in the Court of Appeals 16 October 2017.
by Defendants from order entered 12 October 2016 and order
entered 2 February 2017 by Judge Wayland J. Sermons, Jr., in
Hyde County No. 15 CVS 16 Superior Court.
Hornthal, Riley, Ellis & Maland, LLP, by L. Phillip
Hornthal, III, for the Plaintiff-Appellee.
Pruet PLLC, by Norman W. Shearin, for the
M. Davis and Jennifer L. Davis (the "Davis
Defendants") appeal the trial court's order
dismissing their appeal from a decision on the Ocracomax,
LLC, ("Plaintiff") Motion for Costs in the
underlying action. The Davis Defendants argue that their
appeal was meritorious, in that the order granting trial
costs to Plaintiff (1) improperly assigned said costs to them
alone, and not to all the defendants; and (2) included costs
incurred by Plaintiff in a prior appeal. After careful
review, we affirm.
and the Davis Defendants are each residents of a condominium
complex overseen by Defendant Ocracoke Horizons Unit Owners
Association, Inc. (the "HOA Defendant"). In
February 2015, Plaintiff filed the underlying action against
all Defendants, seeking a declaratory judgment stating its
right to a parking space in a shared garage. After
considering the briefs and pleadings, the trial court issued
an order granting Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings and taxing costs to Defendants (the
"Judgment"), which our Court later affirmed in a
prior appeal in this matter.
filed a Motion to Determine Costs. The trial court entered an
order determining Plaintiff's costs in the underlying
action (the "Costs Order"). In the Costs Order, the
trial court taxed all of Plaintiff's fees throughout
trial and the first appeal to the Davis Defendants alone.
Davis Defendants filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari,
requesting that our Court review the Costs Order. We allowed
Defendant's petition, and now consider their appeal.
Davis Defendants challenge the costs assigned by the trial
court in two respects: First, the Davis Defendants argue that
the trial court erred in taxing costs and attorney's fees
against them, but not against the HOA Defendant. Second,
Defendants allege that the trial court improperly included
attorney's fees incurred on appeal in its award to
Plaintiff. We address each argument in turn.
court's grant of attorney's fees, supported by
statutory authority, will not be overturned absent an abuse
of discretion. Buford v. Gen. Motors Corp., 339 N.C.
396, 406, 451 S.E.2d 293, 298 (1994). We review the trial
court's decision only to determine if its "ruling
was manifestly unsupported by reason and could not have been
the result of a reasoned decision." Old Republic
Nat'l Title Ins. Co. v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., ___
N.C. ___, ___, 797 S.E.2d 264, 269 (2017).
Davis Defendants contend that the trial court abused its
discretion by taxing costs and attorney's fees solely
against the Davis Defendants, because the Cost Order was
contradictory to the "law of the case" established
in the first appeal, where we affirmed the trial court's
order granting Plaintiff judgment on the pleadings, including
costs, against all Defendants. See N.C. Nat'l Bank v.
Va. Carolina Builders, 307 N.C. 563, 566, 299 S.E.2d
629, 631 (1983) ("Once an appellate court has ruled on a
question, that decision becomes the law of the case and
governs the question not only on remand at trial, but on a
subsequent appeal of the same case."). Specifically, the
Judgment, which we affirmed in the first appeal, ...