in the Court of Appeals 24 January 2017.
by defendant from order entered 11 April 2016 by Judge David
L. Hall in Forsyth County No. 14 CVS 3654 Superior Court.
Law Group, PLLC, by Matthew L. Spencer and Steven D. Smith
Bennett and Guthrie, P.L.L.C. by Joshua H. Bennett, for
HUNTER, JR., Robert N., Judge.
Zhou ("Defendant") appeals the 11 April 2016 order
by Judge David L. Hall in Forsyth County Superior Court
holding him in contempt of court and ordering him to pay Sen
Li's ("Plaintiff") attorney's fees and
costs related to his missed depositions and subsequent
failure to comply with a court order. After review, we affirm
the trial court's order.
Facts and Background
June 2014, Plaintiff filed a verified complaint alleging
civil conspiracy, actual fraud, constructive fraud, and
unjust enrichment against Defendant and Ping Chung
("Chung"). Li sought to recover formerly foreclosed
investment property in Greensboro, North Carolina, along with
actual and punitive damages. Plaintiff and Defendant
purchased the property in 2003 and gave a promissory note and
deed of trust to the sellers. Defendant allegedly convinced
the sellers to assign the note and deed of trust to Chung
without notifying Plaintiff. Plaintiff claimed this caused
her to send monthly payments to the wrong party, resulting in
default on the note and then foreclosure.
timely filed an answer denying all allegations. Defendant,
however, failed to timely respond. Plaintiff moved for entry
of default against Defendant on 20 August 2014, and the clerk
filed an entry of default. Thereafter, on 15 April 2015,
Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her claims against Chung.
establish evidence of her damages, Plaintiff noticed
Defendant's deposition for 13 May 2015. In addition,
Plaintiff subpoenaed Defendant for this deposition, with
notice given by personal service on Defendant by the county
sheriff. On 13 May 2015, Defendant appeared at the
deposition. At that time, Plaintiff's counsel agreed to
continue the deposition until 29 May 2015 in order to hire a
May 2015, Plaintiff noticed Defendant's deposition for 29
May 2015. Plaintiff subpoenaed Defendant for this deposition
by personal service on Defendant. Defendant failed to appear.
June 2015, Plaintiff filed a verified motion to show cause
why Defendant should not be held in contempt for failure to
appear at the 29 May 2015 deposition. The motion was
scheduled for 10 August 2015. Defendant did not appear for
the hearing, and was subsequently held in civil contempt for
"failing to appear and fully testify" at the 13 May
and 29 May 2015 depositions. In an order filed 11 August
2015, the court ordered Defendant to be deposed on 26 August
2015 and obtain and pay the cost of an interpreter. Finally,
pursuant to Rule 37(d) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil
Procedure, the court ordered Defendant to pay Plaintiff's
attorney's fees of $3, 176.00 and costs of $379.00
incurred in scheduling, preparing, and appearing at the two
depositions. When Defendant failed to comply, Plaintiff filed
a second verified motion to show cause. A show cause hearing
was scheduled for the week beginning 30 November 2015.
appeared at the 30 November 2015 calendar call and indicated
he did not understand English. When the judge scheduled a
hearing to be held on 1 December 2015, Defendant indicated in
English that he understood. At the 1 December hearing,
Defendant appeared but "refused to answer questions
posed by the Court."
on 2 December 2015, the court found Defendant willfully
failed to comply with the court orders and could have taken
"reasonable measures that would enable him to
comply" with these orders. The court found Defendant
understood English and was able to understand the
proceedings. Further, Defendant "failed to show the
Court any reason as to why he should not be held in contempt
of Court." The trial court concluded Defendant was in
civil contempt of Court and ordered him to ...