241 (N.C. Ct. App. Dec. 29, 2000). However in Connelly, we concluded plaintiffs ultimately abandoned their argument as to these claims on appeal. Accordingly, we ...


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