DEREK B. BAKER; BAKER & JAMES, INC.; and B & J - TINGEN PLACE, LLC
JAMES H. TUCKER, JR
Heard in the Court of Appeals September 5, 2014.
Heard in the Court of Appeals 25 September 2014.
As Corrected February 24, 2015.
This Decision is not final until expiration of the twenty-one day rehearing period. [North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure 32(b)]
Bain Buzzard & McRae, LLP, by Edgar R. Bain, for plaintiffs-appellees.
Harrington, Gilleland, Winstead, Feindel & Lucas, LLP, by Eddie S. Winstead III, for defendant-appellant.
GEER, Judge. Chief Judge McGEE and Judge STROUD concur.
Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 26 November 2013 by Judge Douglas B. Sasser in Lee County Superior Court
No. 12 CVS 360.
Defendant James H. Tucker, Jr. appeals from an amended judgment entered pursuant to the motion of plaintiffs Derek B. Baker, Baker & James, Inc. (" the Corporation" ), and B & J - Tingen Place, LLC (" the LLC" ) to amend a judgment ordering the judicial dissolution of the Corporation and the LLC of which plaintiff Baker and defendant were the sole owners. Plaintiffs' motion to amend alleged that the trial court failed to account for the Corporation's outstanding liabilities -- in particular, a debt owed to plaintiff Baker -- in calculating the companies' net worth and distributing funds following dissolution. The trial court agreed and amended the judgment to correct the calculation error. On appeal, defendant primarily argues that the trial court erred in amending the judgment because plaintiffs' motion did not set forth any of the grounds listed in Rule 59(a) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, as required for a valid motion to amend pursuant to Rule 59(e). N.C.R. Civ. P. 59(e). We disagree.
This Court has adopted a liberal interpretation of the grounds listed in Rule 59(a) when applied to Rule 59(e) motions to amend an order entered without a jury trial and has recognized that Rule 59(a) " provides ample basis for a party to seek relief on the basis that the trial court misapprehended the relevant facts or on the basis that the trial court misapprehended or misapplied the applicable law." Batlle v. Sabates, 198 N.C.App. 407, 416, 681 S.E.2d 788, 795 (2009). Here, plaintiffs' motion alleges that the trial court failed to adequately account for certain facts and, as a result, misapplied the law by failing to order a distribution of the Corporation and the LLC's assets in accordance with the parties' interests. The grounds set forth in plaintiffs' motion to amend have been held to be valid pursuant to Rules 59(a)(7), (8), and (9). Accordingly, we hold that plaintiffs' motion constituted a valid motion to amend the judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) and affirm the amended judgment.
On 29 March 2012, plaintiffs filed a complaint against defendant alleging that plaintiff Baker and defendant had formed various business entities together, including the Corporation and the LLC, that developed and built residential properties, some of which defendant had sold and wrongfully appropriated the proceeds to himself. Plaintiffs brought claims for damages for the misappropriated funds, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and judicial termination of the Corporation and the LLC.
On 4 June 2012, defendant answered plaintiffs' complaint, moving to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, denying many of the allegations regarding his wrongdoing, and counterclaiming against plaintiff Baker for breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment. On 24 May 2013, following a bench trial, the trial court entered a judgment in which it judicially dissolved the Corporation and the LLC, ordered that all funds held by the Corporation and the LLC be disbursed to plaintiff Baker, and taxed the costs of the action against defendant. On 4 June 2013, pursuant to Rules 59 and 60 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiffs filed a " MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND JUDGMENT AND MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT," alleging as follows:
1. The Court has erred in its judgment in not providing for the payment of the outstanding liabilities of the companies.
(a) The decretal portion of the judgment does not correspond with the Court's findings of fact. In paragraph 9) C) of the Court's findings of fact, the parties stipulated that Derek Baker paid money to ...