SHENG YU KE a/k/a STEVEN KE and DUAN Z. ZHANG a/k/a SHIRLEY KE, Plaintiffs,
HENG-QIAN ZHOU a/k/a RAY ZHOU, and SEVEN SEAS, CONTRACTORS, INC., Defendants.
in the Court of Appeals 10 August 2017.
by Defendants from judgment entered 6 June 2016 and appeal by
Plaintiffs from order entered 6 June 2016 by Judge Richard S.
Gottlieb in Guilford County No. 15 CVS 3736 Superior Court.
Klein, PLLC, by Grant Sigmon, for the
Bennett & Guthrie, P.L.L.C., by Joshua H. Bennett, for
dispute arose from a contractual relationship between
Plaintiffs and Defendants. Plaintiffs are the owners of a
restaurant in Winston-Salem. Defendant Zhou is the owner and
operator of Defendant Seven Seas Contractors, Inc.
("Seven Seas"). All parties have appealed from
separate orders of the trial court. Defendants appeal from
judgment entered upon a jury verdict finding that Plaintiffs
were entitled to damages for fraudulent acts committed by
Defendants. Plaintiffs appeal from the trial court's
order denying Plaintiffs' request for attorney's
evidence presented at trial tended to show as follows:
2014, Plaintiffs entered into an agreement with Defendants to
convert property owned by Plaintiffs into a restaurant.
Defendant Zhou held himself and his company out to be a
licensed general contractor, despite the fact that Defendants
held no such license. Rather, Defendant Zhou intended to
obtain the necessary permits under the name of an
acquaintance who purportedly was licensed.
point during the project's progress, the City became
aware that Defendant Zhou was performing the project work
without supervision of a licensed contractor. At a meeting
with the City, Defendant Zhou indicated that he would have no
problem finding another contractor under whom he could
complete the project. Plaintiffs, however, decided to
terminate the contract.
February 2015, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against
Defendants, alleging that Defendants had failed to perform
the work pursuant to the contract, despite Plaintiffs'
payment of $60, 000; that Defendant Zhou was not, in fact, a
licensed general contractor, despite his representation that
he was; and that Defendants did not obtain the proper permits
to start and complete the project.
April 2015, after the time to answer had expired, but before
any default had been entered, Defendant Zhou filed and served
a document pro se which responded to Plaintiffs'
allegations. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiffs sought an entry
of default against both Defendants. The clerk of court,
however, entered default only against Defendant
Seven Seas. The trial court later denied Defendant Seven
Seas' motion to set aside the entry of default.
jury trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of
Plaintiffs, finding both Defendants liable for fraud, unfair
and deceptive trade practices, and punitive damages. The jury
awarded Plaintiffs $76, 000 in compensatory damages and $5,
000 in punitive damages. The trial court determined that, as
a matter of law, Defendants' misrepresentations violated
the provisions of Chapter 75 of our General Statutes, and
therefore that Plaintiffs were entitled to a trebling of the
compensatory damages. See N.C. Gen. Stat. §
75-1.1 (2015). Accordingly, the trial court entered a treble
damage award of $201, 000 in favor of Plaintiffs. Defendants
trial, Plaintiffs filed a motion for costs and a motion for
attorney's fees. The trial court allowed the motion for
costs but denied the ...