Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Murray v. Moody

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

March 7, 2017

ROBERT MURRAY, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH CLIFTON MOODY, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 29 November 2016.

         Appeal by defendant from order entered 31 March 2016 by Judge Reuben F. Young in Wilson County, No. 13 CVS 1154 Superior Court.

          Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP, by Scott H. Dunnagan, for unnamed workers' compensation defendants-appellees.

          Law Office of Robert E. Ruegger, by Robert E. Ruegger, for defendant-appellant.

          ZACHARY, Judge.

         Pursuant to the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act, an employer and its workers' compensation carrier are entitled to a lien on an injured employee's recovery in an action against a third-party tortfeasor. This lien extends to all benefits paid to an employee for injuries caused by the third party.

         In this case, plaintiff Robert Murray was injured in an automobile accident in the course of his employment with unnamed defendant Evans MacTavish Agricraft, Inc. (Evans). Defendant Joseph Moody caused the accident. Evans and its workers' compensation carrier, unnamed defendant Cincinnati Insurance Company (collectively with Evans, unnamed defendants) paid medical and indemnity benefits to Murray, who later brought a personal injury action against Moody. The action was tried to a jury, which heard evidence concerning Murray's injuries and the amount of workers' compensation benefits that he received. The jury returned a verdict against Moody and awarded Murray money damages.

         The trial judge entered a final judgment in favor of Murray that, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-10.2(e), reduced the damage award by the amount of workers' compensation benefits he received from unnamed defendants. Four days later, the trial judge entered an amended judgment that did not reduce the damage award but instead specifically granted judgment in favor of Evans for the exact amount of workers' compensation benefits that were paid to Murray, and that granted judgment in favor of Murray for the balance of the damage award.

         Roughly a year later, Moody filed a motion in Wilson County Superior Court pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-10.2(j), which allows a superior court judge, in his or her discretion, to determine the amount of an employer's lien after an injured employee has obtained a judgment against or settled a claim with a third party. The superior court entered an order denying Moody's motion, holding that the amount of unnamed defendants' lien had been determined by the prior court's amended judgment, and that the same was res judicata and could not be relitigated. As a result, the superior court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to determine unnamed defendants' lien pursuant to subsection 97-10.2(j).

         Moody now appeals the superior court's order, and he argues that the court had jurisdiction to set the amount of the lien. For the reasons that follow, we agree. Accordingly, we reverse the superior court's order denying Moody's motion and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         On 3 August 2010, Murray was driving on Highway 86 near Hillsborough, North Carolina, when his truck, a company vehicle owned by Evans, was struck in the rear by a car being driven by Moody. The rear impact caused Murray's truck to strike another vehicle, and Murray sustained a compensable neck injury in the accident. Murray's neck injury required extensive medical treatment, including physical and medication therapy.

         Unnamed defendants accepted Murray's workers' compensation claim and paid a total of $7, 432.13 in benefits (comprised of $5, 247.23 in medical benefits and $2, 184.90 in indemnity payments). On 2 August 2013, Murray filed a personal injury action against Moody in Wilson County Superior Court. The complaint alleged that Moody negligently caused the August 2010 car accident and sought damages for Murray's pain and suffering, medical expenses, and permanent injury. The case proceeded to trial in March 2015, the Honorable Robert H. Hobgood presiding.

          At trial, the jury heard evidence of the medical and indemnity payments that Evans made to Murray due to the compensable injury he sustained in the August 2010 automobile accident. This evidence established that Murray had received a total of $7, 432.13 in workers' compensation benefits. The jury returned a verdict finding Moody to be negligent and awarding Murray damages in the amount of $11, 000.00. Consequently, on 16 March 2015, Judge Hobgood entered a final judgment consistent with the jury's verdict. Judge Hobgood then reduced Murray's recovery by the amount of workers' compensation benefits paid to Murray. The final judgment reads as follows:

And the Court having reduced said verdict by $7, 423.13, pursuant to the North Carolina Workers['] Compensation Act and in accordance with N.C. G.S. § 97-10.2;
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that judgment be had against the Defendant in the amount of $3, 576.87, together with interest from the date of filing hereof and costs taxed to the Defendant herein, including reasonable attorney fees to Plaintiff's counsel pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 6-21.1.

         The final judgment complied with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-10.2(e) (2015), which provides that

the amount of compensation and other benefits paid or payable on account of such injury or death shall be admissible in evidence in any proceeding against the third party. In the event that said amount of compensation and other benefits is introduced in such a proceeding the court shall instruct the jury that said amount will be deducted by the court from any amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff.

         For reasons not apparent in the record, Judge Hobgood entered an amended final judgment (amended judgment) on 20 March 2015, which expressly provided that "judgment be had against the Defendant in the amount of $7, 423.13 in favor of Evans Mactavish Agricraft to be distributed in accordance with N.C. G.S. § 97-10.2(f)." Another portion of the amended judgment granted "judgment . . . in favor of [Murray] in the amount of $3, 576.87[, ]" the remainder of the jury's damages award. As a result, while the sum of $7, 423.13 was simply deducted from Murray's recovery in the initial ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.