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Thompson v. Speller

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 5, 2017

LEE VANDER THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
WALTER SPELLER, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 21 September 2017

         Appeal by Unnamed Defendant from judgment entered 27 September 2016 by Judge John E. Nobles, Jr. in Carteret County, No. 15-CVS-523 Superior Court.

          Dodge Jones Law Firm, LLP, Robert C. Dodge, for the Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Harris, Creech, Ward & Blackerby, P.A., by Heather M. Beam and Jay C. Salsman, for the Unnamed Defendant-Appellant.

          DILLON, Judge.

         The Unnamed Defendant, North Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company ("Farm Bureau") appeals from a judgment entered by the trial court confirming an arbitration award in favor of Lee Vander Thompson ("Plaintiff"). The arbitration panel awarded Plaintiff $110, 000. In confirming the award, the trial court also granted Plaintiff pre-award and post-award/pre-judgment[1] interest on the $110, 000 figure, as well as approximately $1, 100 in costs associated with the action. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

         I. Background

         In October 2013, Plaintiff and Walter Speller ("Defendant") were involved in a motor vehicle collision in which Plaintiff was injured. At the time of the accident, Farm Bureau was Plaintiff's underinsured motorist insurer. Under Plaintiff's policy (the "Policy"), Farm Bureau was obligated to pay compensatory damages to Plaintiff in the event that Plaintiff was injured by an at-fault driver whose liability coverage limits were too low to cover his damages.

         Following the accident, Plaintiff settled with Defendant's liability insurance carrier. Also, Farm Bureau advanced to Plaintiff a total of $35, 000, which included the following: (1) $5, 000, the maximum medical payment under the Policy, and (2) $30, 000, representing the liability limits of Defendant's liability policy.[2] However, because Farm Bureau and Plaintiff were ultimately unable to settle on the amount of total damages Plaintiff was entitled to recover, Plaintiff demanded arbitration pursuant to the arbitration provision of the Policy.

         The case was heard by a three-member arbitration panel which rendered a unanimous arbitration award of $110, 000. The award specifically provided that "[t]he arbitrators did not consider interest or costs in the determination of th[e] award." (Emphasis added.)

         Plaintiff filed a motion with the trial court for an order confirming the $110, 000 arbitration award and for interest and costs. In confirming the arbitration award, the trial court entered judgment for Plaintiff for $110, 000 plus $8, 000 in pre-award interest (calculated from the filing of the complaint to the date of the arbitration award) plus $805 in post-award/pre-judgment interest (calculated from the date of the arbitration award to the date of the judgment confirming the award) plus $1, 100 in costs. Farm Bureau timely appealed.

         II. Analysis

         On appeal, Farm Bureau makes no argument concerning the confirmation of the $110, 000 award. Rather, Farm Bureau argues that trial court exceeded its authority when it awarded Plaintiff costs, pre-award interest, and post-award/pre-judgment interest in its judgment confirming the arbitration award.

         Our Supreme Court has stated that our courts have very limited authority to modify an arbitration award under our Revised Uniform Arbitration Act, codified in Article 45C of our General Statutes. Nucor Corp. v. General Bearing Corp., 333 N.C. 148, 155, 423 S.E.2d 747, 751 (1992) (noting that the Act is "virtually a self-contained, self-sufficient code, [providing] controlling limitations upon the authority of our courts to vacate, modify, or correct an arbitration award"); see also Cyclone Roofing Co., Inc. v. David M. LaFave Co., Inc., 312 N.C. 224, 236, 321 S.E.2d 872, 880 (1984) (holding that "[j]udicial review of an arbitration ...


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